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Arts & Culture

Baldwin Wallace's 85th Bach Festival Takes a New Direction

85th Bach Fest logo
The first Bach Festival at Baldwin Wallace took place in 1932, making it the oldest collegiate festival of its kind in the nation.

A long-standing musical tradition in northeast Ohio is going through some changes.

WKSU’s Phil de Oliveira  reports on what’s in store for audiences at the 85th annual Bach Festival at Baldwin Wallace University.

One of the most dramatic changes this year may be the fact that the featured work on Saturday's concert won’t be music by J.S. Bach. Instead, concert goers will hear Ein Deutsches Requiem by Romantic composer Johannes Brahms.

Artistic Director and Conductor Dirk Garner says featuring composers other than Bach makes sense considering Bach's vast influence on the music that came after him.

“Having a Bach festival and stopping with the exploration of Bach’s music or only doing Bach’s music is like having an electricity festival and stopping at the light bulb."

Garner also says Brahms’ choral masterwork  clearly emulates Bach’s music.

“There are aspects of form, for example. In the 5th movement of the ‘Requiem,’ where it’s a beautiful soprano aria, and underneath it Brahms composes the simplest music in the Requiem. And I think the most lovely. And it’s very much like a chorale," he says.

Classical music makes the rounds
Festival performances have also taken place year-round in non-traditional venues, like bars and cafés around Cleveland.

“The concert experience as we’ve known it since Haydn’s time is changing all over the world. And it’s going to change here.”

Garner says the changes aren’t intended to replace the Bach Fest’s long-standing traditions. Next year, the annual rotation of Bach’s major choral works will return with the “St. John Passion.”