The harpsichord—the forerunner of the modern piano that is also played with a keyboard but which plucks its strings rather than hammers them as a piano does—was a favorite instrument of Johann Sebastian Bach. Seven complete harpsichord concertos have survived along with three concertos for two harpsichords, two concertos for three harpsichords and even a single concerto for four harpsichords. And, of course, the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 is often considered a harpsichord concerto.
Professional eighteenth-century musicians were more diverse in their talents than musicians of our own time; you not only had to be able to perform on a wide variety of instruments but you were also expected to read any music given you as well as be able to improvise. You also were expected to compose music as well as be able to arrange music of your own or of others for additional performers as occasions and circumstances warranted. Thus, few of Bach’s harpsichord concertos were initially written for that instrument, but were actually arrangements of other pieces he had written but which often survive only in their harpsichord versions.
Baroque Band’s season finale includes two such Bach works that involve multiple harpsichords: the Concerto for Two Harpsichords in C Major (BWV 1061), thought to have originated as a two harpsichord piece but later augmented with strings, and the Concerto for Four Harpsichords in a minor (BWV 1065), thought to be the only Bach harpsichord concerto that made an adaptation of someone else’s music rather than his own, in this case, the four violin concerto in b minor from Vivaldi’s “L’Estro armonico.” Baroque Band principal harpsichordist David Schrader will be joined by Jason Moy for both works, with Paul Nicholson and Alex Kelber joining them for the Four Harpsichord Concerto. Violinist, group founder and artistic director Garry Clarke directs the program which also includes Wilhelm Friedemann Bach’s Overture in g minor, formerly attributed to his father, and Graun’s “Le Fete Galante” and Graupner’s Concerto Grosso in B flat major. (Dennis Polkow)
June 4, 7:30pm, Hyde Park Union Church, 5600 South Woodlawn; June 5, 7:30pm, Music Institute of Chicago, 1490 Chicago, Evanston; June 9, 7:30pm, Symphony Center’s Grainger Ballroom, 220 S. Michigan; (312)235-2368. $15-$35.
Dennis Polkow is an award-winning veteran journalist, critic, author, broadcaster and educator. He made his stage debut at age five, was a child art prodigy and began playing keyboards in clubs at the age of fourteen. He holds degrees in music theory, composition, religious studies and philosophy from DePaul University in Chicago. Polkow spent his early years performing and recording in rock and jazz bands while concertizing as a classical pianist, organist and harpsichordist and composing, arranging and producing for other artists. As a scholar, Polkow has published and lectured extensively and taught at several colleges and universities in various departments. As an actor, narrator and consultant, Polkow has been involved with numerous films, plays, broadcasts and documentaries. As a journalist, Polkow helped co-create the experiential Chicago Musicale and Spotlight, the award-winning tabloid arts and entertainment section of the Press Publications chain of newspapers, which he later edited. He also created and ran the nationally recognized journalism program at Oakton College and was faculty advisor to its award-winning student newspaper; many former students went on to major media careers, including Channel Awesome’s the Nostalgia Critic. Polkow’s research, interviews, features, reviews and commentaries have appeared across national and international media and he has corresponded from the Middle East, Asia and Africa for the Chicago Tribune. Contact: email@example.com