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Bach Series

Paul Dyer Harpsichord

BACH Nº 13
Paul Dyer performs the Allemande from JS Bach's French Suite No. 4 in E-flat major, BWV 815

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PROGRAM NOTES

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

FRENCH SUITE NO. 4 IN E-FLAT MAJOR, BWV 815
Allemande

In the nineteenth century, only a small number of music lovers, mostly in Germany, knew anything of JS Bach and his musical works. The 1829 performance of St Matthew Passion in Berlin, organised and directed by Felix Mendelssohn, began the slow Bach revival.

Throughout Bach’s life his reputation as an extraordinary keyboard player dominated any renown as a composer and teacher. After many decades of intense research and study of his music, Bach is now considered one of the most genius composers of all time, if not the greatest. It would be interesting to know if certain opinions held by Bach’s contemporaries and other influential people, such as Frederick the Great, may have differed in this light.

Even before the last years of his life, JS Bach was regarded as an outdated musician. On his visit to Frederick’s court in Potsdam in 1747 he was referred to as the 'Old Bach', with old meaning both elderly, and severely out of fashion. Nevertheless, his keyboard works, and The Well-Tempered Clavier in particular, survived him and were closely studied and highly regarded by composers like Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and many more.

Bach’s collection of French Suites was composed between 1722 and 1725. The title was given posthumously by a publisher, a decision most likely based on the style in which the pieces are written. After all, it is a large collection mostly of stylised French dances composed in French manner.

As a 15-year old Bach travelled on foot with a friend to Lüneburg, where he had been accepted as a scholarship student at St Michael’s school. From there he would regularly journey to Hamburg and other places to attend recitals and other musical events.

The Duke of Celle-Lüneburg was an avid Francophile and married to Eléonore d’Olbreuse, a Huguenot of noble birth. He maintained an orchestra consisting largely of Frenchmen and his court would regularly sojourn in Lüneburg, where performances were held of music in styles popularised by the court of Louis XIV in Versailles. Hearing the elaborate ceremonial music of composers such as Lully and Charpentier would have been an impressive experience as it was not well-known in Germany at that time. We know that JS Bach participated in these musical events, and here he would also have been exposed to Louis Couperin’s keyboard music, an excellent source from which to learn the French dance rhythms explored throughout this collection.

WHAT TO LISTEN FOR
The opening movement of each suite in this set is an Allemande, a very old dance originating from Germany that became fashionable both in France and England. According to Bach’s contemporary Johann Mattheson, in Der Vollkommene Capellmeister (Hamburg, 1739), the Allemande is “…serious and well-composed harmoniousness in arpeggiated style, expressing satisfaction or amusement, and delighting in order and calm”.

Program Notes: Joanna Butler & Hugh Ronzani, 2020

 


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Photo Credit Georges Antoni 2019

PAUL DYER AO

Paul Dyer is one of Australia’s leading specialists in period performance.

Paul co-founded the Brandenburg in 1990 after completing postgraduate studies at the Royal Conservatorium in The Hague and has been Artistic Director and conductor since that time. He is a performing artist comfortable in his unique music arena – whether working in ancient music, contemporary music, opera, with artists such as circus performers, contemporary dance, or visual art. His busy performing schedule in Europe, Asia, the USA and Canada over the years has synchronised perfectly alongside his bold stage work in Australia.

Paul is an inspiring teacher and has been a staff member at various conservatories throughout the world. In 1995 he received a Churchill Fellowship and he has won numerous international and national awards for his CD recordings with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Choir, including the 1998, 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2010 ARIA Awards for Best Classical Album.

Paul has performed with many international soloists including Andreas Scholl, Cyndia Sieden, Marc Destrubé, Hidemi Suzuki, Stefano Montanari, Xavier De Maistre, Shunske Sato, Maurice Steger, Riccardo Minasi, Yvonne Kenny, Emma Kirkby, Philippe Jaroussky and many others. In 1998 he made his debut in Tokyo with countertenor Derek Lee Ragin, leading an ensemble of Brandenburg soloists, and in August 2001 Paul toured the orchestra to Europe with guest soloist Andreas Scholl. In 2015, he was featured on the soundtrack of the James Bond 007 movie, Spectre.

A passionate cook, entertainer, foodie, teacher, swimmer and traveler, he is friends with people and artists from Istanbul to India and Japan to Italy, and creates a unique platform for overseas performing artists to work with him and the Brandenburg in Australia. Among his list of achievements, Paul was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2013 for his ‘distinguished service to the performing arts in Australia’. Paul is Patron of St Gabriel’s School for Hearing Impaired Children. In 2003 Paul was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal for his services to Australian society and the advancement of music, and in 2010 Paul was awarded the Sydney University Alumni Medal for Professional Achievement.

Biography: Paul Dyer, 2020
Image Credit: Georges Antoni, 2019 

HARPSICHORD

The harpsichord Paul Dyer is playing was donated by Jenny Parramore in 2001. It is a single manual Flemish harpsichord, Hubbard Moemans model, by Peter Watchorn ca. 1980. The compass with an unusual short octave: GG-CC – e”’, has keys made of bone and ebony and Seahorse papers in the keywell and inner case rim.

The case is painted dark green with gilt mouldings on stained beechwood, with a sitka spruce soundboard and a beech bridge. The three stops: 2 X 8’ and a buff, are completed with Delrin jacks and plectra. This harpsichord sits on a Flemish style baluster stand.

Image Credit: Gary Heery, 2012

FROM THE MANUSCRIPT

German organist, chamber musician and lawyer Bernhard Christian Kayser produced the oldest surviving copy of J.S. Bach’s 6 French Suites from which this image comes. The Allemande is the first movement of fourth suite, in E-flat major.
Kayser was a pupil of Bach’s and apparently one of his closest associates. His undated manuscript (ca.1720-39) was previously thought to be an autograph, and is currently held in the Berlin State Library.

Joanna Butler & Hugh Ronzani, 2020

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH

Born 21 March 1685 in Eisenach
Died 28 July 1750 in Leipzig
Childhood (1685–1703)
Weimar, Arnstadt, and Mühlhausen (1703–1708)
Return to Weimar (1708–1717)
Köthen (1717–1723)
Leipzig (1723–1750)

Image Credit: Berlin State Library 

FROM OUR PRESENTING PARTNER APA GROUP

APA is proud to support the Brandenburg Bach Series. Arts and entertainment are important to Australia’s diverse culture and economy. During the COVID-19 pandemic these sectors and the artists, musicians, creatives and makers at its core, have been particularly hard hit. Innovation like this online series of recitals is evidence of their innovation and resilience. It will sustain and broaden audiences for this music long into the future.

Image Credit: Katelyn Jane-Dunn, 2020

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