(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – The Berkshire Bach Ensemble continues its tradition of over two decades on Saturday, December 31, 2011, by performing all six Brandenburg Concerti of Johann Sebastian Bach, directed by harpsichordist Kenneth Cooper, at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center at 6 p.m.
Bach’s colorful Brandenburg Concerti have been the stars of the Baroque Music scene since they were composed around 1718, revived in the 1950s and enjoyed for decades. Even though the six Brandenburg Concerti are a Berkshire tradition, there are always some new twists and surprises. Among the guest artists this year are oboists Gerard Reuter and Keve Wilson, cellist Kathe Jarka, violist Todd Low and violinist Wu Jie. They will join eighteen other distinguished virtuosi headed by concertmaster Eugene Drucker.
Meg Owens will be oboe soloist in Concerto 1, violinist Patrick Wood will join Kenneth Cooper and Alison Hale in Concerto 5, and Marjorie Bagley will pair with violist Irena Momchilova in Concerto 6.
Harpsichordist, pianist, musicologist and conductor Kenneth Cooper is one of the world’s leading specialists in the music of the 18th century and one of America’s most exciting and versatile performers. Renowned for his improvisations and his expertise in ornamentation, long-lost 18th century arts, he has revived countless works, lending them extraordinary authenticity as well as great vitality. The possessor of a PhD in Musicology from Columbia University, Cooper is on the faculty there as well as at the Manhattan School of Music, where he is Chair of the Harpsichord Department and Director of the Baroque Aria Ensemble.
As Music Director of the Berkshire Bach Ensemble since its inception, Cooper has made a tradition of the New Year’s performances of the Bach Brandenburg Concerti and has instituted a series of Concerto concerts which have featured such superlative artists as Joseph Silverstein, Eugene Drucker, and Ani and Ida Kavafian. He is heard regularly at the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, Music@Menlo and with the Sherman Chamber Ensemble and the Little Orchestra Society’s Vivaldi Festivals at Alice Tully Hall. Cooper has toured widely, having appeared recently at the Yellow Barn Chamber Music Festival, at Chamber Music Northwest and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
Over the past decades, Kenneth Cooper has made almost a hundred recordings, among them Bach’s Gamba-Harpsichord Sonatas (CBS, with Yo Yo Ma), the complete Bach Sonatas for Flute and Fortepiano (Bridge Records, with Susan Rotholz) and the Bach Brandenburg Concerti and Goldberg Variations (Berkshire Bach Society); his spectacular versions of ragtime and other American delights may be heard on Silks and Rags (EMI) and Should Auld Acquaintance be Forgot (Musical Heritage Society). He is heard also on Mother Goose and More (UNIFEM/Classic Raps) and on the documentary Van Gogh Revisited.
Cooper’s most recent releases include the Bach Six Sonatas for Violin and Fortepiano with Ani Kavafian (Helicon-Kleos), the Artist Series from Music@Menlo (with Colin Carr and Carol Wincenc), and the CMS December 2006 Baroque Program on itunes DG Concerts. Recently, International Music Company has issued Kenneth Cooper’s award-winning editions of Bach’s Two and Three Part Inventions, his piano transcription of the Adagio and Scherzo from Schubert’s String Quintet in C and his reconstruction of Beethoven’s 1793 cadenza to his Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat.
Violinist Eugene Drucker, a founding member of the Emerson String Quartet, has also been active as a solo artist. He has appeared with the orchestras of Montreal, Brussels, Antwerp, Liege, Austin, Hartford, Richmond, Toledo and the Rhineland-Palatinate, as well as the American Symphony Orchestra, The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and the Aspen Chamber Symphony.
A graduate of Columbia University and the Juilliard School, where he studied with Oscar Shumsky, Mr Drucker was concertmaster of the Juilliard Orchestra, with which he appeared as soloist several times. He made his New York debut as a Concert Artists Guild winner in the fall of 1976, after having won prizes at the Montreal Competition and the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels.
Drucker has recorded the complete unaccompanied works of Bach, recently reissued by Parnassus Records, and the complete sonatas and duos of Bartok, for Biddulph Recordings. In the fall of 2002, he began a teaching affiliation with his Emerson colleagues at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Drucker has been a member of the Emerson String Quartet for almost 30 years. The quartet plays at least 100 concerts per year all over the world. They have won nine Grammy awards (including two for Best Classical Album), and the Avery Fisher Prize. As member of the ESQ, he has received 4 honorary doctorates: from Middlebury College, the College of Wooster, Bard College and the University of Hartford.
Drucker’s novel, The Savior, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2007 and has recently appeared in a German translation called Wintersonate, published by Osburg Verlag in Berlin. Drucker’s compositional debut, a setting of four sonnets by Shakespeare, was premiered by baritone Andrew Nolen and the Escher String Quartet at Stony Brook in 2008; the songs have appeared as part of a 2-CD release called Stony Brook Soundings, issued by Bridge Recordings in the spring of 2010.
Drucker is a frequent guest soloist and concertmaster with the Berkshire Bach Ensemble. He lives in New York with his wife, cellist Roberta Cooper, and their son Julian.