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21 April 2023
A baroque orchestra at the gateway to the world: this is how Elbipolis sees itself. It is no coincidence that the ensemble is named after the great Hanseatic port it calls home: Elbipolis – City on the Elbe. Hamburg.
The musicians of the orchestra – all specialists in baroque music – demonstrate their zeal for new musical discoveries in projects that reach beyond the boundaries of standard repertoire, and they have been rewarded with success and accolades from connoisseurs and enthusiasts. From guest appearances at the Kölner Philharmonie or on the North German Radio (NDR) programme “Das Alte Werk” to regular performances at the Handel Festivals in Halle and Göttingen, at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, or in the halls of the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Elbipolis is by now a well-established presence on German concert stages. The ensemble is also internationally sought-after: extensive concert tours across Europe have led Elbipolis to the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels and the West Cork Music Festival in Ireland, among others. At the invitation of the Goethe Institute, the orchestra has toured to Brazil and Southeast Asia. Passion for the musical history of one’s own region and a cosmopolitan worldview are not mutually exclusive. Both the identification of this Hamburg ensemble with the repertoire of its city as well as its openness to unconventional programmes have shaped its discography. Its debut CD Don Quichotte in Hamburg (2007), featuring music by Georg Philipp Telemann, Johann Mattheson, and Francesco Bartolomeo Conti, was warmly received by listeners and critics alike; subsequent productions
with similarly close ties to the ensemble’s home city include the CD Musik der Hamburger Pfeffersäcke (2008) and a recording of Johann Christian Schieferdecker’s Musicalischen Concerte (2011). In 2013, Elbipolis released Undercover Bach, an album of arrangements and original versions of orchestral suites and concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach. Its next CD, Sinfonies pour les soupers du Roy (2016), offered reconstructions of instrumental suites that had been composed by Michel-Richard Delalande (1657–1726) for the Sun King Louis XIV. These works have only survived to the present day in the form of a partition réduite, but Jörg Jacobi’s reconstruction of the missing parts has allowed modern listeners to hear this music for the first time in its full five-voice setting, as intended by the composer but only implicit in the reduced original score.
Alongside its work as a purely instrumental ensemble, Elbipolis performs in opera productions and choral projects with equal parts passion and dedication. The ensemble as a large orchestra has collaborated with Philipp Ahmann (NDR Choir) and the sopranos Nuria Rial and Deborah York, among others. Elbipolis takes a special interest in cultivating enthusiasm for early music in younger audiences. In 2008, the ensemble established the highly successful concert series “Baroque Lounge”, in which it collaborated with Brezel Göring (Stereo Total), Johannes Malfatti, Tim Exile, DJ Ipek, and other leading artists of the electronic music scene. For other ensembles and event organisers, this innovative format has come to serve as a model of how traditional concert formats can further evolve. In 2020, Elbipolis was awarded funding from the Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media (Neustart Kultur) for “Aus der Tiefe”, a Germany-wide concert series featuring cantatas by J. S. Bach. A new round of grants in 2022 enabled the realisation of the follow-up project “Mehr Bach!”, comprising a concert tour through northern Germany and the recording of the present disc.
Jürgen Gross studied violin and music pedagogy with Isabella Petrosjan in his hometown of Hamburg. His intense interest in the baroque violin led him to studies with Thomas Albert at the University of the Arts in Bremen and later to the Institute for Early Music in Trossingen.
In 1999, he founded the Elbipolis Barockorchester Hamburg, with which he performs extensively throughout Germany and beyond. In recent years, the ensemble has toured to Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, France, Czechia, Brazil, and southeast Asia.
Jürgen Groß is also regularly active as a coach and guest concertmaster for baroque and classical projects, for example at the Orchestra Academy of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival or at the University of Music in Nuremberg.
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and hundreds of cantatas. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth.
Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest in and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.
It can't be easy to have been a son of the great Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach was undoubtedly very strict, and if you'd have any composition ambitions, you would have to find a way to step out of the shadow of your father. Luckily, his sons had everything going for them considering their music. Whereas the traditional Baroque music of their father slowly went out of fashion, most of Bach's sons managed to follow the new trends of the early Classicism. In other words: relatively simple, melodic music which is not too heavy on the listener, yet still very passionate.
Carl Philipp Emanuel, Bach's fifth son, became the most outstanding among his siblings. Like each of Bach's sons, he received a solid education from his father, en Carl Philipp developed into a remarkably talented keyboardist. Moreover, he became a prolific composer and of all Bach's sons, he was able to came closest to the quality of his father's work, albeit in a completely different style.