Middlebury to celebrate 7th Bach Festival this weekend

MIDDLEBURY — The seventh annual Middlebury Bach Festival will take place this weekend, April 28-30. This year will feature the Brentano String Quartet playing The Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080 by J.S. Bach, a performance of the oratorio Esther by G.F. Handel with a cast of Middlebury College alumni, and a concert of chamber music.
Friday, April 28
The Festival opens Friday evening, April 28, with a Middlebury College Performing Arts Series concert by the Brentano String Quartet. Since its inception in 1992, the Brentano String Quartet has appeared throughout the world to popular and critical acclaim. The New York Times extols its “luxuriously warm sound [and] yearning lyricism.” Within a few years of its formation, the Quartet garnered the first Cleveland Quartet Award and the Naumburg Chamber Music Award; and in 1996 the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center invited them to be the inaugural members of Chamber Music Society Two, a program which was to become a coveted distinction for chamber groups and individuals.
In recent seasons the Quartet has traveled to perform in the United States and Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia. In addition to performing the entire two-century range of the standard quartet repertoire, the Brentano Quartet has a strong interest in both old and new music. It has performed many musical works pre-dating the string quartet as a medium, among them Madrigals of Gesualdo, Fantasias of Purcell, and secular vocal works of Josquin. Also, the quartet has worked closely with some of the most important composers of our time, among them Elliott Carter, Charles Wuorinen, Chou Wen-chung, Steven Mackey, Bruce Adolphe, and György Kurtág.
The Quartet is named for Antonie Brentano, whom many scholars consider to be Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved”, the intended recipient of his famous love confession.
The Middlebury Bach Festival is organized by Jeffrey Buettner, associate professor of music and director of choral activities, and Jessica Allen, singer, voice teacher, Music Together teacher, and director of music at the Congregational Church of Middlebury.
“I find early music to be invigorating, challenging to perform and completely satisfying to hear,” said Allen. “With this festival, we wanted to bring performance of high caliber Baroque music to Middlebury so that the students here would have a chance to interact with it.”
This concert begins at 8 p.m. in the Olin C. Robison Concert Hall at the Mahaney Center for the Arts at Middlebury College. Tickets are $25 for the general public; $20 for Middlebury College ID holders; and $6 for Middlebury College students with ID.
Saturday, April 29
On Saturday, the festival continues with a carillon recital by Middlebury College carillonneur George Matthew, Jr. at 3 p.m. on the lawn surrounding Mead Memorial Chapel. This recital is free and open to the public.
Saturday evening highlights the Festival Concert at 8 p.m., with a cast of Middlebury College alumni performing Esther by G.F. Handel, the Bach Festival Orchestra and Middlebury College Choir conducted by Jeffrey Buettner.
“Presentation of Baroque music in a dramatic context has become increasingly interesting to us,” said Buettner. “Last year, the festival featured dancers with Monteverdi’s L’Ariana. This year we are staging a work by Bach’s contemporary, who was especially famous for oratorio and opera. I find that with this work especially, the music contributes so much that the libretto doesn’t. There is depth of character, emotion, intellect and passion that I think is only palpable through Handel’s music. A young objectified woman, a pompous and arrogant leader with no ability to govern, and his hateful, racist powermonger advisor are the main characters in a drama that ultimately sees rule by violence completely overturned. Esther’s inner conflict, Haman’s notion of defeat, the king’s lustful silliness are all ripe within the score.”
The Festival Concert takes place in the Olin C. Robison Concert Hall at the Mahaney Center for the Arts at Middlebury College. Tickets are $12 for the general public; $10 for Middlebury College ID holders; and free for Middlebury College students with ID.
Sunday, April 30
On Sunday at 3 p.m., musicians from previous Middlebury Bach Festivals will perform a concert of chamber music in the Olin C. Robison Concert Hall at the Mahaney Center for the Arts at Middlebury College. This concert is free and open to the public.
In addition, area congregations will respond to the spirit of the festival by including works by Bach in their morning services on Sunday, April 30. Participating organizations include the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Congregational Church of Middlebury UCC, Memorial Baptist Church, St. Stephen’s on the Green and the United Methodist Church of Middlebury.
For tickets or more information, call (802) 443-MIDD (6433) or visit go.middlebury.edu/bachfest.

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