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March 4, 2012

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Bach on tap from award-winning Baroque orchestra

BACH'S four orchestral suites will be heard at Shanghai Concert Hall on Friday by Freiburg Baroque Orchestra from Germany.

The set of orchestral suites was created in 1725 and first played publicly in 1729 with Bach as conductor. Freiburg Baroque Orchestra has not played the set as their core program for about 20 years.

And according to conductor Gottfried von der Goltz, the orchestra just had the suites recorded in 2011. The recording won the Baroque Instrumental Gramophone Award.

Established in 1987, the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra has performed at many important concert halls and opera houses throughout the years. It is often referred to as the "Berlin Philharmonic of Baroque orchestras."

It has recorded more than 34 albums and won numerous awards including the ECHO Klassik Deutscher Musikpreis, the Classical Brit Award and the Edison Classical Music Award.

The orchestra has a rich program from Baroque to modern music, and performs everywhere from Freiburg to the Far East, Goltz says.

The Freiburgers' artistic credo, however, remains unchanged: the creative curiosity of each of them, with the intention of playing a composition as "lively and as expressive as possible."

"Freiburg Baroque Orchestra is one of the top Baroque orchestras in Europe," says local music critic Liu Xuefeng. "Their performances are always an exciting experience, as all the musicians stand there and play fully devoted, with quick pace and intense movements. They may also stamp their feet in some intense sections, which thrills audiences."

Liu still remembers hearing the orchestra at the Salzburg Festival in Austria.

"They were called back for an encore seven times, and people swarmed to the stage front just like it was a rock concert," Liu says.

Another highlight is that the orchestra uses some musical instruments from the Baroque age.

Katharina Arfken, the principal oboe player, will play her Baroque oboe. It is a copy made by Bernhard Schermer in 1990 of an instrument made around 1725.

According to Arfken, the Baroque oboe is made from softer wood, mostly boxwood, and has nearly no keys, only for the two lowest notes.

The bore is wider, and it plays in a Baroque pitch, which is a halftone lower than today. The oboe reed therefore is also wider and more flexible to play.

"The sound of my oboe is warmer, a little softer, and every note has its individual sound color," Arfken says. "I find I can play more expressively on the Baroque oboe, and it also mixes easier with other instruments like Baroque violin."

A violin made by Jacob Stainer in 1651 will also be played by one of the musicians.

Date: March 9, 7:30pm

Venue: Shanghai Concert Hall, 523 Yan'an Rd E.

Tickets: 80-880 yuan

Tel: 962-388


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