Bach Fest 2022 Guide: What to See and Hear as BW Returns to In-Person Festival

This year from April 8th to the 10th, the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music will put on its 90th presentation of the annual Bach Festival, celebrating the work of one of Western classical music’s foremost composers Johann Sebastian Bach.  

This year’s festival is particularly notable as it marks the first full-scale in-person Bach Festival since 2019. The 2020 festival was cancelled due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2021 iteration consisted mainly of virtual events, with performances closed to the public due to COVID-19 protocols.  

The festival, which BW boasts as the largest collegiate Bach festival in the United States, was started in 1933 by then-director of the Conservatory Albert Riemenschneider and his wife, Selma. While Bach’s music is certainly the highlight, the program does not consist solely of the Baroque masters’ work. To illustrate the composer’s formidable influence on the history of Western music, the Conservatory also strives to bring to light newer works that have been inspired by Bach.  

One such piece headlining this year’s Bach Fest is Cleveland native James Primosch’s “Fantasy Partitia” entitled “Von Gott Will Ich Nicht Lassen,” which translates to “I Shall Not Abandon God.” The work was commissioned as part of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute’s 50th anniversary composition contest in 2019 and was scheduled to be performed at the 2020 festival but was delayed due to the pandemic.  

The partita is based on and utilizes melodies from a chorale by Martin Luther that Bach used in his own works. Primosch passed away in 2021 without ever hearing the work performed. The Conservatory has dedicated the world premiere performance, taking place on Friday, April 8th at 7 p.m. in Gamble Auditorium, in his honor.  

Also taking part in the festivities are two early-music chamber ensembles from the Boston area. Baroque band ACRONYM will give a Friday performance at 4 p.m. in Gamble entitled “What Bach Heard,” featuring music by 17th-century German composers that Bach would have been exposed to during his youth and training. On Saturday at the same time, the Diderot String Quartet will perform selections from Bach’s “The Art of Fugue” paired with a later quartet by Ludwig van Beethoven, a German composer who studied and idolized Bach’s work, in a program called “What Bach Inspired.” 

The main programming culminates in a Saturday evening performance of one of Bach’s most beloved masterworks, the Christmas Oratorio, in which members of the Baldwin Wallace Symphony Orchestra and Motet Choir will collaborate with professional musicians.  

With nearly round-the-clock performances throughout the festival, programming is suitable for Classical devotees and the uninitiated alike. See the schedule in its entirety here: