Chicago Bach Week Festival Unveils 2018 Programming

​CSO cellist Katinka Kleijn to perform world premiere work commissioned by the artist for the Bach Week Festival 

Chicago Symphony Orchestra cellist Katinka Kleijn (photo courtesy of The Bach Week Festival).

The Bach Week Festival has announced its 45th annual program of concerts in Evanston April 27 and 29 and in Chicago May 4. The festival’s 2018 program features new twists on presenting music by the event’s namesake, German Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

“Each season, we go ‘Bach’ to the drawing board to keep the festival fresh while remaining true to our mission,” says Richard Webster, Bach Week’s long-time music director and conductor. Webster performed in and helped organize Evanston’s inaugural Bach Week in 1974 and has been music director since 1975.

The festival will host its first world premiere of a new work when Chicago Symphony Orchestra cellist Katinka Kleijn performs Marcos Balter’s Ensuite, a multi-movement work based on J.S. Bach’s Cello Suites. Kleijn, whom the New York Times calls “a player of formidable expressive gifts,” commissioned the piece for her Bach Week Candlelight Concert solo recital, scheduled for 10 p.m. on April 27. The work will include movements from various Bach Cello Suites and new movements composed by Balter in response to Bach’s music.

Pianist Sergei Babayan of the Cleveland Institute of Music will also return for another installment in his traversal of Bach’s complete single keyboard concertos. He’ll give an opening-night performance of the Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1052.

Evanston’s Robert Sullivan, professor of trumpet at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, will make his Bach Week Festival debut April 27 in Bach’s virtuosic cantata Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51. Soprano soloist will be Dutch-born singer Josefien Stoppelenburg of Wilmette.

Sullivan has served as principal trumpet of the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras, assistant principal trumpet of the Cleveland Orchestra, and associate principal trumpet of the New York Philharmonic. Since moving to the Chicago area, Sullivan frequently performs with the Chicago Symphony, the Lyric Opera Orchestra of Chicago, and the Chicago Philharmonic.

​Stoppelenburg, who made her Bach Week debut in 2017, performs with the Rembrandt Chamber Players, Boulder Bach Festival, Cincinnati Bach Ensemble, Peoria Bach Festival, and Camerata Amsterdam, among other collaborations.

Bookending the opening-night program will be a pair of distinctly different Brandenburg Concertos. The Third Concerto is scored for strings with harpsichord accompaniment, while the Fifth Concerto features major roles for flute, violin, and harpsichord.

​Pianist Babayan will perform a solo recital April 29 with a selection of Preludes and Fugues from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, BWV 846-869, and a pair of Mozart Piano Sonatas.

​In an unusual staging, Bach’s festive church cantata Gloria in excelsis Deo, BWV 191, which contains echoes of the Gloria from his monumental Mass in B Minor, will receive its first-ever Bach Week performance at the festival finale May 4 in Chicago. Between the first and second movements, where Bach’s score indicates a break for a sermon, concert-goers will hear violinist Desirée Ruhstrat, a founding member of the Grammy-nominated, North Shore-based Lincoln Trio, play Bach’s Partita in D Minor, BWV 1004.

Other works on the program include Georg Philipp Telemann’s Concerto in D Major for Three Trumpets, Two Oboes, Timpani, Strings and Basso Continuo, TWV 54:D3; J.S. Bach's organ Fugue in E-flat Major ("St. Anne"), BWV 552; and the choral tour-de-force, Bach’s motet Singet dem Herren, BWV 225, for double choir accompanied by cello, bass violin, and harpsichord.

​The 2018 festival is a partnership between the Bach Week Festival and North Park University’s School of Music, Art and Theatre.

Single-admission tickets to each of the three main concerts are $30 for adults, $20 seniors, $10 students. Subscriptions to the main concerts are $80 for adults, $50 for seniors, and $20 for students. All tickets for the April 27 Candlelight Concert are $20. Tickets can be purchased online at or by phone, (800) 838-3006. For general festival information, phone 847-269-9050 or email

​The 2018 Bach Week Festival is supported by The MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, and the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation.