‘Brandenburg’ Concertos Differently
In what promises to be one of the more popular items of this year’s Bach Festival, two of Armidale’s all-round keyboard players will be playing some of Bach’s best-known compositions: ‘Brandenburg’ Concertos Nos. 2 and 3, transcribed for piano duet by the composer Max Reger. Lena Schmalz and Jan-Piet Knijff met just over a year ago, after Knijff had moved to Armidale from New York City, where he had taught at The City University of New York for over a decade. In little more than a year, they have spent well over 100 hours playing together. Both experienced organists and harpsichordists, they also love playing the piano and especially enjoy playing duet transcriptions of orchestral works. Just a few weeks ago, their program with Beethoven symphonies received high praise from Armidale music lovers.
Here is a rare opportunity to hear these magnificent works live in Armidale, played by two local musicians with an international reputation. Although listeners who know these pieces from recordings may miss the wind solos and the warm sound of Bach’s string orchestra in these arrangements, Schmalz and Knijff argue that this is exactly what makes transcriptions so worthwhile to play and to listen to: players and listeners are invited to use their imagination and thus to listen in a much more active way. As a bonus, Reger’s transcriptions give us a glimpse of what Bach performance was like some hundred years ago: very different, to be sure, from today’s period-instrument ensembles, but with a lot of warmth, richness, and soul.