In an intimate program, the H+H Chorus performs three Bach motets and choral selections by English Renaissance composer William Byrd
Choral concert follows the recent critical successes of H+H’s Vivaldi Gloria, A Bach Christmas, and Handel Messiah
Performances are Friday, March 14, 8 pm and Sunday, March 16, 3 pm at NEC’s Jordan Hall
February 27, 2014 (Boston, MA) — Handel and Haydn Society Artistic Director Harry Christophers follows recent critical successes with another signature choral program: sacred music by J.S. Bach and William Byrd. Juxtaposing two great vocal traditions, this intimate program features three of Bach’s motets alongside Byrd’s moving Ave verum corpus and other pieces by the English Renaissance composer. All selections will be sung by H+H’s superb chorus—“the Rolls-Royce of Boston chorales” (The Hub Review).
“In their own way, Bach and Byrd were pioneers in sacred music in their respective lifetimes,” says Artistic Director Harry Christophers. “Both wrote with great passion and fervor for the church. But, sadly, one lived in constant fear of persecution because of his devout Catholic faith.”
William Byrd (c. 1540–1623) was an accomplished organist and a favorite composer of Queen Elizabeth I. Yet much of his Catholic service music had to be suppressed for fear of arrest, costly fines, and death. Byrd responded to the times with music that is contemplative, sad, and joyful. One of the most sublime works scheduled on the Bach and Byrd program is the Agnus Dei from his Mass for Four Voices. Music historians have noted how the poignant final words of the movement, “Dona nobis pacem” (“Grant us peace”), could well be a personal plea for greater religious tolerance.
A staunch Lutheran, J.S. Bach (1685–1750) lived a life of greater security. Two of the works on the Bach and Byrd program (Jesu, meine Freude and Komm, Jesu, komm) are funeral motets composed by Bach for wealthy families. “These funeral motets are simply extraordinary, full of mindboggling symmetry and exceptional counterpoint,” says Christophers. “Their technical and aesthetic challenges are virtually unparalleled.”
The program ends on a celebratory note with Bach’s Singet dem Herrn, music that had made a great impression on a young Mozart, then visiting Leipzig. “Hardly had the choir sung a few bars when Mozart sat up, startled,” reported an 18th-century eyewitness. “When the singing was finished, he cried out full of joy, ‘Now there is something one can learn from.’”
Bach and Byrd
Friday, March 14, 8 pm at NEC’s Jordan Hall
Sunday, March 16, 3 pm at NEC’s Jordan Hall
Harry Christophers, conductor
Handel and Haydn Society Chorus
Plainsong: Veni creator spiritus
Byrd: Laudibus in sanctis
Bach: Bist du bei mir
Bach: Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227
Bach: Komm, Jesu, komm, BWV 229
Byrd: Ye gentle muses
Byrd: Agnus Dei
Byrd: Ave verum corpus
Bach: Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 225
Tickets from $20. See below for purchasing information.
Tickets are available through Handel and Haydn Society Box Office: by phone at 617 266 3605; online at handelandhaydn.org; or in person at the Handel and Haydn Society offices, Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston (M–F, 10am–6pm). Student rush is available starting 90 minutes before the performance: $15 cash only with valid ID, best available seats subject to availability. Groups of 10 or more receive a 20% discount.
Led by Teresa Neff, Historically Informed Performance Fellow
Friday, March 14 at 7pm
Sunday, March 16 at 2pm
Conversations will take place in NEC’s Jordan Hall
Free with concert tickets