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Musica Antiqua K”ln aims to expand the knowledge of the teachings and teachers of J. S. Bach.

Bach to Basics


Reinhard Goebel and his group Musica Antiqua K”ln have been working on an ambitious project for the last 28 years: demystifying the origins of J.S. Bach and convincing audiences of the quality of the music of Bach's contemporaries. The group will continue its work in Richmond on Monday, April 16, at the University of Richmond's Camp Concert Hall as part of the University's Seventeenth-Century Baroque Festival.

"I want to share my discoveries and explain Bach," explains Goebel by phone from Germany. "How Bach could arise from other composers who had the same roots. I want to show that other composers from the same time wrote great music."

Goebel and Musica Antiqua K”ln will try to do that at UR by presenting a concert focusing on the composers of the early Baroque, including the well-known Vivaldi and Purcell, the less well-known Torelli, Fux and Caldara, and the obscure Marini, Fontana, Schmelzer and Matteis.

"There's no need for Beethoven, no need for Mozart," says Goebel, "we should expand the knowledge of the teachings and teachers of Bach."

Early music encompasses a wide range of composers and styles. As an offhand term, "early music" defines that period of European art music that preceded the well-known music of the periods containing Baroque master Bach (1685-1750), Mozart (1756-1791) and Beethoven (1770-1827). For some, it means anything before the 17th century. For his ensemble, Goebel defines "early" as all music composed between 1587 and 1709 that shares a distinct style.

Musica Antiqua K”ln has been devoted to the performance of early Baroque music since its founding by violinist and conductor Goebel in 1973. Musica Antiqua K”ln made its major debut at the annual Bach festival at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1979. Since then, Musica Antiqua K”ln and Goebel have received a variety of accolades and awards, including the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis in 1981 and 1982, the Grand Prix National du Disque in 1984, the Prix Cecilia in 1993 and Gramophone Awards in 1984 and 1993. Besides conducting Musica Antiqua K”ln, Goebel has conducted orchestras devoted to early music around the world including New York's Collegium this season and last. He will make his debut with a modern orchestra in May of this year.

Goebel was drawn to early music by its scientific nature. "Melody didn't interest me. Fast movement fascinated me. I am not Mr. Melody," he says. "I decided to go into early music because my abilities were better suited to that style. I am a very rhythmically strong player, very exact." In fact, both Goebel and Musica Antiqua K”ln are known for their exciting, spirited, precise and quick playing.

"Early music is based on short figures," says Goebel, "not unending melodies. It is more scientific and distant than classical or Romantic music. It gives much more justice to the music itself, not just some idea or theme that is fixed in the mind of the composer."

For Musica Antiqua K”ln's Richmond concert Goebel says he has chosen "pieces that brought music most forward." Including some that have "very bizarre, very strange harmonies" that are typical of the early music period. "People should sit in this concert and discover things for themselves," Goebel says, "including how the music becomes more and more elaborate, normal and understandable. Early music demands that an audience bring insight to the work."

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