March 26, 2023
BEnaroya Hall, SEattle

J.S. Bach Meets Caroline Shaw

Harpsichord concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach and the world premiere of a new piece for harpsichord and strings by Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw. With a string ensemble led by Rachell Ellen Wong, we also offer pieces from Henry Purcell & Damien Geter.

In her continued examination of folk songs, complex rhythms, and the juxtaposition of tune and pulse, Shaw’s music grows ever more mystic.

— Sheldon Pearce, The New Yorker


Caroline Shaw


Rachell Ellen Wong


Carmen Lavada Johnson-Pájaro


Andrew Gonzalez


Adaiha MacAdam-Somer


Ross Gilliland


Byron Schenkman



Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): 

Concerto in F Minor for harpsichord and strings (BWV 1056) 


Henry Purcell (1659-1695): 

Suite from “The Gordian Knot Untied”  

Rondeau Minuet

Damien Geter (b. 1980): 

Buh-roke for harpsichord and strings

Caroline Shaw (b.1982): 

World premiere of newly commissioned work for harpsichord and strings

Johann Sebastian Bach:

Concerto in A Major for harpsichord and strings (BWV 1055) 

Allegro ma non tanto 

“… a new generation of ambitious artists, Shaw among them, has helped break down the formerly rigid boundaries…

— Jonathan Gharraie,
The Atlantic


Notes on the Program

By Byron Schenkman

The term concerto, derived from the idea of coming together, was first used in the early 17th century to indicate vocal music in which a solo singer was joined by instrumentalists. By the end of that century it often referred to purely instrumental music featuring a small ensemble (concertino) juxtaposed with a larger ensemble (concerto grosso). Then in the 18th century it evolved into a type of work for one solo instrumentalist accompanied by a full orchestra. Johann Sebastian Bach’s concertos for harpsichord and strings are unusual in the history of the concerto. These are small ensemble works featuring the harpsichord in a solo role within the ensemble. Most of these harpsichord concertos were originally conceived with other instruments, either violin or oboe, in the solo role. Bach may have adapted them for the harpsichord to give his keyboard students the experience of playing the solo parts. We are juxtaposing two of these well-loved concertos by J.S. Bach with two 21st-century works inspired by them, Damien Geter’s Buh-roke and a newly commissioned work by Caroline Shaw. Both Geter and Shaw are brilliant professional singers and collaborative musicians, bringing us back to the vocal inspiration of the concerto form and the original idea of the concerto as a “coming together.” 

All of the composers on our program borrow from diverse types of music. Henry Purcell was equally influenced by Italian vocal music, French court dances, and folk music of the British Isles. Some of his melodies came from folk music while some of his original tunes later became part of the folk repertory. In 1689 Purcell published the popular song Lilliburlero as “A new Irish Tune” for harpsichord. Later he used that same tune as the bassline for a gigue in his incidental music to the play “The Gordian Knot Untied.”  

Damien Geter is a rising star among American composers who has been commissioned by The Washington Chorus, Washington National Opera, Opera Theater Oregon, the University of Michigan, All Classical Portland, and others. He has served as Artistic Advisor to the Resonance Ensemble and Portland Opera, and is also a Grammy Award-winning operatic bass. Geter’s Buh-roke mixes elements of Baroque music with various styles of music from the Black diaspora, resulting in a work which is grounded in the past yet entirely new and fresh.  

1211 E Denny Way, #179
Seattle, WA 98122-2516