For Immediate Release
Performed on Authentic 18th Century Instruments as Bach Intended
(Long Beach, Calif) – March 10, 2020 – Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra, joined by the National Children’s Chorus and soloists from around the world will hold its annual Bach Festival on March 27 – 29 2020 at the historic First Congressional Church of Los Angeles and will feature two performances of Bach’s great masterwork, St. Matthew Passion. Captivating audiences for over 250 years, this work is one of Bach’s most beautiful, exciting, and skillfully put together. The story of the Christ’s Passion is timeless, inspiring, and incomparably moving and Musica Angelica will perform the piece as Bach intended – in a cathedral with authentic 18th and 19th century instruments. The performance aims to create an overwhelming emotional experience. Both St. Matthew Passion performances are sponsored by a grant from the Colburn Foundation.
Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra’s performances on March 28 and 29, take place in Los Angeles’ historic First Congregational Church, built in 1932 in gothic revival style and featuring a massive tower. Appropriately enough, the church was for many years the home of the Los Angeles Bach Festival, and its cathedral-like interior is an awe-inspiring environment where Bach’s music can be heard at its best.
Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra’s members are some of the finest musicians in the world. Each is a renowned virtuoso on his or her instrument, and they not only teach at some of the nation’s premier music schools but also appear as featured performers in ensembles and at major music festivals both here and abroad. And their instruments are either authentic, made in the 18th or early 19th centuries, or period replicas. Instruments of the period are in most cases very different from their modern counterparts and are necessary for playing the music of the era as it was meant to be played and heard.
The St. Matthew Passion, more properly The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Evangelist Matthew, tells the story of Jesus’ Passion, the events leading up to and including his crucifixion. Soloists, chorus, and orchestra narrate and reflect on the Last Supper, Jesus’ betrayal and arrest, the trial, crucifixion and burial. These events are portrayed as a gripping drama, one that keeps the listener on the edge of his seat from beginning to end, transfixed by the compelling narrative as well as the beautiful music.
Composed in 1727 and performed many times during Bach’s lifetime, the Passion lay forgotten for almost a hundred years, until its rediscovery in the 19th century. The first performance in modern times was conducted by Felix Mendelssohn, and involved over 400 singers. But Bach, who was in charge of the music at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, had more modest forces at his disposal. His performers, vocal and instrumental, had to fit into the organ lofts at St. Thomas, and it is unlikely that he used more than 20 singers, and an equally small number of instrumentalists. This size of ensemble results in a more intimate listening experience, and is recreated in Musica Angelica’s performance.
The Passion consists of solos and choruses, performed by two orchestras and two choirs. In Musica Angelica’s performance, the soloists come together to sing the choral portions. Most of the vocal solos also involve a solo instrument, and it’s this interweaving of vocal and instrumental lines that makes a live performance so fascinating. Narration by a tenor soloist called The Evangelist drives the action, which is then commented upon in the solo arias. Placed throughout the story are hymn-like chorales, sung by the combined soloists; these would have been familiar to Bach’s audience and serve as context. The stage is set at the beginning and commented upon at the end in huge, complex ensembles that employ all of the vocal and instrumental forces.
Bach’s mastery of instrumental writing is a large part of what makes the St. Matthew Passion so compelling, and he wrote a large amount of purely instrumental music. These suites, concertos, trio sonatas, and other instrumental works will be on display on March 27 and 28 as part of the SoCal Bach Festival, played by virtuoso musicians under the direction of Martin Haselböck, Musica Angelica’s music director.
[Southern California Bach Festival]
First Congregational Church of Los Angeles
Bach Suite and Concerti | Friday, March 27th 8:00-9:15 PM
Virtuoso Bach | Saturday, March 28th 2:00-3:15 PM
St Matthew Passion Saturday, March 28th 6:00 PM
St Matthew Passion Sunday, March 29th 3:00 PM
About Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra
Headquartered in Long Beach, Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra is a professional chamber orchestra that has produced orchestral and chamber concerts throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties since it was founded in 1993. Led by Music Director Martin Haselböck, Musica Angelica adds much to the vibrancy of Southern California’s music scene by producing period pieces from the early Baroque to early Classical eras of music, featuring works by artists such as Mozart, Bach, and Vivaldi, including its second year of performing St. Matthew Passion sponsored by the Colburn Foundation.
Music Director Martin Haselböck is one of the leading promotors of early music. As a conductor he has worked with major orchestras around the globe and has released more than 150 recordings, including the complete orchestra works of Beethoven. His many awards include the international Liszt-Prize, the Mozart Prize of the city of Prague and the Honorary Membership of the Vienna Court Chapel, where he serves as Court Organist. In 2019, he was appointed an honorary member of the Vienna Court Orchestra (Hofburgkapelle). After Maestro Riccardo Muti, Dr. Brigitte Böck and Rainer Küchl, he is the fourth honorary member.
Musica Angelica also boasts an extensive school engagement program that demonstrates a historical overview of Baroque and Classical composers, compares period and modern instruments, and emphasizes the value of music. Musica Angelica invites these students to attend local concerts with their families. Visit musicaangelica.org for more information.