The Bach Biennale Weimar, under the patronage of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, is Germany’s only festival devoted to the performance of Bach’s works, and those of his contemporaties, on period instruments. Because Bach was employed in Weimar, Thuringia on two occasions and some festival events can be performed in the same buildings where Bach worked, the festival is particularly attuned to Bach’s musical language. Each year the festival concentrates on a specific topic by linking programming to cultural and historical contexts, searching for new types of events that can complement the “classical” concert, and providing ample opportunities for improvisation.
With international artists and ensembles performing solo, chamber and orchestral music, a high-profile architecture forum and panel discussion on Bach’s house in Weimar, improvisation and jam sessions, lunchtime concerts, and concerts featuring young artists, this year’s festival, 9-15 July 2012, is entitled “Weimar Anno 1712: The Lutheran Bach Speaks Italian.” It investigates both the spiritual and secular sides of the “Weimar Bach” by focusing attention on traditional Lutheran church music and traveling the same musical journey, through the concertos of Vivaldi, Corelli, and Legrenzi, that brought Italy to Bach in Weimar. With this, the festival shows how these works tinged Bach’s own musical language with an Italian accent and suggests that the Italian Concerto (BWV 971) and the Brandenburg Concertos (BWV 1046-1051) would probably not have been composed if Bach had not experienced music from south of the Alps while living in Weimar.