Piffaro Announces March Concert
Piffaro, The Renaissance Band, will present Back Before Bach, a concert examining the musical DNA of Johann Sebastian Bach, on March 9-11 in Philadelphia and Wilmington. Tickets are $29-$49 (full-time students free with ID), and are available at www.piffaro.org or by calling 215-235-8469.
Ask anyone with a passing familiarity with classical music who the earliest great musical genius was, and many (if not most) will answer, Johann Sebastian Bach. But "no composer can truly write de novo," counters Piffaro's artistic co-director Bob Wiemken. "He or she is but one link in the long chain of practice, innovation and experimentation. Even the most innovative composer must wrestle with the weight of preceding years. There will always be a 'back before' that illuminates the present."
In Bach's case, one doesn't need to venture very far "back before" to discover the musical influences in his life. He grew up in a family of stadpfeiffers - professional musicians who played in the wind bands that were the pride of German cities in the 15th-17th centuries. His father played in Lubeck and Arnstadt, his godfather in Gotha, and when he grew up he married into another musical family - his father-in-law played in Zeitz and Wessenfels.
Piffaro, the Renaissance Band has been researching and performing the music of the 15th-17th centuries for over thirty years. It will focus its hard-earned knowledge on a close examination of this "back before." The artistic directors have selected two hymns to illustrate the foundation that Bach built on: Christ ist erstanden and A solis ortus. They trace the evolution of each from ancient anonymous settings, through versions by Heirich Isaac, Stephen Mahu, Johann Walther, Michael Praetorius and Samuel Scheidt, before arriving at Bach's glorious chorales. The concert program will also include the experiments in chromaticism and early German songs and dances that provided Bach such a rich vocabulary to draw upon.
Back Before Bach is a program long in the making. Originally conceived for the Bach Festival of Philadelphia in 2013, it evolved over subsequent years of touring and continual experimentation and refinement, reaching its apotheosis in a July 2017 recording for the record label PARMA.
This concert series will be accompanied by a workshop led by Piffaro's musicians on March 10, in reading from original musical notation. Three classes will accommodate a variety of levels of familiarity & skill.
Photo Credit Bill DiCecca