Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
Johann Sebastian Bach
Brandenberg Concertos 3,6,4,5,2
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
Saint Paul, Minnesota
December 9, 2016
Love took Elizabeth Barrett Browning to the “depth and breadth and height my soul can reach”. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos are at least one of the things that move my soul to its depth and breadth and height. Some music, some musicians and some composers are just special. There is lots of good music, but some composers, some musicians and the some of the music they make when they combine takes us that extra measure to the depths, breadths and heights of our soul. There is so much evil today. Evil with a capital ‘E’ and lowercase evil too that it is hard to remember sometimes that there is good and beauty too and we humans are capable of making both the beautiful and the ugly.
It was a cold night in Saint Paul Minnesota at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, but the music was warm. It doesn’t feel right somehow to call J.S. Bach hot. The performance took place in the relatively new Temple Israel and Ordway Concert Hall. I thought at times the sound was a little muddy, hard to pick out individual instruments, but a companion felt differently so the problem most like lies with me and not the venue. One dig against the venue though: we were in the “cheap seats” also known as the “nosebleed” section of the second balcony. While the seats were more comfortable than in the old concert hall, if you sat back in your seat you couldn’t watch the performance. This led to we upper level patrons hunching over like vultures to catch a glimpse of the performers.
It never ceases to amaze me that a handful of musicians can make such a beautiful sound with the right material. Bach’s notes still provide the right stuff after three hundred years. The energy of the performers was right on. Not too fast or pushy, but not slow or dull. The music was wonderfully multilayered with inspired performances by violinist Eunice Kim and harpsichordist Jeffery Grosseman.
If Bach’s beautiful music endures through three centuries maybe we have a chance after all.