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Published October 5th, 2016
A Full Baroque Experience Opens Pacific Chamber Orchestra's Season
The Pacific Chamber Orchestra. Photo provided

The Pacific Chamber Orchestra is coming back to Lamorinda this season with Brilliant Baroques, a full experience with Bach and those that influenced him.
"The purpose is to come away with an idea of how all these creations interacted with each other," says director and conductor Lawrence Kohl. The Moraga-based maestro founded the orchestra over 20 years ago and is gradually building its audience in Lamorinda. This 2016/17 season is opening on Oct. 7 at the Lafayette Community Center.
Kohl composes his programs to deepen his audience's understanding of music and therefore its pleasure. This one is no different, taking the epitome of Baroque art, Johann Sebastian Bach, and presenting along with his work, some of the music of those who preceded him.
"Bach was such a complete composer and absorbed everything that came before him," says Kohl who acknowledges that he could not present all the influences, but chose three composers from the Italian, French and German schools to give a flavor of the roots of Bach's music.
The first part of the concert will feature Girolamo Frescobaldi's Toccata, Johann Pachelbel's Canon and Gigue, and FranŠois Couperin's La Sultane. The second part will be the performance of Bach's brilliant Orchestra Suite No. 3. The second movement of that suite was later arranged by Bach for violin as the famous and deeply moving Air on the G String.
Kohl says that Frescobaldi was really known for exploring the motives and emotion in instrumental music. "His work tried to bring out emotions with harmonies and melodies, what is mostly done with choral work," he explains.
Couperin is quite intricate, something that can be seen in Bach with complicated counterpoint and his interest in compositional architecture. Pachelbel is in a way quite simple, not as dense as a Couperin would be, with an economy of notes in order to achieve what needs to be achieved, within a precise musical form.
"This power with simplicity influenced him too," says Kohl.
He states that Bach's works are not intricate to be intricate, that they have a gestalt about them where everything fits within. "That is one of the elements that makes his music so powerful," says Kohl. The notes serves the architecture and the architecture serve the notes.
The concert will also feature a harpsichord concerto by Johann Christian Bach, Bach's youngest son. "It will be interesting to have both the juxtaposition of the late Renaissance-early Baroque influence on the family, then the son who was already moving on toward the Classical period," says Kohl.
Bay Area virtuoso harpsichordist Michael Peterson will be playing in Lafayette. Many of his current and most recent projects are based on music from the high Baroque period. He says that he draws inspiration from historical sources and uses them to help connect the music with his audience. All the musicians of the Pacific Chamber Orchestra are professionals and recording artists performing on the most prestigious stages.
This season's program includes three other concerts. The February concert is called Global Gem, a string program with diverse composers spanning continents and areas: Shostakovich, Piazzola, Caliendo and Mozart. The April program will perform Brahms' breathtaking Symphony No.1 and Elgar's Cello Concerto with Bay Area virtuoso cellist Nina Flyer.
Kohl and his musicians have also conducted interactive music classes in the Bay Area schools, specifically in Lamorinda at Wagner Ranch Elementary School in Orinda. To continue to develop this presence, the orchestra is looking for more members to join the orchestra's board.
The Oct. 7 concert is at 7:30 p.m. and will be repeated in Livermore on Sunday the 9th at 2 p.m. More information and tickets are available at www.pacificchamberorchestra.org.

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