Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 5, 2023

REVIEW: Berkshire Bach Society, "Bach at New Year’s"

Academy of Music, Northampton, MA 
January 2, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

Eugene Drucker
The hope expressed by Eugene Drucker, Music Director of the 16-member Berkshire Bach Ensemble, that this concert of 12 pieces by five Baroque composers would inspire audience members “to enter the New Year with hope, joy, and a belief in the resilience of the human spirit” was brilliantly fulfilled by these distinguished musicians, many of whom have played together for years locally and beyond, Drucker is also a founding member of the Emerson String Quartet. 
Kenneth Weiss opened the concert with a lively account of Rameau’s “Overture to Dardanus” in his own transcription for harpsichord. Next, he soloed in an affectionate reading of Bach’s fifth concerto for harpsichord and orchestra. Drucker (otherwise leading from the concertmaster’s chair) then joined Laura Lutzke and Diane Bruce as vivid soloists in a concerto for three violins, strings, and continuo by Bach’s friend Telemann. 

After a perky “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” from Handel’s opera “Solomon” by the ensemble, Drucker and oboist Keve Wilson were featured in a soulful rendition of Bach’s violin and oboe concerto. Maximilian Morel’s clarion trumpet closed the program’s first half with a thrilling performance of Telemann’s trumpet concerto in D Major.    

Intermission included two brief “intermezzi:” arrangements of the “Courante” from Bach’s fourth cello suite and the first “Allegro” from his second viola da gamba sonata played with elan respectively by violist Ronald Gorevic, and violist Liuh-Wen Ting with harpsichordist Weiss.   

Vivaldi’s concerto for violin and two cellos next showcased violinist Michael Roth and cellists Roberta Cooper and Alistair MacRae as animated soloists. Drucker and violinist Emily Daggett Smith then soloed expressively in Bach’s “double violin concerto.” And oboist Jessica Warren brought vibrant color to Telemann’s D Major oboe concerto.

The concert closed with an elegant version of Bach’s second orchestral suite, with, in Drucker’s words, its “perfectly proportioned and highly characterized dance movements,” and staggering virtuosity by flute soloist Judith Mendenhall. 

This two-and-a-half-hour feast for the ears of Baroque music lovers was further enriched by the Academy’s warm acoustics and exemplary program notes by Berkshire Bach Interim Executive Director Terrill McDade. Their next concert on February 11 is an organ recital by Renee Anne Louprette at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House in Housatonic, MA.