Tanglewood 75 - From the Audio Archives: Day 16

BSO

Bach: Concerto in C minor for Two Keyboards, BWV 1060
Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor for Flute and Strings, BWV 1067

DURATION: 38:63
Theatre-Concert Hall, July 5, 1957(Concerto), July 8, 1955(Orchestral Suite)

Bach: Concerto in C minor for Two Keyboards, BWV 1060
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Charles Munch, conductor
Lukas Foss and Seymour Lipkin, pianists

Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor for Flute and Strings, BWV 1067
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Charles Munch, conductor
Doriot Anthony Dwyer, flute

Release: 07/05/2012  

Purchase

Available for purchase starting July 6, 2012 8:30 AM

 

Background on the Music

Tanglewood 75 Archival Program Cover

Johann Sebastian Bach spent the last 27 years of his life in Leipzig, where he held a prestigious position that involved composing, teaching, and responsibility for the music in three important churches.  For 10 of those years he was also director of the Collegium Musicum, a group of amateur musicians of advanced skills which performed concerts of secular music every Friday night.  In the winter the concerts took place in a local coffeehouse; in more seasonable weather, they moved outdoors.

In addition to his professional activities, Bach had a busy home life in a house teeming with children (his first wife and his second bore him 27 children, although only 10 of them survived into adulthood).

Bach continued to compose new works prolifically - often a new cantata every week - but when pressed for time, he also sometimes returned to music he had composed earlier in other cities and adapted it to new purposes.  The Concerto for Two Keyboard Instruments, BWV 1060 is one such work.  Bach reconfigured this from a concerto for two violins, or for violin and oboe, that he composed during his tenure (1717-1723) as Kapellmeister to Prince Ludwig of Cöthen.  The original concerto has not survived, but there have been conjectural reconstructions, and violinists and oboists have been happy to play them because the music is so splendidly inventive, and the slow movement, a long melody spun out over plucked strings, is so radiantly beautiful.

We don't know when the Collegium performed this concerto, or who played the solo parts, although it is tempting to imagine that two of Bach's musical children might have.

We also don't know much about the performance history of the four orchestral suites, although Bach most likely composed them in the same period he wrote the original concerto that became the Two-Keyboard Concerto. The earliest surviving set of parts suggests that the Collegium Musicum performed this piece too.

The Suite is a set of six dances in the French style, preceded by a majestic Ouverture.  Bach wrote for a small string orchestra augmented by one flute that sometimes is a member of the orchestra, and is sometimes a show-off soloist.  The closing movement, Badinerie, is a famous test piece for a flutist's virtuosity.

Music director Charles Munch often began the Tanglewood season with chamber orchestra concerts of music by Bach and Mozart in the Theatre-Concert Hall.  Munch came from a family immersed in the study and performance of Bach's music; his closest friend and a member of his extended family was Albert Schweitzer, the famous organist, Bach biographer, physician, and humanitarian (Munch's sister married Schweitzer's brother).  Munch often programmed works of Bach, although the music of this composer does not loom large in his commercial discography.  In some respects his performances sound old-fashioned from today's point of view - the big ritards, especially at ponderous and thunderous final cadences, the use of pianos instead of harpsichords.  But in others they sound remarkably prescient of the historically-informed performance movement that subsequently developed.  What matters, though, is that Munch's Bach performances are not making points about style; instead, they represent lifelong study of the music, deep understanding of how it works, and belief about how it should go.

The Tanglewood performance of the Concerto for Two Pianos is invigorating not just because of Munch but because of the soloists, both alumni of the Tanglewood Music Center, Lukas Foss and Seymour Lipkin.  Foss was primarily a composer, but Koussevitzky subsidized his creativity by hiring him as a regular pianist in the Boston Symphony. The vitality of Foss's performance of the great cadenza in Bach's Fifth Brandenburg Concerto became famous, and Foss continued to play in performances of this concerto for the rest of his long life.  Lipkin began his career as a pianist, then spent decades primarily as a conductor, before returning to the piano in recent years and recording cycles of the Beethoven and Schubert piano sonatas.  The two men are clearly on the same page as Munch, and play with superb ensemble and unanimity of purpose - it sounds as if one superpianist is the soloist.

Munch often programmed Bach's Orchestral Suite in B minor to show off the Boston Symphony Orchestra's dazzling new first flutist, Doriot Anthony Dwyer.  When Munch appointed Dwyer to the position in 1952, she became the first woman to become a principal player in any major American orchestra; in fact, she became the first permanent female member of the BSO.  She held her position with distinction for 38 years, and her busy career as performer and teacher has spanned seven decades. Her playing is notable for technical security, beauty of tone, elegance of style, and a vivid musical imagination.  The Badinerie here sounds as fast as humanly possible. The audience applauded until Munch granted her an encore - she played it even faster the second time round.  Press accounts point out that there was invariably an encore when Dwyer played this piece. Once Munch had established the tempo for an encore of this movement, he would stop conducting, and beam with pride and enjoyment.

Richard Dyer

 

Reviews

"The evening closed with a superb performance of the Concerto in C Minor for two pianos, played by Mr. Foss and Seymour Lipkin, and it is hard to imagine any two gentlemen not professionally allied as duo-pianists doing as well. The reading had spunk, pace, and power.  It was vital too, and rich in keyboard color.  More important still - and this was the clue to listening pleasures received - it was at once carefully rehearsed and yet as spontaneous as tomorrow's news."
-Jay S. Harrison, New York Herald Tribune

"Mr. Lipkin and Mr. Foss also played the Double Concerto with remarkable spirit. They had so much mutual confidence that each could let himself play freely and decisively in the two swift movements. And in the intervening adagio they played with a melting lyricism. In all movements, too, their tones were so well matched that they suggested a team that had been playing together a long time. . . Mr. Munch provided reticent accompaniments, and he beamed paternally on the young artists as the audience expressed its delight in their playing."
-Ross Parmenter, New York Times

"Next came Bach's Suite No. 2 in B Minor, for flute and strings. The soloist was Doriot Anthony Dwyer, and if anybody thought that Mr. Munch's choice of a piece that gave a woman the first solo chance of the festival was just gallantry, Mrs. Dwyer quickly made it clear that she had impressive credentials as a musician. This young woman, who has been solo flutist with the orchestra for three seasons, played with crispness, clarity, and a great deal of sparkle. So brilliantly did she perform the closing Badinerie that she and the ensemble had to repeat it. Mr. Munch led the Suite in enamoring fashion. There is more sheer music in the opening movement of this suite than one encounters in long essays by other men, and the conductor evoked the full value of its humanity."
-Howard Taubman, New York Times

"The flute playing of Doriot Anthony Dwyer in the Theatre-Concert hall at Tanglewood Friday night is going to be talked about for some time to come. All she did was to take complete possession of the Berkshire Festival's first orchestral concert with a solo performance that bordered on the fantastic in the Bach B Minor Suite, No. 2, for flute and strings. Some 1700 listeners raised such a din that Charles Munch, who conducted, had to repeat the last section of the suite."
-Robert Bagar, New York Herald Tribune

"Dazzling Doriot was simply resplendent, performing the endless running passages with the utmost perfection and poise, shading and phrasing the writing exquisitely, and ending up with such an elegant account of the final presto that the audience would not let the concert go on until she had repeated it. Even her appearance was compact of charm as she swayed like a Balinese dancer to coax the heart and grace out of this suite that can be so dull."
-"T.H.P.," Hartford Courant

 

Original Program Page
Tanglewood 75 Archival Program Page
Tanglewood 75 Archival Program Page