Aston Magna: Leipzig Recap

Aston Magna traveled to Leipzig, Germany, in January for a week of workshops, tours, lectures and fun in and around JS Bach’s final musical home. The event was a resounding success, and here we share some photos of the week, followed by Artistic Director Dan Stepner’s recap of a terrific winter experience with Aston Magna. Click on any photo to view it in full-size.

Notes from Dan Stepner

Now that I’m finally getting over jet lag, I’d like to give you my impression of our very stimulating week in Leipzig.  We balanced our serious musical work with cultural tourism, and some great meals!

The work-shoppers were a lively bunch, and the chemistry seemed just right. My colleagues on the faculty (Laura Jeppesen, Chris Krueger and Peter Sykes) and I enjoyed their seriousness of purpose, and the delight of discovery that was positively infectious.  We hope this is the first of many such ventures.

Our faculty concert was at the Sommersaal, an old exhibition room that is part of the Bach Archiv, itself embedded in a wonderful 17th century merchant’s home directly across the street from the fabled Thomaskirche, where Bach lived and worked.  Our program began with works of two of Bach’s sons and ended with his complete Musical Offering.  It is always gratifying to play and to share that singular work, which playfully reveals Bach’s extraordinary contrapuntal and expressive skills.  For the largest single movement – the 6-part Ricercar – we engaged three Leipzig musicians (a violist and two gambists), to complete our ensemble.  They were most collegial; their collaboration made the event all the more special for us.

Incidentally, that monumental Ricercar, in different instrumental configuration, was also the grand finale in the participants’ concert at week’s end, and they did it marvelously. The workshop’s string players performed a movement of the Bach Double Concerto, accompanied by other workshoppers.  Among Bach’s hundreds of arias, one can find almost any conceivable combination of instruments and voice, and all of them are high quality music.

One finished the week with a deeper awareness of Bach’s towering mastery, and the sense of specific place (Eisenach and Arnstadt as well as Leipzig) made our sojourn all the more meaningful.

On to London!

~ Dan Stepner