The Anchorage Festival of Music’s 2019/20 season focuses on the three B's - Bach, Beethoven and Brubeck. This unique trio of composers offers a look into three very different times in music history. The festival goes bach to the man who started it all and presents their first two concerts this coming weekend with “Binge on Bach.”
With the success of last season and the demand for seats, they’ve expanded the first program to include two performances, reprising the same program for the second performance. This is an exciting step for the festival to take and a strong indication that Anchorage audiences have a real appetite for high quality chamber music.
The concert features longtime Festival musicians, cellist Linda Ottum, violinist Dawn Lindsay and keyboardist Juliana Osinchuk along with Anchorage Symphony Orchestra members violinist Marie Nielson and violist Koree Guzman. UAA cello professor and musicologist John Lutterman also joins the Festival for a performance of the Prelude from Bach’s D minor cello suite, on which he completed his doctoral dissertation.
Not only is the festival one of Alaska’s premiere chamber music presenters, but it also remains the highest quality presenter of early music. But the commitment to early music doesn’t stop with the great programming. AFM musicians will also perform on period instruments. Festival director and flutist Laura Koenig, for example, will be performing on a baroque flute, which both looks and sounds entirely different from a modern instrument. The timbre is colorful and delicate, and when in the hands of such a proficient player as Koenig, will introduce audiences to sounds they’ve never heard from a flute. In some ways, hearing early music played in this very traditional way can actually bring a newness to the music. Especially in the case of Bach, whose music is ubiquitous in the classical music world, using period instruments can give a fresh coat of paint to old favorites.
The festival’s performance offers an exciting mix and culminates with a performance of one of Bach’s most celebrated works, his Brandenburg Concerto no. 5. The piece is written for a small chamber orchestra and prominently features the violin, flute and harpsichord. Rounding out the program are shorter arias performed from frequent AFM collaborator and early music specialist, soprano Victoria Fraser.
Bach was famously prolific and worked as a church composer writing new cantatas and masses for services each week. Bach’s output includes thousands of works ranging from partitas for solo strings and immense keyboard cycles, to full orchestral suites and smaller motets. His repertoire is so vast that he has an entire cataloging system for his music alone. This makes finding something of his to play fairly easy, but does present one unique challenge when it comes to programming a concert of all Bach in that there’s just so much to choose from - a challenge Koenig takes to enthusiastically. “I had to come up with a three word description [for the concert] and well, everybody loves Bach! How can you not? There’s just so much there to work with,” she said with a smile.
The Anchorage Festival of Music begins their 2019/20 season “The Three Bs” this coming weekend with “Binge on Bach.” Tickets are available at CenterTix.com.