If you’re like us, you’re looking for little ways to get an escape! With our Trip to the Country live stream our goal is take you on a musical journey away from busyness and stress and into nature…and if you’ve got a tablet or computer you can quite literally take us outdoors!
With that in mind, here are some fun ideas that can give you a chance to take a picnic right in your backyard, on the deck, or inside if its raining!
First up is the Food!
It’s all about being refreshed – and while a picnic takes a little bit of preparation, the pay off is totally worth it. Let’s start with the mix of sweet and savory to give your taste buds their own little adventure. The best part? Each recipe is incredibly easy to make!
Dessert is essential for any good picnic…its a bit early for berry season, but there’s all sorts of amazing Saskatoon Berry treats available at the Berry Barn, you have to grab some chocolates from our friends at Harden and Huyse, or order desserts from Calories!
But if you have the itch to make it yourself, our pick are these incredibly delicious and refreshing Lemon and Blueberry Bars…trust us, you’re going to love them!
What to Drink?!
It wouldn’t be a proper picnic without refreshments! And picnics are a family affair, so try some thirst-quenching creations like a Berry Smoothie or Apple Mint Iced Tea.
As we asked around the SSO, one drink suggestion kept coming up over and over again…if its a picnic for family or for romance, in Saskatoon it has to include Black Fox.
Black Fox Distillery has garnered international attention for their world class gin, and on first taste you’ll quickly see why…or taste why!
Life has been full of twists and turns for violinist Véronique Mathieu this past year. In March 2020, Mathieu was set to release a brand-new album Cortége, a celebration of French classical music. The album is a collection of pieces her and pianist Jasmin Arakawa hand selected. With the world shut down, the album was quietly released, and Mathieu found herself shifting gears.
“It was music that kept me sane. To have other projects that would allow me to put the pandemic aside and work towards something.”
“It was really difficult at first to adjust to not being able to leave your home. It was difficult to practice because it was hard to see a goal in the future,” Mathieu says. “It was music that kept me sane. To have other projects that would allow me to put the pandemic aside and work towards something.”
Mathieu has been balancing motherhood with her position as the University of Saskatchewan’s David L. Kaplan Chair in Music which has her teaching a combination of online and in-person classes. She says working with her students allows her to continue to grow as an artist.
“It’s funny because it has allowed me to really notice things fast in my own playing and come up with solutions,” Mathieu explains. “Teaching makes you reflective in your own artistic practice. I’ve become much more efficient.”
Mathieu’s latest projects include assembling the works contemporary composers from Brazil, China and North America to develop a series of lessons that can help violinists learn different, experimental techniques for violin. She is also already hard at work on a new album with Toronto pianist Stephanie Chua focused on works by female composers.
Mathieu has performed as a soloist and chamber musician all over the world and while she’s kept busy with other projects, she’s been missing the stage. That’s why she says it’s exciting to be asked back for the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra’s finale performance of the 2020/21 season. Trip to the Country will feature Mathieu performing Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending. The piece is a loving tribute to nature and is based on William’s poem of the same name.
“This is a really soothing work. It triggers beautiful images in the imagination that remind me of the green fields and majestic mountains,” says Mathieu. “This will be my big “return to the stage” moment and playing such a wonderful work, it’s just really exciting.”
The Lark Ascending was originally written as a single-movement work for violin and piano by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. The composer was inspired by George Meredith’s 1881 poem of the same name, and completed his musical tribute in 1914. However, The Lark Ascending was not performed until 1920, having fallen into obscurity until Williams decided to rework it for solo violin and orchestra after World War One. This is the most popular version of the piece, and is subtitled “A Romance” in reference to the composer’s habit of labelling all slow thoughtful music in this manner.
Ralph Vaughan Williams had trained as a violinist in his youth, and he admired English poets of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Apart from Meredith, these included the likes of Tennyson, Swinburne, Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Hardy, and Housman. Vaughn Williams’ second wife, the poet Ursula ????, wrote that what made The Lark Ascending such a special musical creation lay in her then-husband having “taken a literary idea on which to build his musical thought … and [having] made the violin become both the bird’s song and its flight, being, rather than illustrating the poem from which the title was taken”. At the head of the original score for The Lark Ascending (now sadly lost), Vaughan Williams wrote twelve lines from Meredith’s lengthy poem:
He rises and begins to round, / He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break, / In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.
For singing till his heaven fills, / ‘Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up, / Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows / to lift us with him as he goes.
Till lost on his aerial rings / In light, and then the fancy sings.
The Lark Ascending was written for and dedicated to Marie Hall, a leading British violinist of the time who had studied with the composer Edward Elgar. She worked with Vaughn Williams to tailor the piece more closely to her style of playing, but no record exists of what specific changes she proposed to the composer. Hall premiered the original violin and piano version of The Lark Ascending with the pianist Geoffrey Mendham at the Shirehampton Public Hall on the 15th of December, 1920. Hall also served as the soloist for the first performance of the orchestral version. This version debuted at a concert presented by the British Music Society, and was held in the Queen’s Hall, London, on the 14th of June 1921.
The first recording of The Lark Ascending took place in 1928, with Isolde Menges serving as the violin soloist. Her playing was supported on the recording by an unnamed orchestra, conducted by one Malcolm Sargent. Having heard this recording, the critic A. H. Fox Strangways wrote in his publication Music & Letters that “The violin floats in a long rapture over some homegrown tunes in the accompaniment, taking little bits of them into its song at intervals. Violin cadenzas are apt to have a family likeness, but these jubilations will hardly remind anybody of anything else. There is very little of the harmless necessary arpeggio or of ingeniously wonderful double stops. It is pure carolling.”
Pure carolling it might have been, but the deceptive simplicity of Vaughn Williams’ piece was buttressed by an undercurrent of musical complexity, and this is particularly true of the orchestral version. Beginning with a two-bar introduction by woodwind and muted strings in 6/8 time, the soloist enters with an unaccompanied cadenza. This entrance is marked pianissimo and sur la touche, which means that the player places their bow over the fingerboard to reduce higher harmonics and produce an ethereal tone. Near the end of the cadenza, a melody in G major is introduced which allows the violin soloist to lead the orchestra back in. A second cadenza follows, this one of shorter duration, and builds to the Allegretto tranquillo quasi andante. In this section, Vaughn Williams provides the flutes with a new melody. Soon, the oboe enters with yet another new melody (marked scherzando) develops a complex passage in which the melody introduced by the flutes makes a reappearance in the violin soloist’s melodic line. There is a reprise of the 6/8 section, followed by an unaccompanied violin cadenza to close out the piece.
Musicologist Christopher Mark, in his modal analysis of The Lark Ascending, finds that the work “begins in the Dorian mode and switches between that and the Aeolian mode interspersed with extensive use of the Pentatonic scale.” Fellow musicologist Lewis Foreman maintains that “It is possible to forget what a revolutionary piece this was in the context of the British music of 1914 [with] its rhythmic freedom and flow and its avoidance of tonic-and-dominant cadencing, together with its imagery”. And Jeffrey Davis maintains that, “At one level it seems to be an idyll of rural England [but] in view of its composition on the eve of the First World War, there is perhaps an underlying layer of sadness to the music. Rather like the Edwardian era, as viewed retrospectively from the other side of World War One, it seems to reflect nostalgia for a partly mythological lost age of innocence.”
The orchestral version of The Lark Ascending (scored for solo violin with an orchestra of two flutes, one oboe, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, triangle and strings) is not the only version which was created after the First World War. Vaughan Williams also wrote a version for chamber orchestra, which included flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and triangle, with three or four first violins, the same of second violins, two violas, two cellos and one double bass. Yet it is the orchestral version of this legendary piece of music that stands above all other arrangements, truly a testament to the artistry of its composer and the magic of a bygone era which continues to charm us all. You can watch your Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra take wing with The Lark Ascending at our Trip to the Country Concert!
When you think of Ludwig van Beethoven, chances are you hear the infamous pulses of his fiery Fifth Symphony. But did you know that the symphony he composed simultaneously with the Fifth is equally brilliant? Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, referred to as the Pastoral Symphony, is an immaculate offering of sound and color. Described by Beethoven himself as being “more the expression of feeling than painting”, the Pastoral Symphony is a moving tribute to the beauty of nature which served as one of Beethoven’s greatest muses during his life as a composer. Spending much of his free time walking in the countryside surrounding Vienna, Beethoven found a peace in nature which stabilized and nourished his passionate soul.
Composition of the Pastoral Symphony was undertaken in 1802, and the work would take another six years to reach completion. It was debuted at a concert taking place at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, alongside Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony Musicologist Frank D’Accone maintains that the programmatic ideas featured in the symphony (bird song, thunder, a shepherd’s pipe, and the flowing of a stream) were lifted by Beethoven from Justin Heinrich Knecht’s 1784 musical work “Le Portrait musical de la Nature ou Grande Symphonie”.
The Pastoral Symphony is scored for full orchestra, and makes use of trumpet, timpani, trombone, and piccolo in specific movements. The Symphony begins with the Allegro ma non troppo, in which the composer arrives in the country amidst an atmosphere of cheerful melodies. Set in 2/4 meter and sonata form throughout, each musical theme is developed to its greatest potential by Beethoven. The orchestral texture is thickened by the composer’s reliance on short, repeating motifs.
The first movement ends in comfort and the second (Andante molto mosso) begins with speed, mimicking the fast flow of a stream by way of a motif in the string section. Also in sonata form, the second movement is delivered in 12/8 meter in the key of B♭ major. The cello section is split in their duties during this movement, with many players assisting the double basses in jubilant pizzicato notes while only two cellists stay with the babbling brook. This movement is unique within the context of the work because it delivers a cluster of bird calls rendered in a woodwind cadenza towards its end. Interestingly, Beethoven was very specific about which birds were to be imitated by which instruments: the flute plays the song of the nightingale, the oboe provides the somber notes of the quail, and two clarinets warble the jubilant sounds of a cuckoo or two.
After a refreshing chorus of birdsong, movement three (Allegro) unfolds. A scherzo in 3/4 time, this country folk dance returns us to the main key of F major to revel and frolic amongst the trees. The doubling of the trio movement makes this an unusual, but memorable scherzo. Another odd choice on Beethoven’s part was to prematurely end the appearance of the third scherzo theme. Beethoven forever changed how scherzi would be composed through the creativity he displayed within this movement. As the tempo builds in excitement and vitesse, the movement suddenly stops without warning. We are catapulted immediately into the fourth movement with no time to prepare ourselves as a thunderstorm threatens in the distance.
Beethoven outdoes himself in this fourth movement (which bears the same name as the third) by using a 4/4 meter in F minor to depict a lightning shower of violent proportions. What starts as a few drops of rain quickly turns into an awe-inspiring musical downpour. After the storm passes, Beethoven borrows from Mozart’s String Quintet in G minor of 1787. He accomplishes this by simmering a stormy preface into a rich final movement of serenity.
The finale of this symphony (Allegretto) is in F major and features a meter of 6/8 time. Capitalizing on sonata rondo form, in which the main theme appears in the tonic key at the beginning of the development as well as the exposition and the recapitulation, the finale presents a symmetrical eight-bar theme to conjure the sounds of a shepherds’ thanksgiving song. The coda is soft at first, but soon grows to encompass the entire orchestra. The violin section is incredibly active in this final section, playing rapid triplet tremolo to increase the emotional tension. There comes a moment in every great piece of music that is utterly unforgettable, and for Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony this moment occurs during the final passages of the coda. The prayer-like quality of this passage culminates in two victorious F-chords, summarizing the majesty of nature like no one else could. Beethoven found his gentle side in nature, and we hope you enjoy your Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony at our Trip to the Country concert!
Saskatoon composer Kendra Harder instantly grabbed the attention of the SSO’s Wind Quintet a few years ago when they workshopped an arrangement Harder had done for one of her classes at the University of Saskatchewan’s Music Department. Our premiere of her piece “All the Different Parts” comes as such a joy to the quintet musicians who’ve been able to workshop the piece this year with Harder.
“I began composing All the Different Parts with the intention of writing music simply for the sake of writing music – no plots, no programmes, no character developments. But as with all best laid plans, this one was thrown out the window and fell into a snow bank two meters deep. With no programme driving the music, what came out while writing was music exposing my inner-most feelings – feelings I wasn’t even yet aware of. Life threw life at me (as it does), and this music became the vehicle that helped me process it. By the time I started writing the fourth movement, I realized that this music was simply expressing all the different parts of me.”
I. mistakes make great motifs
IV. end with joy
Instrumentation: Wind Quintet
Premiere scheduled for May 9, 2021 by Mistral 5, Saskatoon, SK
Provincial premieres by Blythwood Winds in Ontario, and Fifth Wind in Nova Scotia TBD due to pandemic
It was autumn in Copenhagen, 1921. Scandinavian composer Carl Nielsen had just put down the receiver of his telephone after having a brief conversation with his friend, the pianist Christian Christiansen. On that evening in particular, Chrisrtiansen was rehearsing for an upcoming concert to be performed by himself and the Copenhagen Wind Quintet. So it was that the background music of the rehearsal hall (in which the musicians of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet were rehearsing Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante) made its way to Carl Nielsen’s ear for the first time. He was immediately struck by the incredible musical synchronicity between flautist Paul Hagemann, oboist Svend C. Felumb, clarinettist Aage Oxenvad, hornist Hans Sørensen, and bassoonist Knud Lassen. Nielsen vowed that very evening to begin writing a wind quintet with the talents of these specific players in mind.
One of Nielsen’s biographers, the British composer Robert Simpson, stresses that it was Nielson’s fondness for the great outdoors and the people he met which served as the greatest inspiration for the Wind Quintet’s inception. “Nielsen’s fondness of wind instruments is closely related to his love of nature, his fascination for living, breathing things. He was also intensely interested in human character, and in the Wind Quintet composed deliberately for five friends, each part is cunningly made to suit the individuality of each player.”
Nielsen’s programme notes provide a window into the composer’s relationship with the work itself. He writes that “The quintet for winds is one of [my] latest works, in which [I have] attempted to render the characters of the various instruments. At one moment they are all talking at once, at another they are quite alone. The work consists of three movements: a) Allegro, b) Minuet and c) Prelude – Theme with Variations. The theme for these variations is the melody for one of C.N.’s spiritual songs, which has here been made the basis of a set of variations, now merry and quirky, now elegiac and serious, ending with the theme in all its simplicity and very quietly expressed.” Critics of Nielsen’s work have pointed out that it is this delicate balance between aspects of modernism and neo-classicism which make the composer’s work on the Wind Quintet so prolific.
The first movement of Nielsen’s Wind Quintet (Allegro ben moderato) is in sonata form, beginning with the bassoon’s statement of the theme in E. The upper winds echo this in their reply before it is repeated once more by the French horn (this time in the key of A major). The theme is played in fragments until the arrival of the second theme in D minor. First played by the French Horn, the bassoon and oboe are soon to follow with an accompaniment of triplet figures by the flute and clarinet. With a restatement of the first theme, the development of this movement’s melody begins. In the final segment of the movement, the recapitulation of the first theme in E major flows into the second theme (now in B minor) with harmonizing thirds in the horn and bassoon employing a rich texture throughout.
The second movement (Menuet) takes the shape of a pastoral minuet and enjoys a certain neoclassical sensibility. The French horn is scored lightly in this section, which allows the player to rest before their involvement in the third and final movement. The first theme of the Menuet features a duet between clarinet and bassoon, while the second theme follows a similar pattern of exchange between the oboe and flute. A simple and elegant dance, the movement sees all instruments engage in a recapitulation of the first theme. After this, a trio (played by oboe, flute, and bassoon) makes use of contrapuntal textures to provide contrast to the simplicity of the first two themes.
The third movement of the Wind Quintet sees a brief Praeludium executed before the piece embarks on a set of variations. For the Praeludium, the English horn takes the place of the oboe. Music historians have posited that this change was included after Nielsen fell in love with oboist Felumb’s English horn solo during a performance of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. Nielsen himself conducted this performance in Bremen, and was absolutely blown away at the raw emotion that Felumb’s English horn skills could evoke. The central theme of this third movement is taken from Nielsen’s own chorale tune “Min Jesus, lad min Hjerte faa en saaden Smag paa dig” (My Jesus, make my heart to love thee). The eleven variations which stem from this theme are very complex, not only in the skill required to execute them but also in their harmonic structure. The theme from Nielsen’s chorale is restated at the end of the Wind Quintet and builds to a triumphant climax.
Nielsen’s Wind Quintet was completed in 1922 at his residence in Gothenburg, Sweden. First performed on April 30th at a private gathering at the home of Herman and Lisa Mannheimer, the piece became an immediate sensation. Each of the five musicians who had performed in the Copenhagen Wind Quintet (and who had directly inspired the work’s composition) debuted Nielsen’s Wind Quintet on this occasion. They reconvened for an official concert debut on October 9th of that same year at the Odd Fellows Mansion in Copenhagen, a relatively intimate venue which showcased superbly the unique qualities of each instrumental voice.
Nielsen would pass away only nine years later, but his Wind Quintet would live on to inspire countless woodwind musicians in the decades following. The Wind Quintet itself is regarded as a staple of modern woodwind repertoire, and is performed more often in Nielsen’s native Scandinavia than any other piece he composed during his lifetime. Your Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra is delighted to bring this classic to the stage at our Mother’s Day Concert!
André George, a French reviewer for the periodical Les Nouvelles littéraires, once wrote that “with Poulenc, all of France comes out of the windows he opens.” One could extend such a compliment to include the whole world, for his contemporary musical stylings gave compositions like his Sextet an air of well-traveled sophistication and compelling emotional range.
An influential member of the composer group Les Six, Francis Poulenc composed his Sextet somewhere between 1931 and 1932. Originally composed as a piece of chamber music for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, piano and French horn, the Sextet came to Poulenc during a period of great musical productivity. The composer had just finished their Concerto for Two Pianos in addition to a cantata, Le Bal Masqué. Poulenc’s popularity as a member of Les Six was reaching its zenith, and he wanted to ensure his next musical gift to the world wouldn’t disappoint.
Poulenc struggled throughout his life with a musical form of writer’s block, something which inexplicably came and went depending on the nature of the musical work he was composing at the time. With the Sextet, Poulenc laboured for months to pull the music together in a way that best fitted his vision for the piece as a whole. The composer would return to his manuscripts for the piece in 1939, seven years after his Sextet’s premiere, in order to revise what he felt was a work of great potential that failed to execute properly the first time around.
After extensive revisions, Poulenc wrote a letter to his friend and confidante, the conductor and composer Nadia Boulanger. In this letter, Poulenc shared the experience of rewriting the Sextet to better fit his original vision for the piece. “There were some good ideas in [the original]” he wrote, “but the whole thing was badly put together. With the proportions altered, better balanced, it comes over very clearly.” Poulenc’s decision to rewrite his Sextet was ultimately a positive one, as critics cite the evocative capacity of each instrument within the quintet increased substantially following Poulenc’s return to the musical drawing-board.
The sextet is separated into three sections and is approximately eighteen minutes in duration. The first movement, “Allegro vivace”, features a rhythmic piano line upon which the quintet can layer rapid-fire melodies which draw inspiration from elements of jazz. The movement creates the sensation of movement by utilizing abrupt rhythmic changes in all instrumental voices, and it flurries away just as quickly as it arrived to reveal a beautiful bassoon solo.
Movement two, the Divertissement: Andantino, exhibits a fast section framed by two slower and majestic passages. The bassoon solo which opens the movement is repeated by other instrumental voices in turn before the oboe and clarinet drive the pace forward through the faster section. Recapitulating the themes explored in the movement’s beginning, the sumptuous strains of this second movement recall Classical influences while also parodying elements of Mozart.
The Finale: Prestissimo represents the emotional highpoint of the entire work, and the accelerated tempo reflects this. The movement is in rondo form, and begins with “an Offenbachian gallop”. The jazz influences from the first and second movements are more pronounced here, and the spirit of ragtime is explored to delightful effect. Critics have interpreted this element of the Finale as being a “satirical depiction of neoclassicism in music”. After revisiting themes from the first and second movements at greater speeds, the Finale takes inspiration from Ravel in the execution of a coda brimming with lyricism and beauty.
Premiered in 1933, the Sextet’s original lineup featured Poulenc himself on the piano alongside Marcel Moyse, Roland Lamorlette, Louis Cahuzac, Gustave Dhérin, and R. Blot on flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn, respectively. Although the piece itself was not lauded by some of the more traditional critics in the musical community of France, (with critic Florent Schmitt of Le Temps criticizing it as wandering and vulgar), others found it to be a musical breath of fresh air.
Pulling from a multitude of musical styles, Poulenc’s Sextet is a triumphant example of what can be produced if one persists in the depths of a frustrating case of brain fog. You can hear your Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra perform Poulenc’s Sextet at our upcoming Mother’s Day concert!
For centuries, the writers of musical textbooks (and the programmers of musical institutions) excluded women who composed.
Motherhood. Quarantine. Saving one’s self from the guillotine with their piano skills. Composers of today have a surprising amount in common with composers of yesteryear!
In this second instalment of Musical Herstory, we will continue looking at the amazing lives and music of female composers from the past and the present. We’ll look at works created across the years in those typically “male dominated” genres, the dual roles of mother and composer, and music from composers whom we know very little about.
The SSO is again proud to present Saskatoon composer Kendra Harder in this six week course exploring the herstory of music that you need to know!
Classes take place Thursdays at 7:00pm (Saskatchewan time) – each class is 60 minutes.
The first class takes place on May 13th, and will be available on video to those who aren’t able to attend the class live on Zoom.
Before the first class, you’ll receive an email that gives you access to the 6 weeks of scheduled Zoom classes.
If you can’t participate in the live Zoom class, you’ll have access to the video of the class on our YouTube channel.
Week One – Composer & Mother
Our society often expects that women become mothers, but not composers. What is it like for those who are both?
What are the challenges faced by women in professional spheres attempting to balance raising children and creating
Composers in focus:
- Allison Loggins-Hull – this week is inspired by her project “Diametrically Composed.”
- Elizabeth Maconchy (1907 – 1994)
Week Two – Symphony Week
We enter the "male domain" of the symphony and look at what women have done in this sphere.
Composers in focus:
- Amy Beach (1867 - 1944)
- Alice Ping Yee Ho
Week Three – Almost Footnotes
There are so many composers (both male and female) where there is little biographical information about them,
and in some cases absolutely none is to be found. As a result, these composers and their music are overlooked
putting them at risk of simply being a footnote in textbooks. This week we'll spend time listening to music by
composers whom we know little about.
Composers in focus:
- Cesarina Ricci (c. 1573 - ?)
- Hélène de Montgeroult (1764 – 1836)
- Eva Dell’Acqua (1856 – 1930)
- Cecilia Arizti (1856 – 1930)
- Lyse Gingras (b. 1949)
Week Four – Guitar Week
Solo repertoire for the guitar is a very heavy male-dominated field; but men are not the only ones to have picked up
that beautiful six-stringed instrument to create music. This week will look at two fantastic guitar virtuosi whose
music is finally coming back into the public consciousness.
Composers in focus:
- Ida Presti (1924-1967)
- Catharina Pratten (1824-1895)
Week Five – Beautiful Blends
These two composers make amazing blends of music with their traditional music and the Western classical music.
Composers in focus:
- Tanya Tagaq
- Reena Esmail
Week Six – Opera Week
This genre of large-scale works has been hailed as the grand rite of passage for any serious composer, and therefore,
was denied to women. This week will look at one woman who wrote some of the first operas, and is considered the
first woman to have composed an opera. Plus, we will look at what women are writing today!
Composers in focus:
- Francesca Caccini (1587 – 1645)
- Nkeiru Okoye
Looking for ideas to make your Bach in Brandenburg viewing experience an extra special night in? We’ve pulled together some culinary treats for you to try! While there are many fantastic recipes from the area where Bach spent most of his life, we thought we would concentrate on one of the things Bach loved most… … Read more
This spring we’re doing lots of great Bach related activities including Bach in Brandenburg and the online class On Bach’s Time – so we thought we’d give you some recommendations for books to fill your spring with even more Bach.
There’s lots of great books about JS, but these are ones folks at the SSO have read and recommended!
Music in the Castle of Heaven:
by John Eliot Gardiner
Lifelong fans of Bach’s music will be thrilled to add this academic and richly illustrated volume to their shelves. Peppered with musical analyses and covering a wide spectrum of Bach’s life as a composer, this text is a deep dive into all things Bach. At times scholarly and at others subtle, this book provides the reader with the opportunity to familiarize themselves more fully with the period in which Bach created. Clocking in at almost seven hundred pages in length, this book is an ideal read for those seeking total immersion in the life and music of this legendary composer.
Harmony & Discord:
by Julian Shuckburgh
Have you ever wondered what sort of mischief Bach got up to as a youngster? If so, then this book (which was carefully researched over a period of ten years) is definitely for you! One of the more impressive features of this text is its chronology of Bach’s compositions, the first definitive version to see publication. The biography itself has been described as “an impassioned, controversial, and personal portrait of the man who composed some of the most sublime music ever written, in spite of—or perhaps because of—a life blighted by tragedy.”
The Cello Suites: J. S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece:
by Eric Siblin
Easily the most unique book on the list, The Cello Suites was written after the author finished a ten-year career as a music journalist for the Montreal Gazette. Eric Siblin creates a narrative described as “part biography, part music history, and part literary mystery.” Chronicling Bach’s cello suites from the disappearance of their manuscript in the 1700s to their eventual reappearance in Barcelona, Spain, The Cello Suites will captivate classical music devotees and historical fiction lovers alike. The author’s passion for Bach’s suites for cello shine through the text’s insightful prose, establishing The Cello Suites as a must-read for anyone who delights in orchestral music and history.