A night of Bach music, family

Concert: Performance aims to re-create musical magic of talented Bach household

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April 04, 2002|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at a musical gathering of the Bach family.

Papa Johann Sebastian, perhaps the most influential musical genius who ever lived, was an improviser par excellence who could spin out full-blown contrapuntal masterpieces off the top of his head.

He was familiar with the music of his contemporaries; works by George Frederick Handel, Antonio Vivaldi and his No. 1 German rival, Georg Philipp Telemann, must have been musical staples of his household.

Amazingly, the father's gifts were handed down with extravagance to the next generation, as four of Bach's sons established important musical careers.

The talent level at an in-house Bach music fest must have been quite something to behold.

And that is precisely the point of the Candlelight Concert to be presented Saturday by the five Baroque specialists of the Aulos Ensemble who will take the Smith Theatre stage at 8 p.m. to present "An Evening in the Home of J.S. Bach."

Music by Bach's sons, Carl Philipp Emanuel and Johann Christian, will be performed, as will works by Vivaldi and Telemann, Bach's fellow masters of the Baroque idiom.

Rounding out the evening will be the music of Johann Sebastian, most notably selections from the charming Notebook, works he compiled in honor of his second wife, Anne Magdalena.

Formed in 1973 by graduates of New York City's Juilliard School, the Aulos Ensemble has spent nearly three decades at the forefront of the "authentic instruments" movement, which has redefined our sense of Baroque-era performance practices while helping to make 18th-century music increasingly popular with the record-buying and concert-going public.

Performances by Aulos flutist Christopher Krueger, oboist Marc Schachman, violinist Linda Quan, cellist Myron Lutzke and harpsichordist Arthur Haas have become sold-out events in New York City thanks to the group's mastery of the ornate, dashingly elegant Baroque style and its frequent collaborations with stellar artists such as soprano Dawn Upshaw, harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock and cellist Anner Bylsma.

Aulos compact discs of music by Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and Telemann are some of the most popular selections offered by the Musical Heritage Society, the New Jersey mail-order house that supplies classical music enthusiasts nationwide.

The ensemble's informed, insightful brand of music-making will be brought to bear on works by two of the Bach sons at Saturday's concert.

The ensemble will play a trio sonata by Carl Phillip Emanuel (1714-1788), who spent 28 years at the court of Emperor Frederick the Great of Prussia, where the proportioned elegance of his music would lay out a stylistic red carpet for the symphonies of Haydn and Mozart.

Also on the program is a quintet by Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782), the son who deserted Lutheranism for Catholicism and immigrated to England, where his operas and deft little symphonic works became all the rage.

Though their works are performed infrequently now, both sons became more famous in their generation than their father ever was in his.

The Aulos Ensemble will play pieces by Vivaldi, the Venetian composer whose works J.S. Bach sometimes appropriated for his own use, and Telemann, whose fame in the German states as both organist and composer was such that Johann Sebastian's employers often felt they were settling for second best.

They were not, of course, which is rather the point of this concert. For looming over everyone at this hypothetical evening set in his own home is the shadow of a musical titan, the colossus Beethoven called "the immortal god of harmony."

Candlelight Concerts presents the Aulos Ensemble at 8 p.m. Saturday in Smith Theatre on the campus of Howard Community College in Columbia. A free preconcert talk will be given by Gail Wein of WETA-FM at 6:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $24; $18 for senior citizens; and $9 for students. Information: 410-715-0034 or 301-596-6203.

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