The eighth annual Bach Festival got off to a spectacular start Sunday.
In a week full of musical surprises, C. Scott Hagler, Durango’s own impresario, has organized a winning selection of concerts.
Sunday’s event, the student recital, has blossomed into two, one-hour concerts with a reception after each. This year, the recitals featured 46 short presentations, often one movement from a longer work. (That is not a misprint.) Recital coordinator Mika Inouye and her teaching colleagues in the Four Corners assembled a fine list of performers. Not only did many play the purest form of Bach, unaccompanied, but several banded together in ensembles.
The program opened with a harpsichord quartet. The generosity of Daniel Morgenstern, musician and harpsichord builder, made it possible. (That, too, is not a misprint.) Two players each on two harpsichords performed three different times in what had to be a Durango premiere.
Before the recital began, Morgenstern demonstrated to interested young musicians the beauties of the harpsichord – how the strings are plucked, not hammered, et al.
When the recital began, we heard a four-hand, two-harpsichord interpretation of Bach’s Minuet I. Before the concert ended at 5 p.m., we heard two more quartets and a number of other ensembles.
Along the way, a string trio played Bach’s Little Fugue in G Minor, BWV 578. Grace Wilmes introduced the theme followed by Rebecca Bowers then Madison Henning. With serious deliberation, they wove together all the musical strands.
The most unusual ensemble turned out to be eight young guitarists playing two short minuets from the Clavier Suite in G Minor, BWV 822, and the afternoon concluded with a small Baroque orchestra. Five string players accompanied pianist Caleb Newman in one movement from the Concerto in F Minor, BWV 1056. Newman confidently played from memory, and the ensemble ably accompanied him.
With so many ensembles and a strong showing of soloists, the number of musicians precludes mentioning everyone, but a few standouts deserve attention.
Grace Fleming, 15, from Farmington, robustly interpreted Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No. 2, BWV 549. It’s normally heard on the organ, but Fleming interpreted it on the piano and performed with fierce intensity.
Patrick McBrayer, 10, played the Prelude in C Major, BWV 846, with fervor. McBrayer sped through the familiar work, giving it a new intensity. Jacqueline Papp played the same piece in the second recital, with a more plaintive interpretation. That was true, too, of the most performed work of the afternoon, the Allegro from the Violin Concerto No. 1.
Cellist Aidan Shaffer gave a mature reading of Bach’s “Sarabande,” from Suite No. 1 in G major, as did violinist Casey Reed in the Allegro from the Concerto in A Minor.
His older brother, Nolan Reed, seemed to be a chamber ensemble unto himself in his highly accomplished rendering of the complex fugue from Sonata No. 1 in G Minor. The elder Reed has closed other Bach Festival Student Recitals because of his seniority and his extraordinary talent. This year he turned the stage over to Durango’s Young Baroque Orchestra for a grand finale.
email@example.com. Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, art historian and arts journalist.