Sublime voices, solid orchestra lift Bach Collegium's season opener to stirring new heights

For classical music lovers, what better escape is there from the sanctimonious posers now polluting our media than to spend an hour or so soaking in the sublime music of Johann Sebastian Bach?

On Friday evening, Bach Collegium San Diego — in a performance that opened its 14th season — offered his cantatas as potential respite from the overpowering stench of this election season.

In the grandeur of Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, director Ruben Valenzuela led a small orchestra in a stirring performance of the Sinfonia from the cantata, “Am Abend aber desselbingen Sabbats, BWV 42.” Bach’s noble melodies, played in the finest manner of early music performance, cleansed our ears and bathed our souls. Take me away, Johann!

However, the rest of the first half rubbed our faces in contemporary muck, thanks to the anonymous Protestant author of the cantata, “Siehe zu, dass deine Gottesfurcht nicht Heuchlei sei, BWV 179.” 

That translates as “See that your fear of God is not hypocrisy.” The text warns against false piety, which Bach musically depicted with queasily chromatic lines in every vocal and instrumental part.

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