January 26, 2005


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Classical Music: Bach's 'Well Tempered Clavier' in Concord on Sunday, Feb. 5

Pianist Birgit Matzerath to play one of classical music's great collections

By Jeff Rapsis  jrapsis@hippopress.com

Preview: Bach's legendary set of 24 preludes and fugues, one in each major and minor key, will be performed in Concord by pianist Birgit Matzerath, a member of the Concord Community Music School's piano faculty. Bach composed the piece to demonstrate how music could work on 12-tone chromatic scale in any key when played on one keyboard instrument, thus helping pave the way for tonal music for the next couple of centuries. Each piece consists of a prelude, which is a kind of free-form introduction, followed by a fugue, which is kind of an advanced musical round in which a melody enters separate times and all the lines fit together. It's considered one of the tour de forces of western music.

When: Sunday, Feb. 5 at 3 p.m. at the Concord Community Music School's recital hall, 23 Wall St., Concord. Admission: $12 for adults, $8 for seniors.

Why attend: This is a rare chance to hear one of music's all-time great masterworks played live in one of the best concert venues for classical music in the area. The Concord Community Music School's recital hall is an old church with fantastically warm sound that's perfect for chamber ensembles and solo recitals. Bach isn't always an easy composer to listen to, especially if your ears expect the drama of Beethoven or the on-the-sleeve emotion of Tchaikovsky. Rather, like most composers of his era, he picks one mood and sticks to it. But the 24 preludes and fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier Book I are varied and interesting musical landscapes that, performed together, make up one of classical music's great experiences. In any case, it's the first time in memory that anyone's tackled it in these parts.

Text of press release below:


Birgit Matzerath to Play Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier,” Feb. 5

CONCORD, N.H. – A 373-year-old influential work by J.S. Bach, the “Well-Tempered Clavier,” will be performed by pianist Birgit Matzerath Saturday, Feb. 5, at 3 p.m. at the Concord Community Music School. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for seniors.

“After all this time, Bach’s music still speaks to us,” writes Matzerath. “In the ‘Well-Tempered Clavier,’ there is every shade of emotion, from the most radiant joy to deepest sorrow. The music … seems to connect the listener and the performer to some higher wisdom and peace that is otherwise hard to find in this world.”

Matzerath promises her own interpretation of the music, partially because “Bach did not leave a lot of instructions how he wanted his music played … I choose to play the music as I feel it.”

The afternoon concert in the Music School’s Recital Hall, 23 Wall St., downtown Concord, is part of the Musicians of Wall Street annual recital series.

The “Well-Tempered Clavier,” completed in 1722, is a collection of 24 preludes and fugues in all the major and minor keys beginning with C major and concluding with B minor.

They were intended, according to Bach’s own introduction, “for the use and profit of the musical youth desirous of learning as well as for the pastime of those already skilled in this study.” More than 20 years later, Bach used the same device for another set of preludes and fugues, generally referred to as the “Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II.”

However, the pieces served as more than just a lesson of keys, becoming some of the most challenging, oft-played and analyzed music of the Baroque era, and directly influencing the compositions of Beethoven, Mozart, Shostakovitch and others.

Matzerath, who teaches piano at the Music School, graduated from the Hochschule fuer Musik in Cologne, Germany. She has initiated music camps in Cologne and St. Petersburg and her research on music education has been published widely. For ticket and other information, call the Music School at (603) 228-1196.

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