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From Sweden with Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (b. 1685 - d. 1750)

Maria Keohane

Maria Keohane

Composer
Johann Sebastian Bach (b. 1685 - d. 1750)
Composition Year
1724
Work Movements
Dalakoral [Malung] Var är den vän
J S Bach [1685-1750] Ich bin vergnügt in meinem Leiden BWV 58
Dalakoral [Särna] Himmelriket liknas vid tio jungfrur
J S Bach Wie Zittern und Wanken BWV 105
Dalakoral [Mora] Eja mitt hjärta
J S Bach Ich ende behende mein irdisches Leben BWV 57
Dalakoral Nu är midsommar natt
J S Bach Wenn die Fruhlingslufte streichen BWV 202 Sich üben im Lieben BWV 202
Dalakoral [Älvdalen] Pärlor sköna ängder gröna
J S Bach Seele, deine Spezerien BWV 249
Dalakoral [Skattungbyn] Säg mig den vägen
J S Bach Bereite dir, Jesu, noch itzo die Bahn BWV 147
Dalakoral [Gagnef, Grangärde, Mora, Äppelbo] Den signade dag
J S Bach Auch mit Gedämpften, schwachen Stimme BWV 36 Lob sei Gott dem Vater ton BWV 36
Artists
Maria Keohane [soprano], Fredrik From [violin], Antoine Torunczyk [oboe], Kate Hearne [recorder & cello]

Programme Note Writer:
© Kate Hearne

Pairing up Bach’s music with Dala Chorales is an idea that has been with me for a long time. I was brought up surrounded by fiddle and folk music, but from a very early age a strong passion for art music also cultivated itself. In a child’s world the incongruity between these two musical arenas, as defined by us grown-ups, doesn’t exist. The only thing of relevance was the beauty exhibited by these different worlds, and above all they were one and the same. Their significance for me today surpasses beauty alone. I have gained respect and humility at being part of this treasure, a wish to share this with my musical partners, and above all, to succeed in bringing this music to an audience.

Choosing a selection of arias from Bach’s cantatas and mirroring them in the Dala Chorales has been a challenging, but also a very natural process. The messages portrayed in the texts are of the same world. Virtuoso, multi-faceted music crosses over to the naked chorales, both in Bach’s world and in that of the Dala Chorales.

My wish is to interpret Bach with sincerity and heart, waiving the enticement to present his music as a technical display of virtuosity. At the same time I hope to present the chorales from Dalarna with the seriousness that they deserve. Above all, I want to share with you the joy and passion that at one time was sparked by the presence of an oversized violin in the hands of a child.

Maria Keohane

A short history of the folk chorales from Dalarna

Dalarna is a province in central Sweden which has historically enjoyed a rich folk culture, not least with regard to its musical heritage. Dalakoraler, or Dala Chorales are a type of folk chorale which came about under unique circumstances. With the arrival of the reformation to Sweden in the 16th century, a new tradition of congregational singing was established in the church service. It can only be presumed that at the outset congregations sang the melodies they had heard in Catholic masses as well as melodies drawn from the folk tradition.

When the first official psalm book was published in 1695, it was as much influenced by folk songs as by old Gregorian melodies. Despite the printed music, the majority of people could not read the notes, and many churches in Dalarna lacked an organ until well into the 20th century, leaving the chorale melodies open to interpretation. The practice of improvising over church chorales was also very common in Swedish homes. Many people lived too far away to be able to attend church on a regular basis, but they often gathered for moments of worship at home, where they would sing from the psalm book, embroidering the melodies they had heard in church. Since it was rare to have a harmony instrument at home, they often improvised and embellished harmonies, adding different variations on the basic tune. These folk chorales were been passed down through generations and developed into a genre of their own. Today the continue to circulate and thrive in the folk music world. 

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