The Glory of Bach at Christmas

Saturday 22 December sees the culmination of Bath Recitals’ 2018 Baroque Season with a glorious celebration of the magical world of JS Bach and those who inspired his wonderful music…

268 years have passed since Johann Sebastian Bach died in Liepzig. Yet his music continues to thrive today – particularly with his festive Christmas Oratorio and his poignant Easter Passions.

From Cantatas to Concertos, Oratorios to Organ works, Preludes to Fugues, the music of Bach represents the final flowering of the Baroque in northern Europe.

Classic FM refers to him as ‘music’s most sublime creative genius’, his music is featured more often than that of any other composer in The Telegraph’s list of the 168 best classical music recordings, and according to conductor and baroque musicologist Sir John Eliot Gardiner he is ‘arguably the greatest of all composers’.

German Christmas Baroque

Musica Poetica make a welcome return to Bath for this concert featuring the music of JS Bach in the context of German Baroque Christmas. Composers from Biber to Buxtehude and from Schütz to Scheidt all wrote glorious music for Christmas which paved the way for Bach’s genius who was to become a towering figure of the baroque age and the undoubted master of ‘The German Baroque’.

A Feast for the Senses

Caravaggio’s masterpiece of still life, Still life with Fruit on a Stone Ledge, was painted around 1603 and depicts a wicker basket heaped with various fruit and vegetables looking so succulent and delicious you can almost pick them off the canvas and eat them…

The story goes that Caravaggio was sued by his landlady for cutting a hole in the ceiling of the rooms he rented to allow a mellow shaft of light to create the characteristic lighting falling from the top left of the painting.

Around the time this was painted, composers throughout Europe were also being inspired by a new wave of music which saw a shift away from Renaissance style contrapuntal polyphony with all the voices being theoretically equal, to the treble-bass polarity of the baroque and the development of basso continuo.

This was radical stuff, and composers of the early 17th century were unwittingly creating the foundations for one of the greatest composers of all time – JS Bach.

Heinrich Biber
Heinrich Biber

Composers such as the Bohemian-Austrian violinist Heinrich Biber – one of the most important composers for that instrument – began writing virtuosic melody lines full of ornamentation and invention.

Heinrich Schütz
Heinrich Schütz

Others like Heinrich Schütz brought the colour and vitality of the new music from Italy to the northern Germanic states where they flourished through choral singing with a particular focus given to the nuance and declamation of the text.

Dietrich Buxtehude
Dietrich Buxtehude

And the great Danish-German organist/composer Dietrich Buxtehude whose chorale-cantatas so inspired Bach that the 17 year old JS Bach walked 250 miles from Arnstadt to Lübeck to hear him perform.

JS Bach by Haussmann (1748)
JS Bach by Haussmann (1748)

These and many other composers were all paving the way for one of the greatest composers in musical history – Johann Sebastian Bach – a towering figure of the baroque age. Through his 65 years he was to become the master of what we now call ‘The German Baroque’.

From Cantatas to Concertos, Oratorios to Organ works, Preludes to Fugues, the music JS Bach represents the final flowering of the Baroque in northern Europe. Today, 268 years after his death, his music continues to thrive. Indeed, in The Telegraph’s list of the 168 best classical music recordings, Bach’s music is featured more often than that of any other composer.

Manuscript of Bach's St Matthew Passion
Manuscript of Bach’s St Matthew Passion

German Baroque Christmas is a celebration of the magical world of JS Bach and those who inspired his wonderful music.


German Christmas Baroque

Saturday 22 December 7.30pm
St Michael’s Church, Broad Street

And of course our popular bar will be open at St Michael’s serving suitably festive Christmas drinks!

German Christmas Baroque

A celebration of the magical world of JS Bach and those who inspired his wonderful music with the culmination of Bath Recitals 2018 and a German Baroque Christmas. Find out more…

Johann Sebastian Bach was one of the towering figures of the baroque age. Through his 65 years he became a master of the German Baroque.

In 1705, When he was just 17, he famously walked 250 miles from Arnstadt to Lübeck to hear the 68-year-old

Dietrich Buxtehude perform. He was to become one of many of Bach’s influences across the continent who defined him as one of the greatest composers of all time.

Johann Sebastian Bach statue, St. Thomas Church, Leipzig
Johann Sebastian Bach statue, St. Thomas Church, Leipzig

The authentic voices and instrumentalists of Music Poetica make a welcome return to Bath for this concert. This glorious seasonal celebration of the wonder of a Baroque Christmas with music from 17th and 18th century Germany will form the culmination of Bath Recital’s 2018 Baroque Season.

Musica Poetica in performance at Bath Recitals earlier this year
Musica Poetica in performance at Bath Recitals earlier this year

an early-instrument ensemble of exceptional quality”

Miranda Jackson – Opera Brittanica

This festive evening celebrates the music of JS Bach with a programme including some of his most famous cantatas and chorales. In addition will enjoy some Christmas favourites by some of the composers who inspired him including Praetorius, Buxtehude and Schütz.


German Christmas Baroque

Saturday 22 December 7.30pm

St Michael’s Church, Broad Street

JS Bach

Bereite dich Zion (Prepare yourself, Zion) from Christmas Oratorio BWV 248

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring from Cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life) BWV 147

Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke (I am content with my fate) BWV 84

Nun komm der Heiden Heiland (Now come, Saviour of the heathens) BWV 61

Philipp Nicolai arr JS Bach

Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (How beautiful is the morning star) BWV 436

Chorale from Wachet auf! (Sleepers Wake) BWV 140

Michael Pretorius

In natali Domini (On our Lord’s Birthday)

Traditional arr Michael Pretorius

Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (Lo, how a rose e’er blooming)

Samuel Scheidt

Puer natus in Bethlehem (A Child is born in Bethlehem)

Heinrich Schütz

Singet dem Herren ein neues Lied  (Sing unto the Lord a new song) SWV 342

Verbum caro factum est (Here the Word became flesh) SWV 314

Dietrich Buxtehude

In dulci jubilo (In sweet rejoicing) BuxWV 52

Chant: Veni redemptor gentium (Come, Redeemer of the nations)

Keep the Home Fires Burning

The association of music with conflict is legendary, and the First World War is no exception. Never Such Innocence on 3 November looks back at some of the extraordinary writings and music that emerged from this period….

The Holborn Empire

Prior to 1914 the Music Hall was the centre of popular cultural life with ever larger theatres of up to 2000 seats staging live musical acts alongside animal imitators, acrobats, human freaks and conjurors. This was before the days of the affordable gramophone and so cheap seats at a show provided access to a new repertoire of populist songs.

George Formby

The stars of the day ranged from the jauntily comic to the bawdy performer such as the likes of George Formby (pictured) and Harry Lauder.

During the war years alone the Music Hall was the perfect platform for several thousand new music hall songs. A real hit could sell over a million copies.

It’s A Long, Long Way to Tipperary.

At the outbreak of war, many songs encouraged young men to join up with tiles such as We Don’t Want to Lose You, but We Think You Ought to Go and It’s A Long, Long Way to Tipperary.

But after a few months of war with rising numbers of casualties these recruitment songs all but disappeared.

When the War is Over

Increasingly these music hall songs focused on dreams about the end of the war such as Ivor Novello’s When the Boys Come Home and Keep the Home Fires Burning. 

Songs often portrayed soldiers as brave and noble, while the fragile and loyal women waited patiently at home for their loved ones.

The Spirit of England

In the world of British classical music the war coincided with a time of transition. The older generation of composers such as Parry, Stanford and Elgar would normally have been overshadowed by a younger generation of composers. Ivor Gurney, Arthur Bliss and Herbert Howells were all students in 1914, but as many of these were of enlistment age they were sent to the front and of course many of them never returned. Of those composers who went to fight, George Butterworth, F S Kelly, William Denis Browne, Ernest Farrar, Willie Manson and Cecil Coles tragically did not survive.

‘A very special, moving and immensely absorbing production’


Although difficult for composers to write whilst on active service, the pieces they did write are a barometer for the times. Ivor Gurney, returning after 15 months at the front, having been shot and gassed, brought with him five of his most enduring songs. One mud-spattered manuscript, a setting of By a Bierside, was written by the light of a stump of candle in a trench mortar emplacement.

There were demands such as in The Musical Times for the composers of the day to write music which commemorated, celebrated and raised the spirits of the Nation. Elgar’s The Spirit of England, for example,was initially popular but but as the mood of the nation turned peoples’ emotional needs changed to a desire for music which expressed people’s grief, and served as a memorial to those who had been lost.

Chris and Gamal in Never Such Innocence
Christopher Kent and Gamal Khamis performing

After the noise of war fell silent at 11am on 11 November 1918 it was left to the older generation to reflect on the conflict and to pay homage to its memory. For example, Vaughan Williams after serving with the Medical Corps in France, wrote his achingly beautiful Pastoral Symphony in 1922 as a monument to loss, with bugle calls echoing across the French landscape.

Never Such Innocence captures the spirit of the age in a moving narrative recital of words and music from the First World War delivered by professional actor Christopher Kent and pianist Gamal Khamis.


Never Such Innocence

Saturday 3 November 7.30pm
St Michael’s Church, Broad Street, Bath BA1 

Tickets are just £16 (or £15 in advance with a discovery card)

Beautifully nuanced show – tender, moving, angry”

With generous support from

Carne Trust

Beethoven’s Great String Trios

Beethoven wrote some of his most engaging pieces for the String Trio. Yet after the age of 28 he was never to write any more. We find out why..

Beethoven left his native Bonn at the age of 22 to take lessons from Josef Haydn in Vienna. Everything was going well with several successful works under his belt including collections of String Trios.

In 1797 Beethoven began composing his opus 9 set of three String Trios which he dedicated to his patron Count Johann Georg von Browne. 

Count Johann Georg von Browne
Count Johann Georg von Browne

At the time of publication Beethoven regarded these Trios as the best compositions he had ever written. 

Carnevale String Trio
Carnevale String Trio

Suddenly, just when he was in total command of the genre, he abandoned the String Trio for ever. The reason being that he was ready to take up the wider challenge of the String Quartet. Yet Musicologist Gerald Abraham believes that Beethoven’s String Trios are on a par with the quartets he was to write afterwards in terms of their style and aesthetic value.

The Carnevale String Trio will be performing Beethoven’s last String Trio – a work in which Beethoven unleashes what the musicologist Denis Matthews describes as a ‘creative demon’. 

Experience this fascinating music of passion and energy on Saturday 29 September alongside music by J.S.Bach, Dohnanyi and Gideon Klein


Carnevale String Trio

Saturday 29 September 7.30pm

St Michael’s Church, Broad Street, Bath BA1 

JS Bach          Goldberg Variations (excerpts)
Dohnanyi        Serenade in C Major
Gideon Klein  String Trio
Beethoven      String Trio in C Minor op 9 no. 3

Tickets are just £15 – £16

With generous support from The Carne Trust.

A Trio in Four Parts

The talented violinist, violist and cellist making up the Carnevale String Trio bring a programme of four of the most exciting pieces written for this ensemble by some of the greatest composers  from the baroque to the present…

Although the String Trio never quite managed to match the popularity of the String Quartet, its origins date back earlier to the Baroque Trio Sonata – often with two violins and a bass instrument or ‘continuo’. By the 18th century the string trio scored for violin, viola and cello came to be more usual.

JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations were originally written for the harpsichord in 1741 for Johann Gottlieb Goldberg – a rather exceptionally talented 14-year-old from Danzig in Poland. Many of the 30 variations are written in three ‘voices’ so lend themselves particularly well to be played by three individual instruments and have been transcribed for string trio by Dmitry Sitkovetsk

Caption: Excerpt from Bach’s Goldberg Variation no.21 showing the three ‘voices’

The Hungarian composer Ernö Dohnányi wrote his delightful five-movement Serenade in C Major in 1902 ahead of its premieré in Vienna. Yet it sounds like something from an earlier age capturing more of the spirit of the 18th century. It is fair to say that Dohnanyi intentionally chose to produce an updated version of the classical serenade for string trio and based his work on Beethoven’s Op.8 Serenade.

Carnevale feels like an equilateral triangle: technically and musically balanced and respectful of the other two sides’ 

Andrew Maddox: Concerts in the West

Gideon Klein may not be an immediately recognisable name yet this Czech pianist and composer was to become the organiser of cultural life in Nazi concentration camps during World War Two. 

Following the occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 Klein was forced to abort his university studies, but the following year he was offered a scholarship to London’s Royal Academy of Music.

However anti-Jewish legislation prevented his emigration and he was deported initially to the Terezín concentration camp – one of the few in which artistic activity was eventually permitted by Nazis on any scale, if only to deceive the broader public as to their real intentions. His works, including this poignant and tuneful String Trio were fortunately saved by his sister after his tragic death in 1945.

Beethoven’s String Trio in C Minor op 9 no. 3 was published in Vienna in 1799 as part of a set of Trios dedicated to his patron Count Johann Geog von Browne and was a significant milestone in the 28-year-old Beethoven’s development as a composer. At the time he regarded the trios as his best compositions yet and lead the way for his upcoming string quartets, which became the leading genre among his chamber music compositions.

Carnevale String Trio


Carnevale String Trio

Saturday 29 September

JS Bach          Goldberg Variations (excerpts)

Dohnanyi        Serenade in C Major

Gideon Klein  String Trio

Beethoven      String Trio in C Minor op 9 no. 3

All our concerts now take place in the beautiful and comfortable setting of St Michael’s church in Broad Street. 

Tickets are just £15 – £16

Supported by the Carne Trust

My Hat has Three Corners

Carnevale String Trio

The Venetian Carnival is known the world over for its flamboyant costumes, elaborate masks and opportunity for licence and pleasure. Dating back to the year 1162, the festival was actually banned in 1797 under the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor and later Emperor of Austria, Francis II and the use of masks became strictly forbidden. But it gradually returned and was fully enforced by the Italian government in 1979 as a celebration of the history and culture of Venice and now attracts upwards of 3 million people every year.

Venetian Carnival Masked Lovers

The Carnival of Venice, is a folk tunepopularly associated with the words My hat, it has three cornersand which has subsequently been arranged by composers from Chopin to Paganini and for just about every instrument under the sun. How much is that Doggie in the Window is even derived from the same melody!

Harlequin Casonvoa
Harlequin Casanova

The Carnevale String Trio bring some of this exuberance and excitement to the beautiful surroundings of Bath’s St Michael’s Church on 29 September with music ranging from baroque and early classical by Bach and Beethoven through to post romantic by Dohnanyi and contemporary with Gideon Klein’s tuneful and poignant 1943 trio.

My Hat has Three Corners is also an appropriate metaphor for the Carnevale String Trio consisting of three equal instrumentalists and as Andrew Maddocks of Concerts in the West described them recently:

Carnevale feels like an equilateral triangle: technically and musically balanced and respectful of the other two sides.

Carnevale String Trio
Carnevale String Trio

The three performers, Kamila Bydlowska (violin), Shiry Rashkovsky (viola) and Timothee Botbol (cello) are noted for the intensity of their performances and variety of repertoire having received enthusiastic responses from audiences and musicians across the UK. Since they were founded by these three talented and award-winning RCM graduates they have performed in venues such as the National Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, Lancaster House and Somerset House.

‘Stylish and highly accomplished’

Dorset Echo


Carnevale String Trio

Saturday 29 September

JS Bach          Goldberg Variations (excerpts)

Dohnanyi        Serenade in C Major

Gideon Klein  String Trio

Beethoven      String Trio in C Minor op 9 no. 3

All our concerts now take place in the beautiful and comfortable setting of St Michael’s church in Broad Street. 

Tickets are just £15 – £16

Supported by the Carne Trust

Handel and George I on the Thames, 17 July 1717

Handel in England

How did one of the greatest German composers of the Baroque era, trained in Hamburg and Italy, become a British subject and the darling of the British crown and the public?

Grand Baroque on 25 August is a celebration of the music of George Frideric Handel, described by musicologist Winton Dean as ‘not only a great composer; he was a dramatic genius of the first order.’

Over in Hanover in what is now northern Germany, the successful composer George Frederic Handel was the Kapellmeister for the German Prince-Elector of Hanover – George Louis. 

However, Handel had started to spend more and more time in England at the behest of Queen Anne who had bestowed him with a yearly income of £200. 


The Elector was not too pleased with these split loyalties but when in 1714 the George Louis became King  George I of Great Britain his views started to change. Catholics had been prohibited from inheriting the British throne since 1701 and following the death of his second cousin, Queen Anne, George was the nearest Protestant relative – so he got the job – and thus began the start of the Hanoverian dynasty.

Water Music
Water Music

And when Handel’s newly composed Water Music was performed in a concert for the King on the River Thames it spurred their reconciliation.

In 1717 Handel became house composer for the Duke of Chandos (until he lost all his money on the South Sea Bubble fiasco). Nevertheless, Handel was now in demand and helped establish the new opera company The Royal Academy of Music and in 1723 moved into a house in Brook Street, Mayfair (pictured). He lived there for the remaining 36 years of his life. Over 200 years later the rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix was to move next door and it is now the Handel & Hendrix Museum!

Handel’s House
Handel’s House

When the King died in 1727, Handel was commissioned to write four anthems for the Coronation ceremony of King George II who then appointed him a British subject in gratitude for his work. One of these, Zadok the Priest, has been played at every British coronation ceremony since.

After his contract at The Queen’s Theatre ended Handel surprised everyone by immediately looked for another theatre and started a new company at Covent Garden Theatre.

Covent Garden Theatre
Covent Garden Theatre

But after 1741 Handel devoted more of his time to Oratorio following the success of his Messiah in Dublin. Now he could compose music in English for the wider British audience who adored this new theatrical musical narrative.

George II victoriously led his united British and Hanoverian troops into battle against the French at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743. AsComposer of the Musick to the Chapel Royal Handel composed a Te Deum in celebration of the victory. 

George II at Dettingen
George II at Dettingen

And when in In 1749 Handel composed his Music for the Royal Fireworks 12,000 people attended the first performance. And his performance of Messiah to benefit the Foundling Hospital was to become an annual event for the rest of his life. When he was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1759 more than three thousand mourners attended his funeral, which was given full state honours.

The Seductive Power of Song

In Ivan Hewett’s 2012 Telegraph review of ‘A History of Opera’ he says: ‘Strip away the trappings of opera and what we are gripped by is the magic of the human voice.’


And this is exactly what we can look forward to on 28 July when Debut present Love, Youth and Mischief in the first of this years Recital Series of concerts as a foil to the already underway Baroque series of concerts.

‘Opera is a glorious thing, but it can also be embarrassing’, so says Ivan Hewett: The plots are mostly absurd, and the psychology of the characters often rudimentary. Much opera concerns strange quasi-mythic creatures whose connection to ordinary human life is tenuous. The bizarre fact that the characters sing when they really ought to be speaking, and lastly it’s fabulously expensive!

Giulio Cesare Photo Tristram Kenton

However, the focus of much of opera’s history, has been the singing voice and the idea that the voice, when it becomes the vehicle for a lyric outpouring, can seize the human truth of a dramatic situation. This obsession with the singing voice is the glory of opera and song.

Opera house

Fortunately, the old ways of presenting opera – madly emotional sopranos and tenors bawling undying love at each other – have lost their conviction.

And these days there’s never been a culture more alert to the vast range of expressive singing, whether it’s the earthy growl of Aretha Franklin, the ecstatic soaring of a Sufi devotional singer, or the androgynous tremolo of David Bowie. And in Musical Theatre too the passion of the voice continues – and often continues from where the likes of Puccini and Leoncavallo left off.

So we are in for a real treat on Saturday when soprano Lizzie Holmes and tenor Richard Pinkstone accompanied by pianist Jocelyn Freeman take us on a whirlwind tour through some of our best loved arias from the world of opera alongside with some really memorable songs not from the operatic stage but simply composed for the pure joy of singing, the opportunity to tell a tale or simply for the celebration of the voice itself.



Saturday 28 July

Strauss Jr Trinke, Liebchen, trinke schnell from ‘Die Fledermaus’
Rossini Presto, dico! from ‘La Gazzetta’
Strauss Die Nacht
Liszt Consolation No 3
Schubert Lied der Delphine
Lehar Das ist mein ganzes Herz from ‘The Land of Smiles’ & Lippen schweigen from ‘The Merry Widow’
Britten Come you from Newcastle?
Quilter Love’s Philosophy
Puccini Sì, mi chiamano Mimì from ‘La Bohème’ & O soave fanciulla from ‘La Bohème’
Donizetti Caro Elisir from ‘L’elisir d’Amore’ & Una furtiva lagrima from ‘L’elisir d’Amore’
Debussy C’est L’extase from ‘Ariette Oubliées’ & La fille aux cheveux de lin
Mozart Un’aura amorosa from ‘Così fan tutte’ & Fra gli amplessi from ‘Così fan tutte’
Massenet Je suis encore from ‘Manon’
Loesser I’ve never been in love before from ‘Guys and Dolls’
Verdi Brindisi from ‘La Traviata’

All our concerts now take place in the beautiful and comfortable setting of St Michael’s church in Broad Street.

Tickets at £15 – £16 are available online at and with no additional charges – just click the link below:

Tickets are also available from Bath Box Office, Bath Visitor Information Centre, Bridgwater House, 2 Terrace Walk, BA1 1LN

Carissimi’s Jephte

The major work in the Italian Baroque concert on 30 June is a rarely heard but hugely significant masterpiece by a Giacomo Carissimi. But what makes Jephte so special…

Giacomo Carissimi

Born in Marino near Rome about 1605, Carissimi worked at Tivoli Cathedral before becoming maestro di cappella in Assisi Cathedral before taking up the the same position at the church of Sant’Apollinare in Rome. He was even offered the prestigious opportunity to take over from Monteverdi in Venice

Carissimi as a priest

But instead, in 1637, he was ordained a priest and remained in Rome until his death in 1674. His successor there described him as:

‘tall, thin, very frugal in his domestic affairs, with very noble manners towards his friends and acquaintances, and prone to melancholy’

Carissimi was hugely influenced by Monteverdi, the founder of opera, but Carissimi’s claim to fame was to be the the first significant composer in the development of the Oratorio – the non staged telling of usually epic tales based on biblical texts. In subsequent centuries the Oratorio was to be made famous by composers such as Handel, Mendelssohn and Elgar.

Samuel Pepys once heard Carissimi’s music and was delighted by the quality of the music. His Diary records that he met:

‘Mr. Hill, and Andrews, and one slovenly and ugly fellow, Seignor Pedro, who sings Italian songs to the theorbo most neatly, and they spent the whole evening in singing the best piece of musique counted of all hands in the world, made by Seignor Charissimi, the famous master in Rome. Fine it was, indeed, and too fine for me to judge of.’

Hieronymus Francken III – Jephthah meets his daughter

But it all started with Carissimi in Rome and with his Jephte or Historia di Jephte written in 1648. Based on the story of Jephtha – or Jephthah – in the Old Testament Book of Judges, the story revolves around Jephtha’s rash promise to the Almighty that if he was victorious in battle against the Ammonites, he will sacrifice the first creature he meets on his return. Unfortunately, on his return he is met by his beloved daughter Iphis.

As the 18th-century French philosopher Voltaire noticed, there are similarities between Jepththa and the Greek mythological story of Idomeneus – except that in that narrative it was his son who was to be sacrificed.

Alexandre Cabanel – The Daughter of Jephthah (1879)

One Hundred years later, G F Handel was to write his last oratorio based on the same subject. Today, Handel’s Jephtha is considered to be one of his most sublime masterpieces – now often fully staged as an opera. And over two hundred years after Handel the contemporary composer Hans Werner Henze wrote a version on 1976 for voices, chorus, flutes, percussion and plucked strings.

Original Manuscript

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear a live performance of this fascinating work along with other wonderful music fo the period played on period instruments by Musica Poetica on 30 June.


Italian Baroque

Saturday 30 June

St Michael’s Church,
Broad Street, Bath

de Wert Ah dolente partita
Frescobaldi O mors illa
Frescobaldi Partite sopra passacagli
Cozzolani O Coeli cives
Monteverdi Ecco la sconsolata donna [from L’Incoronazione di Poppea]
Frescobaldi Praeludium in E major
Carissimi Super Flumine Babylonis
de Wert Egressus Jesus
Frescobaldi Se l’aura spira
Frescobaldi Toccata cromatica per le levatione
Caccini Regina caeli laetare, alleluia
Carissimi Historia di Jephte (complete)