Arizona Early Music Society opens its 2013-14 season Sunday with the encore from one of the country’s first early music groups to use instruments dating back to the Baroque era.
The Aulos Ensemble, celebrating its 40th anniversary next season, was here last in 2006 for a holiday recital. Its performance this time takes us to Johann Sebastian Bach’s living room for an intimate concert of Baroque works by Bach and his friends and relatives.
We caught up with founding oboist Marc Schachman, who gave us a few reasons why we would want to spend “An Evening in the Home of J.S. Bach” with him and his fellow Aulos colleagues — flutist Christopher Krueger, violinist Linda Quan (Schachman’s wife), cellist Myron Lutzke and harpsichordist Arthur Haas.
Baroque sounds better on period instruments: “It’s like speaking a foreign language. The instruments have an articulation that is different from a modern instrument. And the instruments blend together in a way that is almost uncanny. The way a flute and oboe and gut-stringed violin work together; it creates its own sound picture. ... It’s softer. It’s more intimate.”
The difference between Baroque and modern instruments: “The string instruments are actually old instruments from that period that have been reconditioned to their original specifications. Those instruments — Strads, Guarneries, Amatis — got changed over the years. ... Fifty years after they were made, 100 years after they were made, people started changing them gradually to suit the needs and the tastes of the time, which was always basically for greater volume. So they altered those violins to put greater tension on the strings so that they could create that volume. ... When we talk about a Baroque violin or a Baroque cello we are talking about an instrument that has never seen that change — which is rare — or has had that change reversed, which is the case for Linda. She has a violin from 1680.
“In the case of the wind instruments ... because of what moisture does to an instrument, the old wind instruments often are not in great playing condition. So what we rely upon is a number of wonderful makers who ... reproduce them.”
Did you know that Bach had 21 kids by two wives and taught all of them how to play music? “With so many children and being such a genius at music, many of his children went on to huge careers in music. Two of them had careers that were bigger than his at the time. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach had an unbelievably big appointment as court composer for Frederick the Great … And Bach’s youngest son, Johann Christian, had a very, very big career in England.”
A fly on the wall in Bach’s living room: “Bach was friends with a number of composers and they would come to visit. ... This program in a sense tries to give a picture of that. Obviously, all of these pieces would not have been done in one night, but they are all possible combinations of things that Bach would have had going on in his house. It’s an interesting glimpse into what that might have been like.”