We started by listening to a Bach Cantata, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, known in English as Sleepers Wake which is regarded as one of Bach’s most mature and popular sacred cantatas. It was written to be sung on the 27th Sunday after Pentecost. Those of you familiar with the ecclesiastical calendar will have realised that there are only 27 Sundays after Pentecost if Easter falls early in the year. It is based on the Lutheran hymn, Wachet auf by Philipp Nicolai which is based upon the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. It was first performed in Leipzig’s Nikolaikirche on the 27th November 1731. Apparently this was the only time Bach ever performed it in his lifetime. It was written for soprano, tenor and base soloists with a four part choir. The recording we heard was by The Academy of Ancient Music, conducted by Stephen Cleobury, the choir of King’s College Cambridge.
After that we heard an unusual arrangement of six pieces from Bizet’s Carmen for four guitars played by the Quatuor de Guitares Mediteranée; it was recorded on the beach at Narbonne, We heard the Arogonaise, Habanera, Segnidila, Les Torreadors. Entr’ Acte and the Danse Boheme.
Finally we listened to the Sonata in F Major for four players composed by Handel, best known as the composer of Messiah. Handel was a German composer born 1685 and worked as a composer in Hamburg and Italy before settling in London in 1712 and becoming a British subject in 1727. This sonata was one of his earlier works and is scored for four players. This version was played by the Palladian Quartet comprising a viola da gamba (an early music instrument similar to a cello but with frets which a modern cello does not have), the recorder, violin and guitar/archlute (a bass lute).