A culmination after 30 years of practice with Bach
Bach is a very good composer to walk through life together.
He had integrated the music of his age, leaving masterpieces of his own in all genres of music performed in Germany of early 18 century. Especially among those, vocal music composed for Lutheran is the core of Bach’s creation. Ever since he started working on his first cantata in his 20’s, he proceeded with composing music for religious services though his career. These compositions some of which culminated in those Passions had reached enormous numbers including his posthumous composition the Mass in B minor which was composed in the form of Mass and constituted by the diversion of cantatas.
Bach Collegium Japan (hereafter BCJ) is the ensemble cerebrating 30th anniversary of its foundation this year, which has been performing and researching vocal music of Bach’s. It is well known fact that BCJ was the first ensemble in Japan who accomplished the recording and the performance of complete cantatas of his. However not so many attentions have been paid to another fact that they spent 18 years accomplishing this project to record and perform scrupulously Bach’s creative footprints along the chronological order of each composition, and such is never practiced all around world. The roadmap of the project tells the history of BCJ. Its story opened up with the countertenor whose skill was veiled then. Yoshikazu Mera was the first one on their stage and followed by internationally known singers. The improvements both in the choir and solo instrumentalists has increasingly obtained the worldwide recognitions as the prominent ensemble of early music. This history of BCJ is reflection of that of Bach performance in the world. And it is also shared by the listeners of BCJ who has walked same roadmap all the way and seen their footprints of their life there. No other composers could bring a such immeasurable sense of accomplishment to both the ensemble and listeners, but only Bach could. I believe Bach is such a composer.
Finally, their roadmap of 30 years is compiled in the Box Set titled as J.S. Bach: The Complete Choral Works. This compilation (including a DVD of St. John Passion) of Church Cantata Series, Secular Cantata Series, Lutheran Masses, Oratorios, 3 major religious works, Magnificato, and Motets offers a magnificent perspective of Bach’s vocal music. It is interesting that compilations partially include other composers’ works as important resources of Bach’s works such as Magnificato. Providing as many referential points enables listeners of 21 century to understand this kind of unfamiliar genre, and gives them clear map of Bach and his associates.
The Box set kindly has a thick booklet of descriptions on each composition taken from the program notes of concert series and production notes by the conductor Masaki Suzuki (the founder of BCJ). The production notes as the voice of the performer describing the conditions of the scripts (urtexts) and the practical ideas of the performance furnish considerations from many angles. All Lyrics with translations are available, too.
The directions of the performance of BCJ that reject theatrical gestures, fill the ensemble with the beauty to become transparent and genuine and assimilate the interpretations of texts are enough persuasive to be the standard of Bach performance today. While there are not less ensembles in pursuit of operatic effect, BCJ pays close attention to details of Bach’s tangled polyphonic textures and unveils the essence. The clear and accurate utterance of German of the choir gains a high profile in Germany and other countries.
The music of Bach accompanying our life makes an enormous contribution when you are in critical moment. BCJ has faced such occasions and encouraged people through Bach each time. It was the Mass in B minor by BCJ that brought down the house in NY soon after the aftermath of 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and it was also their St. John Passion that encouraged families at the ochanoma (=living room) all over the world by the streaming of their filmed performance behind closed doors of Kölner Philharmonie when they were forced to cancel the rest of scheduled concerts by the outbreak of new coronavirus. BCJ with Bach has always left something in people’s mind. They know what to be achieved by the music of Bach. The reason why BCJ is highly acclaimed in Europe and America seems to be their genuine attitude to Bach’s works in addition to their skilled performance.
This Box set is furnished with the music as daily food for the mind. And BCJ stands out as the most appropriate performer of it with high probability.
Bach Collegium Japan
139th Subscription Concert “Mass in B minor”
September 20, 2020 at Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall
[Program] J. S. Bach: Mass in B minor, BWV 232
140th Subscription Concert
The Fifth Symphony and the Mass in C major: In celebration of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th Birthday
November 28, 2020 at Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall
[Program] Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 / Mass in C major, Op. 86
138th Subscription Concert
December 16, 2020 at Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall (Rescheduled from May 24 2020)
[Program] J. S. Bach: Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV542 / Jesu, der du meine Seele, BWV78 / Magnificato in E-flat major, BWV243a (Early Version)
141st Subscription Concert
J. S. Bach: St. John Passion, BWV245
February 19, 2021 at Suntory Hall Main Hall
[Program] J. S. Bach: St. John Passion, BWV245