Bach Collegium Japan


Thursday, December 27, 2018


Bach Collegium Japan





Kato, are you an enthusiastic Bach fan?


Well… I love music in general, but I’m not much of a Bach fan.

Then how come you jotted down Bach Collegium Japan in the above?

Actually, I read an article in the free news and entertainment weekly of Vancouver.


Bach Collegium Japan

brings fresh ears

to Baroque music

by Alexander Varty

December 5th, 2018

In Japan, land of Living National Treasures, artists and artisans can receive formal recognition—and a state stipend—for their work in disciplines as diverse as gagaku, kabuki, doll-making, metalwork, and weaving.

The idea is to preserve what are called Intangible Cultural Properties: the aesthetic traditions that help define Japanese identity and that continue to exert an influence over contemporary Japanese culture.


So it’s not surprising that the island nation would be hospitable to current directions in early music: historically informed performance, in which once overlooked but historically accurate devices such as improvisation are employed to bring ancient scores to life, and the use of period instruments or reproductions thereof, which differ in both sound and appearance from later models.

Bach Collegium Japan, which plays an Early Music Vancouver concert this weekend, adheres to both, and has been enthusiastically received at home.

But according to its founder, keyboardist, and conductor, Masaaki Suzuki, that’s not because of its deep respect for the past.

Instead, he explains in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, it’s because, to Japanese ears, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and his contemporaries sounds intriguing and new.


“The compositions of Bach, especially the vocal works, are quite far from the kind of Japanese sense of the language and also the culture,” Suzuki says in careful but heavily accented English.

“So everything that I loved during my student time and also later on was very fresh.…Languagewise, for example, we don’t have anything in common.

But once you learn the German texts, you can understand how important it is to have good pronunciation and the correct accents and intonation and so on.

“Of course, we all are Japanese, so we are very much influenced by our Japanese background and culture,” he continues.

“But still, you know, there is so much difference between Japanese and European culture—and especially German culture. That makes it more fresh.”

Suzuki was introduced to Baroque music as a student at the University of Tokyo; he cites the groundbreaking 1950s recordings of Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Concentus Musicus Wien as particularly influential.

Later on, he moved to Amsterdam, where he studied with early-music royalty in the form of conductor and keyboardist Ton Koopman.

For the past 28 years, he and Bach Collegium Japan have been repaying his mentors with a string of glowingly received recordings of Bach, including a definitive, multidisc edition of the complete cantatas.

The great German will play a part in Bach Collegium Japan’s upcoming EMV show; Suzuki and company will open with his Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor.


Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor


Marcello’s Oboe Concerto in D Minor, he goes on to say, was quite popular during the early part of the 18th century—and has more recently enjoyed an unexpected rebirth in Japan.

“Bach had arranged this piece for the Habsburg court musicians; there were 17 arrangements by Bach for Habsburg soloists—many of them Italian composers’ concerti—and this one was one of them.

Actually, the first movement of Marcello’s oboe concerto was once used for a Japanese TV commercial quite a long time ago, so this music has been quite popular in Japan.”

Whether we can deduce anything about either the Japanese soul or Baroque music from this, Suzuki doesn’t say.

But it’s a sure thing that the program he’s assembled for Bach Collegium Japan’s North American tour will offer new insights into music that, yes, still does sound fresh 300 years after it was created.

“Bach never travelled, only through the music,” Suzuki points out.

“So it is very interesting to know his sources, and to see his library. I’m always very, very much interested in what he had listened to and what he had experienced—and it’s very much helpful to understand his music, as well.”

Bach Collegium Japan plays the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at 3 p.m. on Sunday (December 9).


Oboe Concerto in D Minor


SOURCE: 『Digital Version』

I see… So you’re impressed by the fact that the Japanese orchestra play Back’s early music: historically informed performance, in which once overlooked but historically accurate devices such as improvisation are employed to bring ancient scores to life, and the use of period instruments or reproductions thereof, which differ in both sound and appearance from later models.

Yes, you’re telling me, Diane.

Kato, tell me what Bach Collegium Japan is all about?

Well…, you can read the following article in the Wikipedia:

Bach Collegium Japan



Bach Collegium Japan (BCJ) is composed of an orchestra and a chorus specializing in Baroque music, playing with period instruments.

It was founded in 1990 by Masaaki Suzuki with the purpose of introducing Japanese audiences to European Baroque music.

Suzuki still remains its music director.

The ensemble has recorded all of Bach’s cantatas, a project that extended from 1995 to 2018 and accounts for over half of its discography.

They have toured Asia, Europe and North America, with many performances as cultural festivals such as Edinburgh Festival, the Hong Kong Arts Festival, the Festival Internacional Cervantino the Bach Festival in Leipzig, the Oregon Bach Festival and the Boston Early Music Festival.

Five years after the Collegium was founded, they began a project to record all the Bach cantatas, finishing in 2013.

Working with Swedish record label BIS, the work was performed at a Christian chapel at Kobe University, one of the few Christian churches in the country large enough to properly perform such works.

These recordings account for over half of the ensemble’s 99-album discography.

SOURCE: “Bach Collegium Japan”
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I see… It was founded in 1990, and they have toured Asia, Europe and North America, huh?

Yes, they have.

Kato, did you go to the Chan Centre to enjoy the music on December 9?

No, I’m afraid not.

Why not?

‘Cause I was quite busy writing many articles for my blogs.

No kidding!  You should’ve shuffled your schedule somehow to attend the concert.

I thought so, but fortunately I’ve found the following clip for the world-famous composer… I listened to the following piece so many times.




I see… So, Kato, you’re particularly interested in the early music: historically informed performance, in which once overlooked but historically accurate devices such as improvisation are employed to bring ancient scores to life, and the use of period instruments or reproductions thereof, which differ in both sound and appearance from later models.

Yes, you’re telling me.

But why?

‘Cause I love the sounds of harpsichord.




A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard which activates a row of levers that in turn trigger a mechanism that plucks one or more strings with a small plectrum.

The term denotes the whole family of similar plucked-keyboard instruments, including the smaller virginals, muselar, and spinet.

The harpsichord was widely used in Renaissance and Baroque music.

During the late 18th century, with the rise of the piano, it gradually disappeared from the musical scene.

In the 20th century, it made a resurgence, being used in historically informed performances of older music, in new compositions, and in certain styles of popular music.



The harpsichord was most likely invented in the late Middle Ages.
By the 16th century, harpsichord makers in Italy were making lightweight instruments with low string tension.
A different approach was taken in the Southern Netherlands starting in the late 16th century, notably by the Ruckers family.
Their harpsichords used a heavier construction and produced a more powerful and distinctive tone.
They included the first harpsichords with two keyboards, used for transposition.

The Flemish instruments served as the model for 18th century harpsichord construction in other nations.
In France, the double keyboards were adapted to control different choirs of strings, making a more musically flexible instrument.
Instruments from the peak of the French tradition, by makers such as the Blanchet family and Pascal Taskin, are among the most widely admired of all harpsichords, and are frequently used as models for the construction of modern instruments.

In England, the Kirkman and Shudi firms produced sophisticated harpsichords of great power and sonority.
German builders extended the sound repertoire of the instrument by adding sixteen foot and two foot choirs; these instruments have recently served as models for modern builders.

In the late 18th century the harpsichord was supplanted by the piano and almost disappeared from view for most of the 19th century: an exception was its continued use in opera for accompanying recitative, but the piano sometimes displaced it even there.
Twentieth century efforts to revive the harpsichord began with instruments that used piano technology, with heavy strings and metal frames.

Starting in the middle of the 20th century, ideas about harpsichord making underwent a major change, when builders such as Frank Hubbard, William Dowd, and Martin Skowroneck sought to re-establish the building traditions of the Baroque period.
Harpsichords of this type of historically informed building practice dominate the current scene.

SOURCE: “Harpsichord”
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Have you ever played the harpsichord?

No, I have not… I wish I could.

Why not?

I’ve never touched the instrument in my life.

You should buy one, Kato.

You gotta be kidding… It would cost a fortune… In any case, I’m happy as long as I can listen to the above clip.

Are you crazy about “Air on the G String”?

Yes, I am… As a matter of fact, I know and love only “Air on the G String” among all music pieces Bach had ever composed.

Air on the G String


“Air on the G String” is August Wilhelmj’s arrangement of the second movement in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068.

The arrangement differs from the original in that the part of the first violins is transposed down so that it can be played entirely on a violin’s lowest string, i.e., the G string.

It is played by a single violin (instead of by the first violins as a group).


Bach’s original


Bach’s third Orchestral Suite in D major, composed in the first half of the 18th century, has an “Air” as second movement, following its French overture opening movement.
The suite is composed for three trumpets, timpani, two oboes, strings (two violin parts and a viola part), and basso continuo.
In the second movement of the suite however only the strings and the continuo play.
This is the only movement of the suite where all other instruments are silent.

The music of the “Air” is written on four staves, for first violins, second violins, violas, and continuo.
The interweaving melody lines of the high strings contrasts with the pronounced rhythmic drive in the bass.


Wilhelmj’s arrangement


In the late 19th century, violinist August Wilhelmj arranged the second movement of Bach’s third Orchestral Suite for violin and an accompaniment of strings, piano or organ (harmonium).
On the score he had printed auf der G-Saite (on the G string) above the stave for the solo violin, which gave the arrangement its nickname.

In Wilhelmj’s version the piece is transposed down from its original key (D major) to C major.
Then the part of the first violins is transposed down a further octave and given to a solo violin that can play the entire melody on its lowest string, the G string.
The dynamic markings added by Wilhelmj are more in line with a romantic interpretation than with the baroque original.

As a violin can’t play very loudly in its lowest register, all the other parts of Bach’s music were firmly reduced in Wilhelmj’s version: the keyboard part is to be played staccato and pianissimo, causing the effects of interweaving melodies and of drive in the bass part to go lost.
In the strings accompaniment version the violins and violas play muted (con sordino), and the bass part for cellos and double basses is to be played pizzicato and sempre pianissimo, with the same change in effect compared to Bach’s original.

Later, a spurious story was put about that the melody was always intended to be played on the G string alone.
The violin solo part of Wilhelmj’s arrangement is sometimes played on the counter-tenor violoncello.
As a result of the popularity of the piece, on the G string remained in the name of various arrangements whether or not a string instrument playing on its G string was involved.

Most of these versions have in common that the original melody of the first violins is played in the low register of a solo instrument, accompanied by a reduction of the material of the other parts of Bach’s piece, although occasionally versions that stay more in line with Bach’s original can go by the same name.

SOURCE: “Air on the G String”
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

How about you, Diane?  Do you like the above tune?

I like it… It’s quite popular among classic pieces… I seem to listen to the modern version.




Yes, that is the piece arranged by August Wilhelmj, isn’t it?

I guess so… Of course, Jacques Loussier re-arranged it like jazz.

Actually, Diane, this piece is played by different kinds of instruments.

Oh…? For example?

Well…, the following is the performance by the Mandolin Music Club of Hamamatsu High School in Japan.




Fantastic, isn’t it?

Do you like it?

Oh, I love it so much.

Then you might as well like the following performance.



How come June shows up in her bikini?… It has nothing to do with “Air on the G String”, has it?

Well…, actually she stands in the background of the sheet music of “Air on the G String”.

Does June play it by herself.

Unfortunately, June does NOT play, but somebody else plays it on her behalf.




Amazing and amusing!… I’ve never imagined that anybody could play it with G-string.

You should be able to play it with your own G-string.



A G-string is a type of thong, a narrow piece of fabric, leather, or satin that covers or holds the genitals, passes between the buttocks, and is attached to a waistband around the hips.

A G-string can be both worn by men and women.

It may also be worn in swimwear, where it may serve as a bikini bottom, but may be worn alone as a monokini or topless swimsuit.

G-strings may also be worn by exotic or go-go dancers.

As underwear, a G-string may be worn in preference to panties to avoid creation of a visible panty line, or to briefs in order to enhance sex-appeal.

The two terms G-string and thong are sometimes used interchangeably; however, technically they refer to different pieces of clothing.

SOURCE: “G-string”
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Do you wear a G-string?

Oh no, I don’t… I’m too mosdest to wear such a novelty.

Well, actually, a G-string isn’t quite new at all… It became quite popular in the 1930s.

Oh…? Why is that?

In Chicago, a stripper named Margie Hart became famous while she danced wearing a G-string.




I see, but why in Chicago?

In those days, they produced G-strings more by mass production in Chicago than any other cities in the world.

I see… So, Margie Hart became “Margie with a G-string” rather than “Air on the G-string”, didn’t she?

Yes, you’re telling me, Diane.



【Himiko’s Monologue】


So much for G-string.

Now talking about musical instruments, I’ll show here an unusual instrument.

Gess what?

You also have this particular instrument.

You might as well play it by yourself.

Now see the performance by this particular musical instrument.



  Mr. Mathane


In any road, I expect Kato will write another interesting article soon.

So please come back to see me.

Have a nice day!

Bye bye …



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Hi, I’m June Adams.

Kato is a real movie lover, who tries to watch 1001 movies.

As a matter of fact, he has already accomplished his goal.


『Actual List』


Kato watched “The Arabian Nights” or “One Thousand and One Nights” as his 1001th movie.

You might just as well want to view it.



The stories in “the Arabian Nights” were collected over many centuries by various authors, translators, and scholars across West, Central, and South Asia and North Africa.

The tales themselves trace their roots back to ancient and medieval Arabic, Persian, Indian, Egyptian and Mesopotamian folklore and literature.

In particular, many tales were originally folk stories from the Caliphate era, while others, especially the frame story, are most probably drawn from the Pahlavi Persian work Hazār Afsān which in turn relied partly on Indian elements.

What is common throughout all the editions of the Nights is the initial frame story of the ruler Shahryār and his wife Scheherazade and the framing device incorporated throughout the tales themselves.

The stories proceed from this original tale.

Some are framed within other tales, while others begin and end of their own accord.

Some editions contain only a few hundred nights, while others include 1,001 or more.









『軽井沢タリアセン夫人 – 小百合物語』