I will be forever grateful to the KC Public Library for introducing me to the remarkable Bach Aria Soloists. This ensemble performs the music of Bach, his contemporaries, his influences and those influenced by him, and it is unlike any other group I've ever heard. I am lucky to have caught three of their free Library Series performances over the last two years. (Most other concerts are the subscription-only Hausenkonzert series, which are held in intimate settings such as people's homes, the way this chamber music was intended to be performed.)
But the library hosts free concerts and the first one I attended was the one in 2007 with foremost Bach scholar Dr. Christopher Wolff, which drew record crowds. I was drawn by the unique opportunity of the lecture-concert combo that that event offered. When I left there I knew I was hooked. I am still hooked and easily entranced, as I was at last night's concert, called "Notes and Letters." One of the evening's special guests was Robert Brand, an actor who presented the letters and history of the composers and music of the evening's performance. He shared Henry Purcell's thoughts on music and poetry together ("like wit and beauty in the same person"); he read from the acerbic epistolary debate between composer Fritz Kreisler and a critic angry at Kreisler for passing off his music as someone else's; and he pointed out Bach's "unbuttoned" style in the secular pieces at the end. To have the background and insight on the composers makes for such a rich way to enjoy the music.
Another special guest was Beau Bledsoe, amazing guitarist whose work included not only stunning interpretations of the music, but arrangements of the pieces for guitar as well. And of course there is the harpsichord. The wonderful harpsichord played at this performance by Jane Solose. The serious, but calm harpsichord ... so beautiful. The entire ensemble is wonderful, but I would come back for the harpsichord alone. Where else can you hear such a rare instrument live? Where else, except with the Bach Aria Soloists.