Com­ing up in Philly Music: PCMS harps along with Bach

2 minute read
Bridget Kibbey will play the harp in the new all-Bach program from PCMS this week. (Photo by Roy Cox).
Bridget Kibbey will play the harp in the new all-Bach program from PCMS this week. (Photo by Roy Cox).

Like most Baroque composers, Bach did not restrict the instrumentation of his music strictly to the combinations specified in his scores. Instead, he advised musicians they could play his music on any combination of instruments they wanted to. In this spirit, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society's next livestream concert is a Bach program that features a combination no Baroque composer could have envisioned: the string quartet and the modern concert harp. The modern harp is essentially a 19th-century development, and the string quartet became a standard ensemble in the years that followed Bach’s death.

Harping as a companion

The harp is actually a good replacement for the Baroque harpsichord. They’re both plucked instruments, but the harp produces a bigger sound, making it a better companion for modern strings. The harpsichord concerto on the program could create a memorable interlude, with the harp adding a robust voice to the harpsichord part. Some of the other items on the program are normally played on keyboard instruments but many people like the way they sound when they’re played by diversified instrumental combinations. The different instruments add distinctive colors to the voices Bach weaves into complex patterns.

The musicians for the event come from the top of the roster. Harpist Bridget Kibbey is an adventurous musician who has been called the Yo-Yo Ma of the harp. The Dover Quartet has been a rising star for several years, with a resume that includes artist-in-residence stints at the Curtis Institute of Music and New York’s oldest concert series, the People’s Symphony Concerts. Anybody who likes Bach’s instrumental music should find their efforts worth a listen.

What, When, Where, and Accessibility:

The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society presents the Dover Quartet and Bridget Kibbey on Wednesday, January 13, at 6pm, livestreamed from the Benjamin Franklin Hall of the American Philosophical Society. The livestream can be viewed on the PCMS website and is pay-what-you-wish. The video may remain available for 72 hours after the performance, subject to the approval of the artists and PCMS.

Image Description: A woman poses by a harp in front of a marble-like muslin wall.

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