Adrian Symphony Orchestra presents ‘Bach and the Violin’ at Holy Rosary ChapelWritten by Renee Lapham Collins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Although John Thomas Dodson doesn’t have a favorite composer, Johann Sebastian Bach is certainly among those he is passionate about. The upcoming concert at Holy Rosary Chapel on the campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse “just might be my favorite,” he said.
“I expect it to be the best,” Dodson said. “It certainly has the capacity to be the best.”
The director of the Adrian Symphony Orchestra (ASO) recently returned from a trip to New York City where he had lunch with Kurt Nikkanen, a violin virtuoso Dodson said was born to play the work of this great master. Nikkanen will be in the spotlight when he performs Bach’s Partita for Solo Violin in D minor, the Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor and the Violin Concerto No. 2 in E major. Concert times are 8 p.m. on Oct. 27 and 3 p.m. on Oct. 28. Tickets are $25 for adults, $23 for seniors and $13 for students. Seating at the chapel is on a first-come, first-serve basis and tickets are limited because the space is much smaller than the usual venue for the Adrian Symphony Orchestra.
Dodson said he is excited to bring Nikkanen to Adrian.
“This is a small, intimate space and we’ll only have 10 players with Kurt,” Dodson said. “The dimensions of the chapel make it similar to a European chapel in a small court or in a small province, which is very much like the places Bach would have played in his lifetime.”
Seating will be “in the round,” Dodson said. “Everyone will be quite close to the performers.
“It will be an angle you may have never seen before or one that will make you feel more a part of the concert,” he said. “The acoustics in the chapel are warmer, there might be a few challenges for the players —just due to the longer ring-time — but the setting captures the sound characteristics typically performed when this type of music was written.”
Bach is considered the principal composer of the Baroque era, which spanned 1600-1750. Bach lived from 1685 to 1750.
“What Bach did almost defies belief,” Dodson said. “He sets the bar for hard work, the capacity to become the greatest ever, able to write anything conceivable, and even if you’d heard his music a million times, you still want to hear it a million plus one times. Nothing about Bach is ever complacent — he challenges you each time you listen.”
The foundation of Western music, Bach’s influence is heard in classical music and beyond. He influenced many who followed him, including Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn.
He was influenced by the great composers of his own era, such as Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli. Bach’s music, Dodson said, reflects intensity, a level of consciousness and poignancy like no other composer.
“There is really nothing quite like it,” he said. “It is profoundly meaningful.”
The first half of the concert will feature Nikkanen playing the solo Partita with no accompaniment. Dodson will be watching from the audience as this concert will be directed by Nikkanen himself. The second half will be devoted to the two concerti for violin. Nikkanen, Dodson said, “is the finest musician I know.” Nikkanen is currently the concertmaster of the orchestra at Lincoln Center. He played with the New York Philharmonic while still in his teens, Dodson said.
“The first time I heard about him, the person I talked to said he was special,” Dodson said. “It’s not just that he plays well, but there is something in his soul like you’ve never heard before. It’s true. He is a great musician with a gentle soul who was made to do this.”
Dodson is honored to have Nikkanen play with the ASO and is very proud to be presenting this particular program.
“It’s really once-in-a-lifetime stuff,” Dodson said. “For the first half, Kurt will pick up his 400-year-old violin and play the Partita. It has multiple movements — short movements that derive their content from rhythmic characteristics that define the dance and the country from which each is derived. But the weight is in the last movement — a chaconne. It’s much longer — about 15 minutes. It fascinates musicians because it is so demanding for both the violinist and the listener. It traverses all of humanity in a quarter of an hour, using only one single voice. It challenges everything.”
One of the chief characteristics of the piece, Dodson said, is its harmonic structure.
“It’s a simple harmony that repeats over and over, but with different variations,” Dodson explained. “It is as if it were a DNA chain, a roller coaster of emotions. Bach is relentless in his demands. To play this well is no small achievement. The equivalent to hearing this is watching ‘Hamlet’ on the stage. It is enormous in content, yet only one person is playing. The chaconne is a soliloquy of the soul.”
For the second half — two concertos Bach wrote for violin — joining Nikkanen will be “our finest musicians, our principal players,” Dodson said.
“These are strong musicians and they are very excited about the concert,” he said. “It will be amazing. It should be unforgettable.”
For more information about the concert or to purchase tickets, call (517) 264-3121 or visit adriansymphony.org. Join Dodson in Holy Rosary Chapel in Adrian an hour before each show for his “Classical Conversation” about the concert and stay afterward for a complimentary artist’s reception.