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December 2019

Macmillan: A Celebration of Christmas

Friday 6 December, 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Christ Church Cathedral, St. Aldates
Oxford, OX1 1DP
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Macmillan Christmas

The Oxford Bach Soloists will be performing for the second year at the 'A Celebration of Christmas' concert as part of Macmillan Cancer Support's fund-raising activities. 

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Bath Recitals: A Baroque Christmas

Saturday 14 December, 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
St Michael’s Church, Broad Street
Bath, BA1 5LJ
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OBS Christmas

Oxford Bach Soloists welcomed as guests of the Bath Recitals: 'A Baroque Christmas' which brings the Bath Recitals 2019 programme to a seasonal close.

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Magnificat: Cantatas for Christmas

Tuesday 24 December, 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £25
Daniel Norman, Tenor

Bach’s first Christmas in Leipzig comes with an explosion of festive music. After Advent’s ‘tempus clausum’ (closed period), Bach laid on nine major pieces for his singers and instrumentalists to master, including the Magnificat in E flat major, more commonly heard in its later D major version.

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January 2020

The Magi

Sunday 12 January 2020, 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £15
OBS Magi

Hot off the heels of his first Christmas in Leipzig, Bach presents us with a vibrant set of Cantatas for the New Year and Epiphany. Cantata 190 is a paean heralding the New Year, and Cantata 153 takes the dramatic story of Herod and the Massacre of the Innocents as its inspiration. Epiphany is ushered in as a pair of horns brings the wise men with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh in Cantata 65.

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February 2020

Calm the Storm

Sunday 9 February 2020, 3:00 pm - 4:15 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £15
Calm the Storm

Cantata 155 displays the 31-year-old Bach’s enchanting innovation in his younger days with one of the finest bassoon obbligati ever written. Cantatas 73 and 81 take as their starting point two of Christ’s miracles: the healing of the leper, and the calming of the storm. The joyful Cantata 83 is possibly Bach’s first Cantata for the feast of the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (Candlemas) in which Simeon sings his famous Nunc dimittis.

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March 2020

Pantomime Villains

Sunday 1 March 2020, 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £15
Pantomime Villains

In the lead up to Lent, we discover three cantatas based on parables: Cantata 144, based on the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, reveals an alto aria with a sustained melody of great beauty; and Cantatas 181 and 18, both based on the Parable of the Sower, projecting dramatic scenes of spasmodic birds pecking at the scattered seed, and a furious litany in which Bach rains fire and brimstone on the ‘pantomime villains, the Turks and the Papists’.

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April 2020

TBS Farnham: St John Passion

Saturday 4 April 2020, 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
St. Thomas-on-the-Bourne, Frensham Road
Farnham, GU9 8HA United Kingdom
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THD in concert

The Oxford Bach Soloists debuts as honoured guests of the Tilford Bach Society. Presenting one of Bach’s most treasured masterpieces, the St John Passion BWV 245, they will perform as part of the Society’s programme of illustrious concerts in St Thomas on the Bourne, Farnham. Evangelist: Ben Johnson Christ: Humphrey Thompson.

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Easter Weekend: St John Passion

Friday 10 April 2020, 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £25.00
St John Passion

One of Bach’s best loved works, the St John Passion was first performed on Good Friday of 1724 in the St. Nicholas Church, Leipzig. ‘More daring, forceful and poetic’ than the St Matthew Passion, according to Schumann, this operatic work is presented by an ensemble of soloists, four-part choir, strings and basso continuo together with pairs of flauti traversi and oboes doubling on oboe da caccia. Bach also uses viola d’amore and viola da gamba to create special colours within the instrumental mix. The narrative is led by the Evangelist with an impressive line-up including Jesus, Pilate, Peter, a maid and a servant.

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Easter Weekend: Easter Oratorio

Saturday 11 April 2020, 3:00 pm - 4:45 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £25.00
Easter Oratorio

Two of Bach’s earliest cantatas for Easter Day, Christ lag in Todesbanden and Der Himmel lacht! Die Erde jubiliert are performed here in their revived Leipzig versions. The story takes us from darkness to blazing light, from grief to joy, echoed in the dramatic Easter Oratorio. Told by four characters Mary Magdalene, Mary Jacobe, Simon Peter, and John the Apostle, it canters to the end in triumphant victory.

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Easter Weekend: Rejoice You Hearts

Sunday 12 April 2020, 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £25.00
Rejoice, You Hearts

Abundant joy, rushing swirling scales, and fanfare-like arpeggios set the scene for the Resurrection in Bach’s Cantatas for Easter Monday, Easter Tuesday, and Quasimodogeniti (’Low’ Sunday). Join our Virtuosi soloists as they lead us through Bach’s panoply of pastoral colours, brilliant coloratura, and triumphant pageantry.

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Easter Weekend: The Lord is my Shepherd

Monday 13 April 2020, 3:00 pm - 4:15 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £25.00
The Lord is my Shepherd

Described as ‘one of the truly perfect cantatas, flawless in every detail’, Cantata 104 draws its inspiration from Psalm 23 ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’. Full of leisurely melodies and flourishes, it finds refreshment, green pastures and a foretaste of heaven. As we move towards Christ’s Ascension and departure from the earth, Cantata 166 is in a rather uncertain vein asking the question ‘Where are you going?’ yet Bach’s music is always full of hope. Clearing the skies to joy and laughter, this concert ends with Cantata 37 depicting the soul winging heavenward.

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May 2020

Resound, Ye Songs!

Sunday 3 May 2020, 3:00 pm - 4:15 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £15
Resound Ye Songs

Bach’s earliest works are often considered to be his most inventive, full of daring ideas. Cantata 12 is considered one of his most affecting compositions, the opening of which was to find its way into the B Minor Mass. Now one year in his post as Thomaskantor, he revived his Pentecost Cantatas 59 and 172 for the 2nd and 3rd time respectively. Dating from 1714 during his employment in service of the Dukes of Weimar, the effulgent cantata ‘Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten!’ depicts the fiery arrival of the Holy Spirit.

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Lutheran Vespers

Sunday 17 May 2020, 5:45 pm - 6:45 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Lutheran Vespers

A service of Lutheran Vespers featuring Bach’s Cantata 86 Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch. Performed by New College Choir, conducted by Robert Quinney, with the orchestra of the Oxford Bach Soloists.

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June 2020

Festival of Joy

Sunday 7 June 2020, 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £15
Festival of Joy

A trio of cantatas drawn from earlier works, deftly reworked to suit their new contexts. The Pentecostal cantatas 173 and 184 find their roots in secular Serenatas written for Prince Leopold at Cöthen, their imagery ingeniously preserved so that association between words and music is unharmed. Cantata 194, written for the dedication of the church and organ at Störmthal in 1723, was probably also based on a lost Cöthen work and is revived here in full festal splendour for Trinity Sunday in 1724.

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July 2020

Wake Up!

Sunday 5 July 2020, 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £15
Wake Up

In his second cycle of Cantatas at Leipzig, Bach focuses exclusively on the chorale, each Cantata based on the main Lutheran hymn for the occasion. This new ‘chorale cantata’ cycle is announced with a sweeping French overture in the grand Cantata 20 ‘O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort’. After impressive coloratura from the tenor, we are woken up by the bass and trumpet with the words ‘Wacht auf, wacht auf!’. Cantata 2 takes as its basis Martin Luther’s chorale ‘Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein’, with images of silver purified through fire.

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August 2020

Song of Mary

Sunday 2 August 2020, 3:00 pm - 4:40 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £15
Song of Mary

A mighty handful of cantatas takes us on journey from the Parable of the Lost Coin, to Mary’s Magnificat, to Peter’s great catch of fish and the feeding of the four thousand, and finally a warning of false prophets from the Sermon on the Mount. This rich panoply of music displays a unique fanatasia based on the ‘Passion Chorale’, a clamorous uproar of the whole world in the Song of Mary, and two movements which Bach thought sufficiently well of to include in the Schübler Chorale Preludes.

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September 2020

Come Unto Him

Sunday 6 September 2020, 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £15
Come Unto Him

From July 1724 onwards, Bach must have had access to an exceptionally talented flautist for whom, in the months that followed, he regularly composed unusually demanding music. This unknown player possessed remarkable virtuosity on an instrument that was then still a novelty, and the opening bars of Cantata 94 must have surprised the connoisseurs among the Leipzig congregation. Cantata 101, based on the Martin Moller’s chorale (1584) which he had written during a time of plague, displayed yet more of this fine flautist’s skill in the first aria.

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October 2020

When Will I Die?

Sunday 4 October 2020, 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £15
When Will I Die

Muted violins and pizzicato express fearfulness of shaky steps in Cantata 33, and a virtuoso flute counterpoint depicts shaking and torment of the soul in Cantata 99. The monumental opening chorus of BWV 78 stands out as one of Bach’s most remarkable examples of a chromatic passacaglia in passus duriusculus, used in the model for the Crucifixus of the B Minor Mass. Plucked arpeggios, bell tones, and a slow elegiac swing evoke the scene of ‘a passing funeral cortège’ (Gardiner) in the opening movement of Cantata 8, painting a picture of a ‘church-yard full of lowers in the springtime’ (Spitta).

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November 2020

Morning Star

Sunday 1 November 2020, 3:00 pm - 4:15 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £15
Morning Star

An instruction to ‘Take what is yours and go away’ opens this concert of three of Bach’s most celebrated chorale-cantatas. These direct words in Cantata 114 draw from the Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, and are followed directly by a second instruction not to grumble when things don’t go as planned. Cantata 96 compares Christ to the ‘Morning Star’, with the appearance of a sparkling sopranino recorder, used for the first time in his cantatas, and the famous melody by Philipp Nicolai often heard at Christmas, ‘Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’ (How brightly shines the morning star)

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December 2020

Wedding Feast

Sunday 13 December 2020, 3:00 pm - 4:20 pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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Free – £15
Wedding Feast

Themes of weddings and feasts abound in Cantata 180, Bach’s choral-cantata setting of the great Eucharist hymn, ‘Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele’ (Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness). Based on the Parable of the Great Banquet, it maintains a festive feeling throughout, imagining a bride preparing for her wedding, full of charm, grace, and great delicacy.

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