Bach Festival History
The Baldwin Wallace Bach Festival is not only the oldest collegiate, but also the second-oldest Bach festival in the nation. The festival was founded in 1932 by Professor Albert Riemenschneider (longtime Director of the College Conservatory) and his wife, Selma. The Baldwin Wallace Festival Choir and Orchestra presented the first Bach Festival in June 1933. Since that time, Bach Festivals have been annual events at Baldwin Wallace.
Baldwin Wallace performing groups are joined by faculty members and local professional musicians in the three-day, multi-event program. Soloists are internationally known artists; the lecturers, distinguished Bach and Baroque scholars. Our students consider the unusual opportunity of participating as colleagues with world-class professionals a high point in their performing experience.
Beginning with the 43rd Festival in 1975, the Baldwin Wallace Festival performing groups have been reduced to sizes now known to be more nearly commensurate with those employed in Bach's time. Likewise, from 1975 on, all vocal works have been sung in the language of their origins. These changes have made possible the cultivation of a truly Baroque sound with inherent clarity, drive, and intensity.
With a repertoire list that includes more than 300 compositions by J. S. Bach, as well as selected works from 52 other composers, the Festival rotates Bach's four major choral works on a four year cycle. In this way, Baldwin Wallace students are exposed to all four of the major Bach choral works during their college years; the B-minor Mass, the St. Matthew and St. John Passions, and the Christmas Oratorio.
Why Bach? Many would say it is the lucidity of Bach's music - the consummate integration of its structural elements - that makes it so great. Bach was unsurpassed in his ability to grasp (intuitively it seems) the latent possibilities of a melodic or harmonic idea, and to work these out in coherent, yet expressive ways. His music functions equally well on both horizontal and vertical planes - as a series of simultaneous melodic strands and as a progression of chords. It brings competing impulses into equilibrium: the logical and the mystical, the sonic and the symbolic. It constantly surprises the listener with its inventiveness. While using as its starting point the harmonic language, compositional techniques, and rhetorical figures of its day, it moves far beyond them. Bach's style is characterized by a richness of chromatic language, a logic of thematic unfolding, and an overlay of hermeneutical (interpretive) allusions. It is no wonder that succeeding composers held him in such awe. Robert Schumann put it well: "Wir sind alle Stumper gegen ihn" (Next to him we are all plodders).
Past Bach Festivals (click on the links to view)
2007 75th Anniversary
75th Bach Festival Commemorative Annotated Program
74th Bach Festival Annotated Program (Note: Frederick Urrey, Evangelist, also performed the tenor arias for Alan Bennet, who was indisposed for the Saturday performance of Bach's St. John Passion. Heidi Albert '90, a former student of Regina Mushabac, replaced Regina as cellist in the Festival Chamber Orchestra)