Johann Kuhnau’s clavier music is his glory, and he is the greatest figure among German composers for the clavier before Johann Sebastian Bach. He published four sets of keyboard pieces, including two sets called “Clavier-Übung.” His best-known work, the “Biblical Sonatas,” which describe in music, sometimes naively but with enterprising use of the harpsichord’s resources, the emotional states aroused by particular stories from the Bible. His death left the post at the Thomaskirche vacant and the town council of Leipzig invited musicians to audition for that coveted position. And this is where the serious reflection ends and the madcap story written by Itamar Moses comes alive on stage at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in the fabulous farce “Bach at Leipzig” begins.
Many of the top musicians of the day descend on Leipzig in pursuit of what would certainly be a huge career boost. What unfolds is a hilarious interplay of deception, betrayal, bribery and blackmail at a level that would make attendees at an Oscar after party blush. In 1722 Germany patronage from nobility or the church was pretty much the only way for musical artists to pursue their craft at the highest levels making the process of attaining a high appointment almost as bizarre as this year’s presidential race.
The laughter starts at curtain and sustains for nearly two joyous hours of great theatre. The set design is compelling so kudos to J. Keny Inasy. All performers were exquisite in their presentation so a big salute goes to Todd Andrew Ball [Graupner], Larry Eisenberg [Schott], Mikel Parraga-Wills [Steindorff], Lloyd Pedersen [Kaufmann], Steve Terrell [The Greatest Organist in Germany], Troy Whitaker [George Lenck} and Chris Winfield [Fasch].
The sometimes biting but always entertaining comedic thrusts and pares dominate this beautiful production but it does at one point in Act One seem to be just wee on the long side. It is also a complex piece for while the emphasis is clearly on farce and comedy it also does touch upon question of artistic advancement and religious influence along the way. All in all a most unique and very worthwhile production appearing now through May 1, 2016 at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood, California 91601. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Reservations and ticketing are available online at www.thegrouprep.com or by calling 818-763-5990. Younger children would probably not enjoy the show not because it is offensive because it is not; it is just a bit adult. With that said; go and enjoy.