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Akademie für Alte Musik

by Yung-hsiang Kao

Every year thousands of people visit Hokkaido’s largest city in the dead of winter for the Sapporo Snow Festival. Running from Feb. 5-11, the 61st edition offers good times even at night, when the snow and ice sculptures are lit up. Yet those lucky enough to be in Sapporo on Feb. 10 might do well to escape the cold and head to the Kitara concert hall for its World Orchestra Series to warm both body and soul.

No, it’s not winter-themed music or any old classical fare that awaits listeners’ defrosting ears. None other than Johann Sebastian Bach and none other than his six Brandenburg Concertos will be performed in their entirety by the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin. Founded in East Germany in 1982, the group plays Baroque music with historic instruments and is known as one of the best chamber orchestras in Europe. For their minitour of Japan, 20 members of the group, led by concertmaster Georg Kallweit, will give their artistic interpretation of Bach’s renowned grand concerto set, composed nearly 300 years ago.

Well-beloved by audiences and widely performed, each of the Brandenburg Concertos requires different instrumentation and highly skilled musicians, both of which the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin can provide. Whereas one concerto may showcase the harpsichord, another might give way to a trumpet and another allows the violas to take the lead. Despite the overarching flow and continuity of the pieces, music scholars say that Bach composed the sixth concerto first due to its relative simplicity, followed by the third, first, second, fourth and fifth. The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin will play the concertos in their numbered order.

Akademie für Alte Musik plays Bach’s complete Brandenburg Concertos on Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. at Sapporo Concert Hall Kitara (011-520-2000); Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at Toppan Hall in Tokyo (sold out) ; Feb. 13 at 3 p.m. at Hyogo Performing Arts Center (0798-68-0255); Feb. 14 at 3 p.m. at Atsugishi Bunkakaikan Recital Hall in Kanagawa Prefecture (046-224-9999). For more information, visit www.akamus.de