Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach: after 300 years, the legend lives on.
PERFORMANCES: It is safe to say that just about every musical ensemble, large and small, in big cities or county seats, will be devoting at least one program -- if not an entire series -- to the music of Bach. What follows is a highly selective taste of what the world of music will be producing this landmark year. TORONTO (March 8-24): Canada's contribution to the Bach Tricentennial celebrations focuses on an array of Canadian talent, international performers, and such jazz greats as Oscar Peterson and Chick Corea, in a citywide celebration.
LEIPZIG, EAST GERMANY (March 19-27): A Bach International Festival. Performance groups from all over the world will be taking part in the city's huge celebration to honor the man who spent the last 23 years of his life in its midst. The schedule is packed with events ranging from recitals in the Thomas Church to choral concerts in the major concert halls of the city.
NEW YORK: Rafael Kubelik leads the New York Philharmonic in eight performances of a richly assorted instrumental and vocal Bach program (March 21-April 2), while at Carnegie Hall, the passions will be performed in a three-day festival (April 3, 6, 7).
FRANKFURT, WEST GERMANY (March-December): The first and third Friday of every month, concerts at Catherine's Church will include a good share of Bach's devotional music in the sort of setting in which it was meant to be heard.
MADEIRA, PORTUGAL (June 15-24): This year's Bach festivities in the town of Funchal will have even greater interest than usual.
BRAUNWALD, SWITZERLAND (July 7-14): The 50th Braunwald Music Week will be devoted exclusively to Bach this year. Programming is not fully confirmed, but it is fair to assume a wide cross section of his music will be represented.
GRONINGEN PROVINCE, NETHERLANDS (through December): The Groningen Bach Festival is a provincewide celebration of Bach in its numerous historic churches, on many exceptional historic organs. RECORDINGS:
Archiv Productions, the early and Baroque music wing of Deutsche Grammophon Records, has launched a massive New Bach Edition, which will include 130 discs. Over one-third of the releases will be newly recorded. Among the extant riches of the Archiv catalog are Hans Richter's acclaimed performances of the Passions and Helmut Walcha's probing performance of the Bach organ works. New to the catalog will be performances of the Orchestra Suites, the Brandenburg Concertos, and other orchestral works by Trevor Pinnock and the Old English Consort. A special price of $4.98 per disc and a specially designed cover will distinguish the series from the rest of the Archiv catalog.
Teldec Records will offer a totally reissued Bach edition that will consist of the major works -- the Passions, the concertos, and the best-known instrumental and solo works. These performances are culled mainly from the performances Nicholas Harnoncourt and an orchestra of original instruments has been putting to tape over the past two decades. They chart not only the progress of the authenticity movement, but the course of Harnoncourt's growth as an interpreter. The cost will be $10 per 2-disc set. As an aside, the cantata recording project, which was abandoned when Teldec took over the Telefunken name and split from the Polygram group, has been revived. It is hoped that the project will include every cantata Bach is known to have written, some 250 in all. BOOKS:
Yale University Press has released ``J. S. Bach'' -- a handsome record-size volume devoted to essays on Bach and his place in history. It is handsomely illustrated with a variety of paintings, photographs, and manuscript facsimiles that give a clear image of the look of the world in Bach's day.
Knopf & Co. releases a new biography this month by Herbert Kupferberg, entitled ``Bach.'' It is aimed at the general reader who is brimming with curiosity but might be put off by too detailed a musical and historical account of the composer's day-to-day life.