While most musicians would be intimidated by preparing a performance of just one of Bach's notoriously difficult motets, Daniel Abraham recently chose to tackle all seven.
Last March at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Performing Arts Center, the codirector of AU's Department of Performing Arts prepared and conducted a performance of the complete Bach Motets given by Bach Sinfonia, a D.C.-area orchestral organization for which he is conductor and cofounder.
Each piece involves an intricate combination of multiple sonic components, including various woodwinds and strings, an organ, and two independents four part choirs. "These works were never intended to be performed as a single unit," Abraham says. "For all of us as performers they became even more demanding as a cycle of works."
The group is currently recording the motets, with the CD due in 2011.
Taking on classical masterworks is a regular undertaking for Abraham, who specializes in historically informed performance, a melding of scholarly research and creative expression. Abraham's sabbatical this semester has been essential to advancing many of his projects, which often take years to bring to completion. The motets are just one of them.
Frequently, his projects involve discovering and editing lesser-known classical works. In the end his true goal is to create a more dimensional and holistic view of music during the classical time period.
"There's a public perception that we know all the masterworks and I don't feel that's correct," Abraham says. "We have barely scratched the surface of what is music history. Not only do we discover new competent—as well as exceptional works—fairly regularly, but occasionally even unknown works by the most profound geniuses surface."