Berkshire Bach Celebrates the Composer’s Early Life – Feb 17 Concert in Pittsfield, St. Stephens Church

The organ is music's most complex invention, and therefore called the "King" of instruments.

The organ is music’s most complex invention, and therefore called the “King” of instruments.

Pittsfield, MA: Young J. S. Bach was a firebrand – impetuous, brilliant, and uncompromising. He got in trouble with church authorities for playing “strange harmonies that confused the congregation.” Combining free works (toccatas and preludes and fugues) with chorale-based works, and those strange harmonies, as well as music that is by turns impassioned, light, monumental, virtuosic, and actually fun to listen to, this audacious program shows the brilliant promise of the young Bach, who wrote much of his organ music as a young man.

Much of the composer’s indelible output will be celebrated on Sunday, February 17 at 4pm at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Pittsfield, MA. Tickets are $25 for the general public. Call 413 528-9277 or visit for more info.

Peter Sykes, Organist

That’s when renowned organist Peter Sykes will perform a program taking us through Bach’s brilliant earlier works. His playing has variously been called “compelling and moving,” “magnificent and revelatory,” and “bold, imaginative, and amazingly accurate.”

He has appeared in recital for the American Guild of Organists, the Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society, the Organ Historical Society, American Institute of Organbuilders, International Society of Organbuilders, at the Library of Congress, Boston Early Music Festival, Aston Magna Festival, New England Bach Festival, Berkshire Bach Society, Portland Chamber Music Festival, New Hampshire Music Festival, and with Ensemble Project Ars Nova, The King’s Noyse, Musica Antiqua Köln, Blue Heron, and throughout the United States.

He is frequently heard on the nationally syndicated radio program “Pipedreams.”

In demand as a teacher and mentor of aspiring professional performers, he is Associate Professor of Music and Chair of the Historical Performance Department at Boston University. Since 1985 he has also served as Director of Music at First Church in Cambridge, Congregational. He is Chair of the Organ Library Committee of the Boston Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and has been adjudicator for competitions sponsored by the American Guild of Organists, the Royal Canadian College of Organists, and the Bach International Harpsichord Festival in Montreal as well as the Broadwood Harpsichord Competition in London and the Miami International Organ Competition. He is the newly appointed Director of the Baroque Academy of the Amherst Early Music Festival. A member of the board of the Cambridge Society for Early Music, he is a founding board member and current president of the Boston Clavichord Society.

Bach, The Program and the Composer

Bach at the organ.

Bach at the organ.

Bach’s earliest musical training was as a keyboard player, not as a composer. But by the time Bach turned forty in the year 1725 he was in his third year as Capellmeister of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, his last official post; he had already served as organist in Arnstadt (1703-07), Mühlhausen (1707-08), as court organist and Cammer Musicus in Weimar (1708-17) and as Cappelmeister in Cöthen (1717-23). By 1725 he had had ten children, of which two (twins) had died in infancy; he had been married for thirteen years to Maria Barbara Bach, who died in 1720, and four years to Anna Magdalena Bach. In 1725 his son Wilhelm Friedemann was fifteen years old, Carl Phillip Emmanuel eleven; another ten years would go by before the birth of Johann Christian.

This program is devoted to early organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach. For a preview of the program notes, Click Me.


Toccata in (C) Major, BWV 566
Allein Gott in die Höh sei Ehr’, BWV 717 – Manualiter
Allein Gott in die Höh sei Ehr’, BWV 711 – Bicinium
Allein Gott in die Höh sei Ehr’, BWV 715 – Organo Pleno
Pastorale in F Major, BWV 59o
Prelude and Fugue in g minor, BWV 535
Prelude and Fugue in d minor (“Fiddle”), BWV 539
Partita on O Gott, du frommer Gott, BWV 767
Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, BWV 730, 731
Passacaglia and Fugue in c minor, BWV 582

This concert is underwritten in part by the Berkshire Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

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