In honour of Prof. Dr. Christoph Wolff, esteemed Bach and Mozart scholar
from 25 to 27 July 2014
Jointly hosted the Australian Bach Society, the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (MCM) of The University of Melbourne, and St Johns Lutheran Church Southgate.
This event gave Melbourne and interstate Bach lovers the opportunity to hear and meet with Professor Wolff, and an associated symposium provided a showcase for Australian-based Bach research. Attendees were also treated to public concerts, the opening of an exhibition of historical maps of Leipzig, a panel discussion, and a performance of a Bach cantata at St Johns as part of the continuing Lutheran tradition of Australia.
The three-day event began at the MCM and ended at St Johns Southgate.
The highlight of the forum was Professor Wolff’s much anticipated public lecture: “Johann Sebastian Bach in Leipzig: In Search of the Thomascantor’s Human Face.” Recent achievements in Bach scholarship were incorporated into a broad, accessible discussion of the context of Bach’s life and work in Leipzig. Wolff explored the phenomenon of Bach’s current popularity, and described his character as represented in portraits (both the well known official portrait and one recently discovered and presented at the Bachfest in Leipzig last spring). A vivid picture of Bach’s arrival in Leipzig with his family was painted, and the conditions of the lodgings in which the Bach family lived were given. With gentle authority Wolff discussed Bach’s major musical achievements, explaining how he functioned in a capacity far beyond that traditionally expected of a local cantor: as honorary composer to the Dresden court, Bach wrote music for special concerts in honour of his royal patrons, and in doing so he transformed the office of cantor into that of “civic Kapellmeister.” The lecture was greeted with long, enthusiastic applause from an audience that filled Melba Hall at the University of Melbourne.
Concerts were given by students of the MCM’s Early Music Studio, who presented an engaging program titled “Eisenach, Leipzig, Hamburg: Orchestral Music of the Bach Family” under the direction of Rachael Beesley, while by the group e21 directed by Stephen Grant (University of Melbourne) presented “The German Baroque Motet”, which included works by Heinrich Schütz, Johann Schein, Johann Michael Bach, Johann Christoph Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Sunday morning brought the final item of the symposium, a performance of Bach’s cantata 'Es ist das Heil uns kommen her' (BWV 9) given by MCM students (prepared by Vivien Hamilton and Greg Dikmans) within the liturgical proceedings at St Johns Southgate.
Find an interview with Rachael Beesley in our blog