More than 80 musicians named Bach are known to history, from Hans (16th century) to Johann Philippe (1752-1846), so anyone planning a concert devoted to "Music of the Bach Family and Friends" such as yesterday's at the National Presbyterian Church can choose from an abundance of material. Omitting works for orchestra, the Washington Bach Consort and Music Director J. Reilly Lewis performed organ and choral works of varied style and high quality.
The figure of Johann Sebastian towered over the eight other composers (or perhaps seven; one attribution is challenged) on the program. But the limpid Missa Brevis and the joyful Psalm 100 of Johann Pachelbel made a strong impression, and the seldom-heard Magnificat of his son Charles Theodore (who migrated to America) compensated in technical ease for what it lacked in emotional depth. Organ works by Georg Philipp Telemann and Dietrich Buxtehude showed that old J.S. had some very talented friends, while those of his son Carl Philipp Emanuel and his cousin Johann Gottfried Walther showed that he also had imaginative and skilled relatives. Whether the motet "Ich lassedich nicht" was composed by Johann Sebastian or his cousin Johann Christoph or partly by each, it had exquisite grace and charm.
Motets, often with continuo accompaniment and frequently for double chorus, were a recurring element, presented with precise balance, clear diction, beguiling tone and a fine sense of the church's acoustics. Three were by J.S. Bach; another, "Tristisest anima mea" by Johann Kuhnau, his predecessor in Leipzig, was a perfect little musical gem.
Of the six organ works on the program, Lewis played two with fine articulation and impressive technique. In the other four, his assistant conductor, R. Benjamin Dobey, gave bright, energetic performances with well-chosen registrations.