Chamber music to serve up Biber and Bach: Both well-done

The holidays are a time of great joy, good will, and frenetic activity. The pace can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. What better way to step back, reconnect with the spirit of the season, and re-center oneself than to attend a USCB Festival Series Concert? The Sunday, December 14 program features two works of ethereal beauty by Baroque composers Heinrich Biber and Johann Sebastian Bach.

Biber (pronounced “Bieber,” as in Justin Bieber — no relation) is represented by his Passacaglia for solo violin, from Mystery Sonatas, a set of pieces portraying the 15 Mysteries of the Rosary. Biber, the greatest violin virtuoso of the 17th century, pours the entire range of violin technique into the service of an ecstatic musical intent, with an outcome both dramatic and spiritual.

image007In 1741 J.S. Bach received a request for a set of keyboard variations from the Russian ambassador to the Dresden court, Count Kaiserling (pronounced “Keyserling,” as in Mayor Billy Keyserling — no relation). The count suffered from insomnia and wanted something “soothing and cheerful in character” to help calm his restless spirit.

Bach composed a set of 30 variations built on one of his earlier bass lines. Only two of his more than 1,000 works are sets of variations; he obviously intuited a great deal of potential in this bass line. With it he created a work that combines fervent emotion with intellectual brilliance and is more conducive to satisfying reflection than deep sleep.

To play sublime music requires technically secure, visionary players. Host and cellist Edward Arron is joined by two other Juilliard trained, internationally acclaimed artists: Violinist Colin Jacobson and violist Nicholas Cords. Both are touring members of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, founding members of the Brooklyn Rider string quartet, and soloists with orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Chicago Symphony.

Take some time for yourself this season. Unwind by listening to uninterrupted, awe-inspiring chamber music performed by artists of youthful vigor and masterful depth.

Additional information and tickets are available at www.uscb.edu/festivalseries or 843-208-8246, Monday through Friday. The USCB Center for the Arts on 801 Carteret Street opens at 4 p.m. on the day of the show, and the concert begins at 5 p.m., Sunday, December 14.

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