by Jeff Barnouw, Cultural Arts Committee Chair
I eat my little bit of bread with joy
and heartily leave to my neighbor his own.
A peaceful conscience, a happy spirit,
a thankful heart, that gives praise and thanks,
increases its blessing, sweetens its need.
~Excerpt from BWV 84
Johann Sebastian Bach was at the heart of a large family of composers mostly in Thuringia, Germany, a musical dynasty reaching back at least four generations and forward for two more, including three or four noted composers among his 20 children (10 surviving). He was born in 1685, part of a remarkable constellation: Handel and D. Scarlatti both also 1685, after Vivaldi 1675, Telemann 1681, and Rameau 1683. A true Baroque pantheon. Each of them incredibly prolific.
Bach composed in many genres, somewhat depending on his employer of a particular period. Working for a noble household or court he wrote instrumental works like the Brandenburg Concertos and keyboard works like the Goldberg Variations. He created oratorios such as the St. Matthew Passion or Mass in B-minor, and religious cantatas for services throughout the church calendar; over 200 of these are listed in the Bach Werke Verzeichnis (BWV). He also composed secular cantatas, such as BWV 202 on our program, known as the Wedding Cantata.
From 1723 on he was cantor at the St Thomas Church in Leipzig. He was constantly involved in tense relations with his employers. He was famed as an organist, so it is fitting that our concert concludes with an Organ solo played by Bach Collegium San Diego (BCSD) Director, Ruben Valenzuela.
Ruben founded the BCSD in 2003. It has established itself as a leading early music ensemble, producing accessible, historically informed performances of music of the Renaissance, Baroque and early Classical Eras. It is the Ensemble-in-Residence at All Souls Episcopal Church in Point Loma. A wonderful introduction to the spirit of BCSD is a May 13, 2020 interview on Facebook, of the cellist for our program, Heather Worwerck, by Ruben. Delightful.