FREDONIA – The Bach & Beyond Baroque Music Festival celebrates its 23rd year when it returns to the 1891 Fredonia Opera House June 15-17. Under Artistic Director Grant Cooper, the series of three concerts explores both the masterworks and lesser-known orchestral music of 17th and 18th century Baroque composers.
While the music of J.S. Bach is the foundation of the Festival, performances also often feature music by familiar composers such as Vivaldi and Handel. The “Beyond” in the Festival’s name refers to the inclusion of works of other lesser-known (and some present-day) composers who are artistically linked to the more familiar superstars. This year’s program focuses more on the “Beyond” aspect and includes a few interesting highlights.
“Our Saturday concert features the popular and beloved work The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi, a contemporary of Bach” notes Opera House Executive Director Rick Davis. “It also features a ‘lost’ piece by Henry Purcell that has been reconstructed by our own Maestro Cooper.”
The “lost” piece is the Prologue to the Purcell opera Dido and Aeneas, says Davis. A monumental work in Baroque opera, Dido and Aeneas is remembered as one of Purcell’s foremost theatrical works and his only all-sung dramatic work. Originally written as an opera with prologue and three acts, no score written in Purcell’s handwriting exists today. The earliest existing score was copied no earlier than 1750, more than 60 years after its composition. The division of the score into its original acts and the music to the Prologue were not recorded and are lost. Cooper, however, has reconstructed and composed a Prologue based on the opera’s existing music and Purcell’s influence.
“Sunday’s performance includes a special complement to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons,” adds Davis, “with the inclusion of Argentinian tango composer Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires as well as a special surprise.” The weekend’s program of concerts kicks off on Friday with Mozart’s beautiful Sinfonia Concertante.
In addition to accomplished area musicians, Cooper brings to the Festival top musicians from throughout North America and abroad who are specialists in and passionate about Baroque performance. Many are Festival veterans; and in addition to Cooper, at the conclusion of this year’s performances, two musicians – Oboist Cheryl Bishkoff and Cellist Bryan Eckenrode – will have participated in all 23 Festivals.
The Festival’s three concerts are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, June 15 and 16, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 17, at 3 p.m. Special 30-minute pre-concert discussions will begin an hour before each concert in the theatre. Admission to the pre-concert discussions is free to concert ticket holders.
Complete concert programs are listed on the Opera House web site at www.fredopera.org. Tickets are $20 reserved seating for each concert; student tickets are $10. A subscription to all three concerts is available for $51 and includes tickets to four special subscriber-only receptions. Tickets may be purchased in person at the Opera House Box Office or by phone at 716-679-1891, Tuesday through Friday, 1-5 p.m. They also may be purchased anytime online at www.fredopera.org.
The Bach & Beyond Festival is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Founding Festival Benefactors are Carol & Jim Boltz. Festival Sponsors are June & Barry Dietrich, and W. Stanley Hooper with the Hooper Family Foundation. Concert Sponsors are Minda Rae Amiran and Evans & Evans Law Offices. Support also comes from the Gloria Garretson Memorial Fund.
The 1891 Fredonia Opera House is a member-supported not-for-profit organization located in Village Hall in downtown Fredonia. A complete schedule of Opera House events is available at www.fredopera.org.