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April 2014
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Bach on The New York Philharmonic This Week

B Minor Mass, manuscript in Bach's hand

B Minor Mass, manuscript in Bach's hand

Thursday at 8:00 pm

When someone mentions Bach’s Mass in B Minor, musicians tend to straighten or catch their breath; almost as if a great man has entered the room. There are so many puzzles that draw one deeper into the layers of this piece, without ever really giving up its secrets. The music is beautiful and humbling.

One wonders why he wrote it. We know he was a working church musician; there are reams of Bach’s compositions in the German language, which were composed for church services—except the B Minor Mass is in Latin; it’s in the wrong language and is far too expansive for liturgical use. Parts of this Mass come from earlier pieces, but Bach’s output shows clear and methodical intent—laboring for decades—to craft this Mass in B Minor. Then the piece lay dormant for over 100 years before it was performed.

“…whether or not you have some kind of religious credo, it’s impossible not to be incredibly moved by this piece. It speaks really from one human directly into the heart of another human.”

—Alan Gilbert


Thursday’s broadcast of The New York Philharmonic This Week presents Bach’s Mass in B Minor with Music Director Alan Gilbert, soloists and the New York Choral Artists. Several of the soloists are actively involved in Chicago’s music community:

von Otter

Mezzo-soprano Anne Sophie von Otter

Dorothea Röschmann will be singing Strauss’ Four Last Songs next month with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.


In January, mezzo-soprano Anna Sofie von Otter sang an acclaimed recital at Symphony Center with pianist Emanuel Ax, though Chicago, von Otter, and Bach go back even farther: she sang on the Decca recording of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with Sir Georg Solti and the CSO. She is coming back in the fall to sing Richard Strauss’s Capriccio with Renée Fleming and Bo Skovhus in September.


Bass-baritone Eric Owens


Bass-baritone Eric Owen has several engagements in Chicago in the coming years. He is Lyric Opera’s Community Ambassador, and will be speaking to schools and other organizations in the community in that capacity. Lyric also happens to be building a Ring Cycle around Mr. Owens, who will be singing his first Wotan starting in 2016 at Lyric. In the fall, Eric Owens will sing the Beethoven Symphony No. 9 with Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

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