The 39th annual edition of the Chicago area's Bach Week Festival, where Baroque music lovers luxuriate in diverse works of Johann Sebastian Bach, will present a signature blend of solo, concerto, orchestral, and choral performances in concerts tonight April 27, May 4, and May 6 in Evanston.
Audiences will hear some J.S. Bach works that have never before been performed at the festival.
Bach Week 2012 will begin with a backwards glance when the festival's founding fathers, Karel Paukert and Richard Webster, reunite in concert for the first time since the inaugural Bach Week in May 1974, when they played harpsichords in a Bach concerto.
This time, Paukert and Webster will put organ pedals to the metal in a festival-opening concert of organ duets titled "Bach to the Beginning" at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 27, at Northwestern University's Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road, Evanston.
Sitting together at Millar Chapel's 100-rank Aeolian-Skinner organ, Paukert and Webster will perform the first organ duets ever heard during the festival's nearly four-decade run. Among them is "Three Duets" by C.P.E. Bach, a son of J.S. Bach.
Other duets will include Italian Renaissance composer Giuseppe Guami's Canzone "La Lucchesina" a 8 and two fanciful and delicately ornamental Rococo pieces: the Sonata in F Major by Gaetano Piazza and Sonata in D Major/Concertino a due in G Major by Bonaventura Terreni.
Also on the program: Samuel Sebastian Wesley's "Duet for Organ," written in a traditional late-19th century English style; Danish composer Niels Wilhelm Gade's "Andante for Organ, Four Hands"; the anonymously written Concertino a due Cembali; and American composer Horatio Parker's "Quick March," an optimistic, high-spirited piece. Parker (1863-1919) once served as organist and choirmaster at Boston's historic Trinity Church, the post now held by Bach Week's Webster.
Paukert will do the honors of playing a solo organ work by J.S. Bach: the monumental Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, much revered by organists and organ aficionados.
Paukert launched the Bach Week Festival while he was an associate professor of organ and church music at Northwestern University in Evanston and music director and choirmaster at Evanston's St. Luke's Episcopal Church -- the festival's first home.
Paukert left Evanston later that same year, 1974, for a distinguished, award-winning, three-decade career as curator of musical arts at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Since 1979, he has directed the music program at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. His last Bach Week appearance was in 2001.
Webster, an organist and harpsichordist at the first festival, was a Paukert student at NU and his assistant at St. Luke's. Webster has served as the festival's music director and conductor since 1975 and has performed in the festival as organist and harpsichordist.
Guitarist Adam Levin, an international concert and recording artist, will make his Bach Week Festival debut at a concert scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 4, at the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston.
A former North Shore resident, Boston-based Levin will perform Bach's Lute Suite in E Major, BWV 1006a, preceded by the "Obsession" movement from Belgian composer Eugène Ysaÿe's Violin Sonata No. 2, from 1924. The movement quotes directly from the Bach suite.
Other Bach works on the May 4 program include two that have never been heard at the festival: the Toccata in E Minor, BWV 915, with harpsichordist Jason Moy; and Flute Sonata in E Major, BWV 1035, with flutist Alyce Johnson and harpsichordist Moy.
The Bach Week Festival Chorus, under Webster's direction, will sing the motets "Komm, Jesu, komm!," BWV 229, and "Singet dem Herrn," BWV 225. It's rare to find these two monumental motets for double chorus in a single program, Webster says.