Bach Is Instrumental To Consort's Success

J. Reilly Lewis, the consort's music director, excelled on harpsichord as a soloist in the Concerto in C Minor.
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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Johann Sebastian Bach's exalted vocal music has captivated audiences of many faiths. But, with the exception of his Brandenburg Concertos, the general musical public knows fewer of Bach's instrumental works. On Sunday, the Washington Bach Consort performed five gorgeous samples of these at the new Harman Center for the Arts in downtown D.C.

The event covered concertos for as many as three violin soloists, and another for a pair of harpsichords. The violinists and violist stood while playing, reviving an old tradition that produces a more cohesive sound.

Sunday's program (on period instruments) offered a rare opportunity to compare two versions of the same concerto. As kapellmeister for a princely German court, Bach first composed his Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1043, for two violins ; later, as Leipzig's city music director and in need of more keyboard concertos, he transformed the double violin piece into the Concerto in C Minor, BWV 1062, for two solo harpsichords.

Timothy Haig and June Huang's violin partnership unfolded with increasing emotional momentum as their interweaving lines echoed each other in a transfixing manner. In the dual harpsichord piece, soloists J. Reilly Lewis, the consort's music director, and Scott Dettra drew all the players into their rapturous contrapuntal dialogue -- perhaps most sublimely in the serene slow movement, in which Bach's written score and improvising genius are one. With breathtaking bravura in the Concerto in C, BWV 1064R, the three violinists together -- Haig, Huang and Martha Perry -- left the audience stunned for a moment before applause could begin.

-- Cecelia Porter

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