When Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (or Weihnachts-Oratorium) was brought to my attention I knew that it had to be the source material. It was not only timely for the season and a beautiful piece of music, but it also has some extra-musical meaning that influenced my choice. This work is a mixture of the sacred and secular. Though the work was intended for religious celebration it was actually created by combining three previously composed secular cantatas. It was already a “re-mix” Bach had created from his own work so I was sure I could stretch it a little more.
I started the process of creating this performance by sifting through the 3+ hours of music that makes up the Oratorio. Through a mixture of listening and taking a closer look at the score, I found a few chorales, a couple of arias, and a duet that I thought would work well together. I then began to take the music apart in such a way that it would still retain the heart of the original but allow for the musicians to add their own interpretation. These interpretations were based on the notes I provided and also the instructions I gave the ensemble to expand upon. For instance, instead of playing chorales verbatim I suggested that we treat each of the four separate lines as individual melodies played at their own pace roughly relating to each other harmonically. The result created a soupy/murky/impressionistic performance of a very strictly notated piece.
The music that came out this process needs to be performed by a group of musicians that are a mixture of skilled readers, interpreters and improvisers. The ensemble that performed at the Holiday Soiree satisfied this in the way they were able to seamlessly blend the notated parts from Bach’s oratorio and improvisations based in and around the original. The intention was always to find a balance between the old and the new, synthesizing them to create hybrid music.
We have included a recording of the result below.
Also provided, links to the original piece for your reference:
PART I Adagio from G Minor Sonata; Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 No 5; No 29
A Hybrid Bach Weihnnachts-Oratorium PART II Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 No. 35; No 31 Original Aria 31
A Hybrid Bach Weihnnachts-Oratorium PART II Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 No 41; No 59 Original No. 41 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2d0_ifOfpmE