Boulder Bach Festival ends its season May 24 with a major piece by Bach

Venice, “purveyor of exotic goods,” provides a point of reference

By Peter Alexander May 22 at 7:40 p.m.

ZC conducts chorus May 2017

Bouder Bach Festival orchestra and singers, Zachary Carrettin, conductor

The Boulder Bach Festival closes its season Thursday (7:30 p.m. Boulder Adventist Church) with a program of stunning variety, but festival director Zachary Carrettin sums it up in one sentence:


Zachary Carrettin

“We have this journey from lament to meditation to levity to blazing virtuosity, and finally to international dances at the hand of Johann Sebastian Bach.”

That’s as good a capsule description as one could make of a program that includes two settings of the Crucifixus from the Latin Mass by Antonio Lotti, a rousing street song by Tarquinio Merula, a tragic chorus by Giacomo Carissimi, a concerto by Vivaldi, and ending with an orchestral suite by J.S. Bach.

The program also sums up pretty nicely where the BBF stands today, because it introduces music by some of Bach’s predecessors that are not well known—one of the festival’s major goals. It features a number of guest artists from around the world, which is a priority. And those guests are serving as mentors to local musicians who are eager to learn more about early music performance, which fulfills an educational mission.

The concert is titled “La Venexiana,” meaning roughly ‘the one from Venice.’ (Note that in the Venetian dialect, the “x” is pronounced “tz”: “La Venetziana.”) Clearly, not all the composers are Venetian: Vivaldi and Lotti are, but the German Bach is not; Carissimi was from Rome and Merula from Cremona.

Antonio Lotti

Antonio Lotti

“For me, the theme doesn’t define the program,” Carrettin says.“One can choose a theme and adhere to it, or one can look at it as a point of reference. The final program should be an experience that I want us to present to the audience.”

The first half of he program mixes vocal and instrumental pieces, starting with two Crucifixus settings by Lotti, one for eight voices and one for six. Carrettin describes Lotti as one of Bach’s “contemporaries whose music is equally thrilling and ravishing. His use of suspension and resolution is exquisite. The successive chains of dissonances paint the idea of a crucifixion, and the resolutions are so poignant that one senses the promise of salvation.”


Josefien Stoppelenburg

Balancing the serious works will be Su la certra amorosa by Tarquinio Merula, which Carrettin describes as “a fun piece, rhythmic and virtuosic.” Written for soprano and continuo, it will be performed by soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg, a guest artist who has become a favorite of BBF audiences, accompanied by cello and Baroque guitar.

Between the vocal works will be two instrumental pieces designed as moments of reflection, a Sonata for Three Violins by Giovanni Gabrieli and a Ricercar for solo cello by Domenico Gabrielli (not related to Giovanni). The program’s first half concludes with the final recitative and chorus from the oratorio Jephte by Carissimi, a lament for Jephte’s daughter who must be sacrificed to the gods to fulfill a tragic vow.

Two instrumental pieces will be heard after intermission, Vivaldi’s Concerto for two violins in D minor and J.S. Bach’s Orchestra Suite in B minor for solo flute and strings. Although they are both in minor keys, they are by no means gloomy in mood. “This Vivaldi Concerto really is aggressive and brilliant and in some ways over the top,” Carrettin says.


Antonio Vivaldi

The quintessential Venetian composer of the Baroque era, Vivaldi was famous enough to attract visitors to the city for his concerts. This fits Venice’s character, Carrettin says. “Even in the 17th and 18th centuries the number of residents paled in comparison to the sea trade and those visiting the city as an exotic place and purveyor of exotic goods”—including its music.

That international flavor ties Venice to the final piece by Bach, even though Bach never visited Venice. “In a way Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 has that international quality,” Carrettin says. “But the suite is as much programmed for its international flavor as it is to present Ysmael Reyes on the Baroque flute.


Ismael Reyes

“Ismael has been a valued artist with the Boulder Bach Festival, and this is a great way to have him come back and share one of the great pieces for his instrument. He’s a wonderful person and a brilliant musician.”

Finally, Stoppelenburg and the other guest artists—violinist Adam LaMotte, concertmaster of Portland Baroque, and cellist Guy Fishman, principal cellist of Boston’s Handel-Haydn Society—will be doing more than performing. They will also be working with local musicians to share their expertise with Baroque musical styles.

In other words, the BBF has become much more than an organization that presents concerts; it is actively building a community of musicians. As such, Carrettin sees the BBF resting on three pillars.


BBF artist/mentor Guy Fishman

“One pillar is the guest artist/mentors,” he says. “Another pillar is the experienced early-music interpreters who already live in Colorado. And the third pillar is recent graduates here, professional musicians who want to have access to musicians in Amsterdam, Vienna, New York.

“We bring them all together. So we’re building a core of players, and merging this idea of professional development into our season finale. And we’ll continue this tradition next year.”

# # # # #

La Venexiana
Boulder Bach Festival Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Singers
Zachary Carrettin, director and violin
With guest artists Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano; Adam LaMotte, Baroque violin; Guy Fishman, Baroque cello.

Music by Antonio Lotti, Giovanni Gabrieli, Domenico Gabrielli, Tarquinio Merula, Giacomo Carissimi, Vivaldi and J.S. Bach

7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24
Boulder Seventh-Day Adventist Church
345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder



Boulder Bach Festival returns to its central mission with four choral works

‘Four of the greatest soloists’ will be featured March 15

By Peter Alexander March 8, 4:40 p.m.

It will be back to basics for the Boulder Bach Festival.

ZC conducts chorus May 2017

Zachary Carrettin leading the Boulder Bach Festival orchestra and chorus. Photo courtesy of the Boulder Bach Festival.

Its next concert will return to the original focus of the festival by presenting choral works by J.S. Bach with soloists and orchestra. After several concerts featuring music by composers before and after Bach, and introducing various performance styles, the program will comprise four of Bach’s church cantatas: No. 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden; No. 50, Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft; No. 61, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland; and No. 63, Christen, ätzet diesen Tag.

“All of these works have great arias, beautiful duets, riveting choruses and gorgeous orchestral writing,” Zachary Carrettin, the festival’s artistic director, says. “I love these four works, and I thought they would be fabulous on one program.”

Carrettin will conduct the Boulder Bach Festival Chorus and Orchestra, with soloists Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano; Abigail Nims, mezzo-soprano; Derek Chester, tenor; and Ashraf Sewailam, bass. “These are four of the greatest soloists we’ve programmed,” he says. “I couldn’t think of a better quartet of individuals to collaborate with our chorus and orchestra.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

# # # # #

“Eternal Spirit”
Boulder Bach Festival, Zachary Carrettin, artistic director
Bach Festival Orchestra and Chorus\
Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano
Abigail Nims, mezzo-soprano
Derek Chester, tenor
Ashraf Sewailam, bass

Four cantatas by J.S. Bach

7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15
Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder



‘Bachtoberfest’ concerts are all about Bach, not beer

Boulder Bach Festival embarks on a new season of adventures

By Peter Alexander

Boulder’s ever-adventurous Bach Festival embarks on a new season of exploration, with concerts in Boulder Oct. 12 and Longmont Oct. 14.


Violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock for the Juilliard School and Philharmonia Baroque will be a guest artists with the Boulder Bach Festival. Photo by David Tayler.

Boulder Bach Festival music director Zachary Carretin explains, “We spent recent years talking about Bach as our compass, and that gives us liberty to explore in any direction, across time, across cultures. So exploration is certainly a theme (this year), and presenting music the festival has never presented before.”

Not that Bach has been forgotten. “Every program does connect to the music of J.S. Bach,” he says, “sometimes in more direct ways, sometimes with six degrees of separation.”

That description applies to the opening program, which features chamber works with and without voice by Bach and composers associated with him: Vivaldi, Handel, Telemann, his student Johann Gottlieb Goldberg and his son Johann Christian Bach, known as “The London Bach.” Featured performers are Carretin and Elizabeth Blumenstock on violin; cellist Guy Fishman; keyboardist Christopher Holman; and soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

# # # # #

Boulder Bach Festival, Zachary Carretin, artistic director
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin; Guy Fishman, cello; Christopher, Holman, keyboards; and Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano.

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, Stewart Auditorium, 400 Quail Road, Longmont



Boulder Bach Festival comes to Longmont—inspired by Pink Floyd

Program “wanders through a labyrinth of pre-Bach Italian mysticism”

By Peter Alexander

compass-manuscript1J.S. Bach never heard Pink Floyd or visited St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, but both play a part in the Boulder Bach Festival’s opening program for their 35th season.

The concert, “Italian Roots,” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum in Longmont, and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in St. John’s Episcopal Church in Boulder (tickets). The program includes music by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Jacques Arcadelt, Dario Castello, Johann Jakob Froberger, Biagio Marini, Marco Uccelini and Johann Christoph Bach on the first half, and two works by festival namesake J.S. Bach after intermission.

The Longmont performance opens the Bach Festival’s 2015–16 season and “Bach in Longmont,” a series of three concerts in the new Stewart Auditorium. The series also includes educational events centered at the Longmont Museum.

Performers will include violinist Zachary Carrettin, musical director of the Boulder Bach Festival (BBF) and the Bach Chamber Singers, a small ensemble of four singers. Featured guest artists will be soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg, who sang on the BBF performance of the Bach B-minor Mass in February of this year; Matthew Dirst, a Grammy-nominated harpsichordist and renowned scholar; and violinist Michiko Theurer, BBF artist-in-residence.

Interior of the new Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum. Photo by Peter Alexander

Interior of the new Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum. Photo by Peter Alexander

Carrettin praises the new auditorium in Longmont. “It’s a beautiful acoustic space, and the lobby is very inviting,” he says. “As (people) walk into the hall, they will realize that it’s an intimate hall, but world class nonetheless.” The connection to St. Mark’s Cathedral, which is famous for having multiple choir lofts so that sounds come from different directions, will be in the creative way Carrettin creates similar effects in the intimate auditorium.

“Whether you want to use the ancient term antiphonal, or the 20th-century term stereophonic, we will be placing artists in different parts of the hall,” he says. “That’s an element of the way we are presenting the entire first half of the program, without pauses between pieces. We’ll improvise transitions from one work to another, and sometimes traveling from left to right on stage.

“The idea is to create half of a concert that is sewn together as its own journey. I have to think of the Pink Floyd albums, or the Yes albums, and the way the artists would weave together pieces of music, sometimes bringing back ideas from previously played songs so that by the end of the album the listener feels that they’ve been told a story.”

According to the BBF Web page, that story will be one of “wandering through a labyrinth of pre-Bach Italian mysticism.” What makes it a labyrinth is perhaps the fact that the composers vary from text-book names unfamiliar to most audience members down to the utterly obscure, but Carrettin is happy to illuminate the various corners of the labyrinth.

“It’s not in the program, [but] I decided to open the program with the Passacaglia for solo violin by [17th-century German composer] Heinrich Biber,” Carrettin says. “The Passacaglia, with its repeated bass line and variations, immediately brings the audience into a space of timelessness.”


Caravaggio’s “The Lute Player”

That timelessness sets the stage for the earliest piece on the program, a madrigal by 16th-century Flemish composer Arcadelt. He was so well known in his lifetime that a 1596 painting by Caravaggio, featured on the BBF Web page, shows a lutenist playing one of his pieces. The text, about love and death—like many madrigals—in turn sets the stage for later works on the program.

The next piece returns to the 17th century with a Toccata by Froberger, who was known as a the composer of keyboard suites and descriptive pieces. “Bach was a virtuoso keyboardist and improviser,” Carrettin says, “so Froberger is an opportunity for us to look at other great keyboard composers.

Harpsichordist and scholar Matthew Dirst

Harpsichordist and scholar Matthew Dirst

“Matthew Dirst ,who’s performing [Froberger’s Toccata] is really an incredible, dynamic scholar and author of a recent book called Engaging Bach. He is perfect for bridging the Italian style and Bach, starting with a piece that just plays with the facility of a keyboard instrument.

“As the program progresses, you’ll hear Matthew in various perspectives and lights.”

The rest of the first half plays out with Dirst playing first a sonata for violin and harpsichord by Castello with Theurer; then a set of variations for harpsichord and two violins by Marini, with Theurer and Carrettin; and another piece by Froberger. The first half ends with the Bach Chamber Singers performing music by one of J.S. Bach’s older relatives, Johann Christoph Bach.

Johann Christoph Bach

Johann Christoph Bach

“He was actually the most known Bach composer before Johann Sebastian, but history doesn’t remember him,” Carrettin says. “This short motet, World, goodnight, is stunningly beautiful, so I think it’s a great way to end the first half.” Like the Arcadelt, this is another piece reflecting on death.

Carrettin describes the first half of the program as “fragments within a dream,” which contrasts with the two very familiar works by J.S. Bach that will be played in full on the second half: the much loved Harpsichord Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052, and a version of the cantata Ich habe genug, BWV82a for soprano—the concert’s final musical meditation on death.

“Dirst will perform the most famous Bach harpsichord concerto,” Carrettin says. “He’ll be just accompanied by string quartet, so you will really get the sound of the harpsichord ringing throughout the hall.”

Soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg

Soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg

Turning to the cantata, Carrettin says “There are several special elements of our performance. One is that we are doing this one per part, featuring Ysmael Reyes on flute. We’ll have two violins one viola, one cello, and one double bass, and Dirst will play harpsichord.

“Soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg, who thrilled audiences in the B minor Mass, will return to sing this. And what’s so special about this performance is that we’re using the rarely performed version that Bach wrote for soprano.”

Bringing together guest artists with local musicians in something Carrettin especially enjoys. “What thrills me is having an internationally recognized harpsichordist, and an internationally recognized virtuoso soprano sharing the stage with expert front-range musicians and young professionals,” he says.

“What I like is bringing together different generations, different life experiences, and artists from different geographical locations. What ends up happening is these paths of discovery and relationships are created. To me that’s as thrilling as the music.”

# # # # #

Italian Roots
Music by Biber, Arcadelt, Castello, Froberger, Marini, Uccelini, Johann Christoph Bach and J.S. Bach
Boulder Bach Festival Chamber Singers with Zachary Carrettin, violin, and guest artists

7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16
Stewart Auditorium at the Longmont Museum, Longmont

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder