The Austin Chronicle

Bach Vocal Music: His wondrous way with the human voice, exhibits A and B

By Robert Faires, February 23, 2007, Arts

The first week of Lent needn't be all sackcloth and ashes, not when Bach is in the air, and he is most splendidly this week, in a pair of concerts that testifies anew to the composer's magnificent way with the human voice. Up first is the aptly titled Vocal Masterpieces of J.S. Bach, featuring selections from the sublime St. Matthew and St. John Passions, the Mass in B Minor, and a full performance of "Jesu, Meine Freude," the longest and most musically complex of Bach's six surviving motets, rendered by the exquisite voices of the Calmus Ensemble. This sextet from Leipzig, Germany, is composed of five former members of the St. Thomas Boys' Choir – which Bach himself directed back in the day – and soprano Anja Lipfert. As if that weren't enticement enough, accompanying Calmus will be members of Austin's baroque specialists La Follia. You can hear them Friday, Feb. 23, 8pm, at First Presbyterian Church, 8001 Mesa. For more information, call 879-1993, or visit

Then, Tuesday brings another installment of the Bach Cantata Project, an effort by UT School of Music choral director James Morrow to have UT's Chamber Singers perform a Bach cantata once a month for, well, as long as they can. (To get through all 200 extant cantatas at the current rate of seven a year would take them until, oh, 2035.) The Chamber Singers have a standing gig on the final Tuesday of the month, performing at noon in the enormous atrium of the new Blanton Museum of Art. This month's selection is an early work, "Gottes Zeit Ist die Allerbeste Zeit" (Actus Tragicus), believed to have been written when Bach was only 22, possibly for the funeral of an uncle. Even so, the cantata boasts a hopeful, even joyful spirit – just the thing as we head toward spring. For more information, call 471-5401, or visit

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