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Music by J.S. Bach & D. Buxtehude

‘Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen’…

… No pen could describe the beauty of this aria. And this is true for much of Bach’s music, especially when death is the theme, as in the cantatas ‘Ich habe genug’ and ‘Vergnügte Ruh’. 

It is undeniable that death was an exceptionally inspiring subject for Bach. In his own life death was omnipresent. Bach is orphaned as a little boy, he loses his first wife at a young age (she is already buried when he comes home from a trip), and as many as nine of his children die before the age of ten. So much suffering – it is almost impossible to imagine. It is obvious that by putting texts like ‘Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod’ (BWV 82) or ‘Mir eekelt mehr zu leben’ (BWV 170) to music, Bach tried to deal with death, maybe even to be reconciled with it. This positive approach to death is all the more striking because Lutheranism, to which Bach is so closely related in many ways, considers death the greatest enemy of all, as the one thing Christ had to overcome. During the Baroque period, a time without antibiotics and without good hygiene, death was omnipresent; infant mortality was the rule rather than the exception. In a time of so much impotence against disease and suffering, was there perhaps more acceptance? In his chilling ‘Klaglied’ Buxtehude thanks his father for everything he has taught him and wishes him a gentle rest. In addition to the immense sadness that comes from the work, a certain meditative resignation may be felt too.

Maarten Engeltjes and Andreas Wolf met in 2009 when William Christie selected them both for his young talent program ‘Les Jardin des Voix’. Meanwhile, both have become successful and are much in demand as soloists and frequently meet on national and international stages. Besides their friendship, it is Bach’s music that binds them. Making a program around Bach together fulfills a desire they share. Perhaps one would not expect that two young singers and an even younger ensemble would choose death as their theme. Or does death also have other, less severe, frightening aspects? Perhaps dying is no more than a natural part of life and, in the case of a complete life, a noble thing – making room for a new generation to marvel at the beauty of life. And isn’t that exactly what Bach tries to tell us with his unprecedentedly beautiful and comforting melodies?

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PRJCT Amsterdam

PRJCT Amsterdam is a young baroque ensemble around countertenor Maarten Engeltjes, founded in 2017. The ensemble is formed by a solid core of outstanding, recently graduated baroque musicians with their own musical vision.
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Maarten Engeltjes
Maarten Engeltjes | counter tenor Maarten Engeltjes (1984) is one of the most sought-after counter tenors in the world. His repertoire includ
Andreas Wolf
Andreas Wolf | bas/baritone Andreas Wolf is a regular guest at major opera houses and orchestras with performances in the most prestigious co
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