Welcome from David Hoose
Cantata Singers often opens its season with Bach cantatas. After all, this music is where Cantata Singers began and where the ensemble steadfastly remained for its first four years. I doubt that in 1964, when no more than a few cantatas were on recordings and even fewer had been heard live, those youngsters could have anticipated just how fertile this music was, or how its richness could guide the ensemble and its attentive listeners for more than fifty years.
It is difficult to imagine any one composer’s music, however superb, could be so inspiring. But Bach’s masterful marriage of words and music has done just that. Even as Cantata Singers has reached outside his music and even outside the first half of the 18th century—Monteverdi or Schoenberg, Zelenka or Weill, Weiner or Wyner, or any of the twenty-five composers whose works enrich this 53rd season—Bach has been present.
In this season’s first concert, the connections between Bach and our new friend Zelenka, admirers of each other, are vivid, and the contrasts, both between them and within each composer’s own expression, are thrilling. In our December concerts, gorgeous seasonal music by Bach’s spiritual ancestors Monteverdi and Schütz reaches toward the forward-looking—and equally moving—seasonal music of his descendants Distler and Schoenberg. These are unusual holiday programs, miraculous music that delights and, at the same time, grapples with the bold and heartfelt plea for Friede auf Erden—peace on this earth.
In May, Cantata Singers turns to Old Testament texts expressed through Jewish sacred music. Father and son, Lazar Weiner and Yehudi Wyner, give us probing music as integral to Friday night services as Bach’s was to his Sunday morning services. With passionate Yiddish songs by Weiner, Wyner’s Torah Service, and capped by Honegger’s colorful King David, a mini-oratorio itself based on the passions of Bach, this program promises an extraordinary evening.
Creating a compelling path to this one program are all three of our Cantata Singers Chamber Series concerts. One is devoted to music the Nazis called degenerate—entartete—and music composed in the concentration camps; one is a rich and gorgeous program of songs by two Jewish German-American immigrants, Weiner and Weill, one who found expression in the synagogue, and one who found it on Broadway; and the third, explores fantastic, early 20th-century French music by radical composers whom Jean Cocteau assembled and named “Les Six.”
And as the cornerstone of the season, there’s Bach’s B minor Mass. For the performers, and perhaps for many of you, this magisterial music arises from, is dependent upon, and leads back to the cantatas. After a half century, virtually every path we follow still starts with, and returns to, J.S. Bach.
Thank you, and welcome!