Bach In The Castle Of Heaven

Mimi Dang
26th Nov 2023

Bach Akademie Australia has truly marked the conclusion of a remarkable year of early music-making with a series of three outstanding concerts, each set in a breathtaking venue and featuring the talents of 21 instrumentalists and 16 singers. For Bach Akademie Australia’s artistic director Madeleine Easton, it is a dream come true and a privilege to bring Bach’s notable works to audiences in Sydney and worldwide. In the final performance at Sydney’s City Recital Hall, the stage was bathed in a warm, ambient glow, setting the scene for an evening of unparalleled musical brilliance. As the musicians took their positions, anticipation filled the air, and as the audience, we were keenly aware that we were about to witness an extraordinary display of artistry.

The year 2023 has presented a unique occasion to commemorate the 300th anniversary of J.S. Bach's appointment as Thomaskantor in Leipzig - a pivotal moment that ushered in a new era in the history of music. Over the next 27 years, Bach's profound faith and commitment to inspiring faith in others led him to create music of unparalleled beauty, complexity, and profundity, forever altering the trajectory of musical composition. The chosen program for this celebration is a testament to Bach's enduring legacy, featuring masterpieces such as the Chorale Prelude 'In Dulci Jublio' BWV 729, Cantata 'Unser mund sei voll Lachens' BWV 110, Motet 'Singet dem Herrn' BWV 225, Cantata 'Jesu, der du meine Seele' BWV 78, and Cantata 'Wachet auf' BWV 140. These compositions, particularly the cantatas, continue to captivate audiences worldwide, as demonstrated by the more than 300 Bach choirs and societies that thrive globally. The Chorale Prelude ‘In Dulci Jublio’ BWV 729 unfolded with a perfect balance of reverence and jubilation. Alongside BWV 110, it was an ode to the upcoming Christmas season, being a traditional carol sung commonly today. The precision and unity of the musicians were awe-inspiring, each note meticulously articulated to convey the joyous spirit of Bach’s composition.

The decision to focus on these celebrated Leipzig cantatas and the jubilant motet 'Singet dem Herrn' speaks to the profound impact of Bach's work during his tenure in Leipzig. Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the international patron, aptly captures the essence of Bach's music, describing it as the voice of God in human form a trailblazer that shows us how to transcend our imperfections through the perfections of his music. The divine atmosphere created by these masterful compositions allowed the audience to immerse themselves in the transformative and restorative power of Bach's music. The passion of the instrumentalists, the choir, and the choice of spectacular venues like the City Recital Hall further enhanced the overall experience, ensuring a feast for both the ears and the soul.

In conclusion, Bach Akademie Australia's dedication to honoring J.S. Bach's legacy through this heavenly program is commendable. The final words in the last chorale ‘Ewig in dulci jubilo’ which translates to ‘forever in sweet rejoicing’, not only captures Bach’s immense faith but Easton’s hope that the spirit of Bach's music continues to resonate and inspire generations to come.

Photo by Noni Carroll Photography