Concert Preview: Harpist Bridget Kibbey

This is going to be a treat, folks! Harpist Bridget Kibbey is THE world's most prominent harpist, credited with redefining the genre and bringing new life to this unique instrument. The New York Times praises Kibbey, writing "It seems as though Kibbey’s instrument had been waiting for all its life to explode with the gorgeous colors and energetic figures she was getting from it.” 


As our first-ever spotlight performance (featuring repertoire curated by our guest artist) Bridget brings us a truly unique evening of music by Johann Sebastian Bach. She has selected a series of Bach's greatest keyboard works, and rearranged them to suit the ensemble: harp, two violins, viola, and cello. 

The full list of repertoire is available on the concert listing:

This blog post delves into a few highlights from the evening, giving you a chance to get to know the music, as well as Bridget Kibbey:


Composed sometime between 1703 and 1707, the Toccata and Fugue is one of Bach's most widely recognizable works for organ. This piece, along with much of Bach's work, was revived in the mid- 19th century by composer Felix Mendelssohn. The Toccata and Fugue was re-introduced to the world by Mendelssohn at a raved about performance in 1840, and later in such cultural phenomena as Walt Disney's Fantasia (the 1940's film). Some modern scholars have argued that the work wasn't written by Bach, citing the work's characteristics date the composition some time after 1750 (Bach died in 1750), but reputable scholars throughout music history hadn't regarded this work as one they were doubtful as being composed by Bach. 


One of the most fascinating things about the music of Bach is the many arrangements and forms it appears in today. This piece, for instance, was composed for flute and clavier. Yet, at Emerald City Music it will be played by harp (Bridget Kibbey) and violin (Daniel Lee). The video above shows the same work played by harp (Bridget Kibbey) and mandolin (Avi Avital). 

Composed between 1730 and 1734, the authorship of this work, too, has been disputed. There is no surviving copy of this sonata written in Bach's hands (though, only one of Bach's flute sonatas survives today in his penning). With its soaring and ornamented melodies, this delightful three-movement work shows Bach embracing the emerging galant style of the mid-eighteenth century: more simply melodies and a clear distinction between soloist and accompaniment. 


Yet another instantly recognizable work by J.S. Bach, the Well Tempered Clavier is a collection of Preludes and Fugues in all major and minor keys, containing some of the legendary composer's most cherished pieces. Book 1 (composed in 1722) and Book 2 (composed in 1742) are credited as the first complete set of works in all keys. Bridget will perform a few selections from Book 1, including the Prelude in C Major (listen above). 

You may be asking, why is it called the "Well Tempered Clavier"? Good question. 

Until this point in musical history, there wasn't yet a universally established tuning system for "pure intervals", meaning that some keyboards would be tuned in a way that – to our modern ears – would sound out of tune. In 1650, the more popular tuning method was called "quarter-comma meantone", in which the fifths would be tuned closer together by a quarter tone, making the third in a chord stand out. Bach was an advocate for the "well tempered" tuning method, extending the possibilities of playing more exactly in all major and minor keys. 



This wonderful evening exploration into Bach's music also includes the Harpsichord Concerto in A Major (BWV 1055), the Sonata for Violin/Clavier in G Minor (BWV 1020), the Harpsichord Concerto in F Minor (BWV 1056) and more! 


Get to know harpist Bridget Kibbey in this feature from WXXI Public Radio:

Harpist Bridget Kibbey has won the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, the Classical Recording Foundation's Young Artist Award, Concert Artist Guild's International Competition, and Astral Artist Auditions. Her debut album, Love is Come Again, was named one of the Top Ten Releases by Time Out New York. She may also be heard on Deutsche Grammophon with Dawn Upshaw, on a recording of Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre and Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs. She most recently recorded an album for SONY Records with Placido Domingo, to be released this season. Her solo performances have been broadcast on NPR'sPerformance Today, on New York's WQXR, WNYC'sSoundcheck, WETA’s Front Row Washington, WRTI’s Crossover, and A&E's Breakfast with the Arts. Last season she spearheaded a five-orchestra world-premiere Harp Concerto Consortium, for which she performed a new harp concerto by Juno Award-winning Vivian Fung alongside standard harp concertos with the Alabama Symphony, Karlsruhe Badische Symphoniker, The Phillips Collection with the Phillips Camerata, and the Metropolis Ensemble. This season's appearances include the Savannah Music Festival, Bravo Vail, Bridgehampton, Bay Chamber, Saratoga, Portland Chamber, and the Pelotas festivals, along with multiple performances with Camerata Pacifica, the International Contemporary Ensemble, San José Chamber Orchestra, and solo recitals across the United States. She is an Artist of the Chamber Music Society and a former member of CMS Two.

The Sebastians are a dynamic and vital musical ensemble specializing in music of the baroque and classical eras. Lauded as “everywhere sharp-edged and engaging” (The New York Times), the Sebastians have also been praised for their “well-thought-out articulation and phrasing” (Early Music Review) and “elegant string playing… immaculate in tuning and balance” (Early Music Today). Winners of the Audience Prize at the 2012 Early Music America Baroque Performance Competition, the Sebastians were also finalists in the 2011 York International Early Music Competition and the 2011 Early Music America/Naxos Recording Competition. They have participated in the Carnegie Hall Professional Training Workshop with L’Arpeggiata, and have performed at Music Matters (LaGrua Center in Stonington, CT), Friends of Music at Pequot Library (Southport, CT), Juilliard in Aiken (Aiken, SC), in the Twelfth Night Festival and Concerts@One at Trinity Wall Street (New York, NY), and on the Early Music in Columbus series (Ohio).


March 17, 2017 (8:00 PM): 415 Westlake Ave, Seattle
March 18, 2017 (7:30 PM): Evergreen State College Recital Hall, Olympia

Tickets: $10 students... $28 (Olympia), $45 (Seattle, includes open bar).