October 22, 2018

The Sebastians bring the music of Johann Sebastian Bach to Harlem on Saturday, November 10, 2018, when they pay homage to their namesake at the newly-restored and reopened Harlem Parish. The ensemble's founding director, violinist Daniel S. Lee, and artistic director, harpsichordist Jeffrey Grossman, will scale the heights of the composers' complete Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord.

J. S. Bach's six sonatas for violin and harpsichord were a trailblazing set of works that elevated the harpsichord to a role equal that of the violin, a form that influenced composers for centuries to come. The Sebastians' distinctive duo recital will take place in an equally distinctive space: Harlem Parish (formerly St. Thomas the Apostle) on 118th Street in Manhattan. Built in 1897, the neo-Gothic church boasts exquisite architecture and was recently rescued from demolition, restored, and reopened as a community arts venue. This intimate concert by the Sebastians marks the first ever performance of baroque music in the new space.

Jeffrey Grossman comments on this monumental undertaking: "While I love improvising as a continuo harpsichordist, there is something special about having as much substantive musical material as the violin does. The sonatas paint a vivid picture of the way that Bach might have accompanied himself. Sometimes the harpsichord becomes pure texture, as in the swirling arpeggios in the F minor sonata, or the massive chords of the opening of the E major sonata. In the contrapuntal movements, the harpsichord receives fully two-thirds of the musical material, acting as both second violin and continuo bass line. Daniel and I have spent significant time with each sonata, exploring all the facets of Bach's musical personality, and each sonata means something special to us. Performing all six in a single concert is a huge challenge, and one that Daniel and I are excited to tackle and share with our audiences."

Bach's Violin Sonatas have a storied history. Thought to have been composed during the years 1717 - 1723 when Bach was Kapellmeister in Cöthen, Germany, it appears he continued to revise and refine the works, which developed a lasting legacy. Numerous manuscript copies, penned by Bach's pupils and inner circle, were disseminated throughout Europe. Today many of these manuscripts are housed in the Berlin State Library. During the second half of the 18th century, the works were performed in the court of the music-loving Frederick the Great. In the early 19th century, the great Polish virtuoso Karol Lipinski prepared a new edition of the works. Composer Felix Mendelssohn, a devotee of Bach's music, performed the works on a modern piano with violinist Ferdinand David at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig (where a century earlier Bach had been Thomaskantor). The Sonatas became popular in London and also Paris, where in the early 20th century the composer Claude Debussy edited a new version for the French publisher Durand.

Bach's Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord span a remarkably wide range of textures and moods. His son Carl Philipp Emanuel - himself a boundary-breaking composer - considered them "among the best works of my dear departed father. They still sound excellent and give me much joy, although they date back more than 50 years."

Daniel S. Lee's and Jeffrey Grossman's marathon performance of J. S. Bach's Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord will include a 30-minute intermission reception offering drinks and canapés.

The Sebastians' Bach/Violin theme will continue on Saturday, February 23, 2019, when Nicholas DiEugenio and Jeffrey Grossman perform J. S. Bach's complete works for violin and continuo, Two Sonatas, BWV 1021 and BWV 1023, and Fugue, BWV 1026, alongside works by Bach's contemporaries.

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For further information about the Sebastians please visit https://www.sebastians.org

For further information, image or interview requests please contact Melanne Mueller, MusicCo International, +1 917 907 2785, melanne@musiccointernational.com

Bach: The Complete Violin and Harpsichord
Saturday, November 10, 2018 - 3:00 pm
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Sonata for violin and harpsichord in C Minor, BWV 1017
Sonata for violin and harpsichord in F Minor, BWV 1018
Sonata for violin and harpsichord in G Major, BWV 1019

* 30 minute intermission reception with drinks and canapés *

Sonata for violin and harpsichord in A Major, BWV 1015
Sonata for violin and harpsichord in B Minor, BWV 1014
Sonata for violin and harpsichord in E Major, BWV 1016

Daniel S. Lee violin
Jeffrey Grossman harpsichord

Harlem Parish
258 West 118th Street (between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Saint Nicholas Avenue)
New York, NY 10026

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