Over half a century J.S. Bach churned out at least 1,200 compositions; the surviving works alone fill 60 volumes, published by the venerable Bach Society. According to my calculations, that’s enough material for the popular Bach Week in Evanston to last well into the next century. Every spring since 1974 this multiconcert event, hosted by Saint Luke’s Church, rekindles our appreciation of the great Baroque kapellmeister by showcasing his choral, keyboard, and other instrumental works in a bewildering hodgepodge. Rather inexplicably, the homage these days also includes bows to Bach’s near-contemporaries, such as Telemann, and admirers, such as Mozart. (Can anyone overdose on Bach?) At times the festival takes on the air of a well-intentioned vanity production headlining Saint Luke’s above-par choirs and ambitious conductor Richard Webster. But when the participants are first-rate performers like harpsichordist David Schrader and Chicago Symphony Orchestra flutist Louise Dixon, the music making can be inspired–even if it’s yet another revival of a Brandenburg concerto. In this edition the best bets are likely to be the May 12 bill of the Double Violin Concerto in D paired with Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins and Gabrieli’s Canzonas for Brass, Winds, and Organ, and the May 16 program, which proffers the Magnificat and Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 5, to be performed by Schrader on a harpsichord. The rest could be on the quotidian side, but it’s never easy to resist Bach. Sunday, 7:30 PM, Wednesday, 8 PM, next Friday, May 14, 8 PM, and next Sunday, May 16, 7:30 PM, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 939 Hinman, Evanston; 708-945-5625.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/William Burlingham.