Bach loved discovering new music - a fact evident through the influence of Italian music on his own work. The Bachfest in June examines that influence and celebrates two composers with milestone anniversaries in 2011.
Though he seldom travelled, foreign music played a big role in Bach's life
But fans also come to take in the annual Bachfest, now considered the most significant of its kind in
Genius on the prowl
The St. Thomas Choir which Bach directed continues to make music
In the 17th century,
Bach copied scores by other composers and integrated their musical idiom into his own work. His adaptations of concertos by Antonio Vivaldi are well-known. He rewrote them for organ and as trio sonatas, lending them an entirely new musical quality along the way.
"For a festival organizer, Johann Sebastian Bach is ideal because there are endless possibilities when it comes to doing his work justice," said Wolff, who is also a professor and head of the Bach Archive in
"Bach is at the center of music, regardless of whether you approach the subject in classical or non-classical categories," Wolff added.
Bachfest 2011 in numbers
Breakdancing meets Bach in performances by Berlin-based troupe the Flying Steps
In the course of 10 days, around 65,000 guests can visit 110 events. Performers will tackle 470 works, presented in 32 locations in and around
Performers include local favorites like the celebrated St. Thomas Choir and the Gewandhaus Orchestra, but in keeping with the festival motto, Italian ensembles including Il Giardino Armonico and the Venice Baroque Orchestra will also perform. Juxtaposing Bach's music with that of his Italian contemporaries is one way in which the fest illuminates its theme of Bach and
Best of the best
Bach is honored with a monument in front of Leipzig's St. Thomas Church
But there is one particularly noteworthy connection between the composer and the then capital of music, as Christoph Wolff pointed out.
"In the last decade of his life after 1740, Bach was occupying himself with the latest Italian music, including a setting of the 'Stabat Mater' by the young composer Pergolesi," explained the head of the Bachfest.
"Bach produced a transcription of the work, edited it and then performed it in a German version in
In Protestant circles, few had had the chance to hear such novel and modern music. But Bach - who didn't to be seen as an old-fashioned composer - was always after the newest and best in music. The genius artist helped himself to whatever foreign scores he could find in order to develop musical culture in his adopted city.
Author: Rick Fulker
Editor: Greg Wiser