Margaret Steinitz is a lady determined to make a difference. She wants to bring Bach's music to a young generation and to showcase his music with that of contemporary musicians in an informal setting, with unusual programming and time for debate. She has not dreamed up a new idea, but instead takes her inspiration from 18th Century Leipzig.
Next month she is launching the Bach Club for 18 to 30 year olds with a fresh approach that will re-create the original spirit of concert-going which started in Zimmermann's fashionable coffee shop, the meeting place for a student musical society known as the Collegium Musicum. Here the students gathered regularly to play the latest compositions, while the audience listened, discussed what they heard and presumably drank coffee with their friends. In 1729 the civic authorities appointed a new music director to the student group: Johann Sebastian Bach.
“We can't wait for the younger generation to come to us. We have to create the right opportunity for them to find the music of Bach.” Margaret is full of energy as she describes what she wants to achieve. She doesn't see this Bach "rebirth" as a quick fix but realises that it will take several years to grow and strengthen the Club but eventually she aims to includes contemporary composers performing their works alongside those of Bach. Her vision stretches to encompass commissioning new works too. Since Bach is known to have used the meetings to première out his new compositions, he would surely approve!
Not only does she want to mix old and new music, but she also intends to bring together young artists at the start of their careers with successful, established performers, namely the Steinitz Bach Players who were formed 40 years ago by Margaret's late husband and renowned Bach scholar, Paul Steinitz. In this first meeting the Steinitz Bach Players will be joined by Philip Higham, a 22 year old cellist and first British winner of the major JS Bach competition in Leipzig in 2008 and Les Melomanes, a young music quartet who have just been awarded the early music prize at the Royal Academy of Music.
Margaret is launching the Club with a base of support from an older generation who are already Bach fans in the expectation that they will bring along young friends and relations to this event. These students and those brought along as friends of the young performers can be introduced to Bach's music in a conducive atmosphere with like minded individuals who may become friends. She hopes to grow this group by encouraging students who might be interested to come initially to two events a year and enjoy it sufficiently to bring a friend or two to the next concert.
The venue for the launch will not be the usual Concert Hall but the rather more intimate Picture Gallery at the Foundling Museum in Brunswick Square, where a bar open before and after the performance should lubricate the event for nervous newcomers. The format of the concert itself will also differ from the norm, with the first part taken over by the players talking about the music they will play, relate what they find interesting and moving, then perform. The second hour of the two hour programme will offer the performances. The whole concept behind the Club is to reach out to this generation and make the music accessible to them, both intellectually and emotionally.
As Margaret says “Everyone will turn to Bach at some point in their lives, whether they realise he wrote the music or not, at weddings and at funerals for example. Bach lifts these occasions, increasing their importance and addresses the feelings of those who listen, making them feel they are in the presence of something special. I intend to take him out of the [formal] organ loft and create an atmosphere where a whole new generation of young people can connect with the spirit of his music.”
For the launch there will even be free tickets for about 50 18 - 30s, so anyone interested should apply to Margaret Steinitz who runs the London Bach Society www.bachlive.co.uk.
Her forthcoming London Bachfest takes place from 25th October to 20th November and details of events can be seen at www.bachtrack.com/find-events/More/festival=209-Bachfest--London.
19th October 2009