The 77th Whittier College Bach Festival will conclude on Sunday evening, April 6, at 8:00 with a solo harpsichord recital by alumnus Raymond Erickson, '63, a protégé of Margaretha Lohmann, the founder of the Whittier College Music Department and its Bach Festival (The Festival one of the oldest among nearly forty in the United States). The event is open to the public and is free.
Although Erickson performed in the Bach Festivals of 1960-63 during his undergraduate years at the College on the piano, on this occasion he is giving the first solo harpsichord recital ever presented at the College, with the theme of “Bach and his Contemporaries.” In addition to works by Bach, François Couperin (“The Great”), Jean-Philippe Rameau, and Domenico Scarlatti, Erickson will also incorporate the lost 18th-century tradition of improvisation into the program, a regular feature for many years of his concerts on both piano and harpsichord.
Although born in Minneapolis of Chicagoan parents, Erickson's family moved to Whittier when he was ten, and he attended St. Mary's School and Cantwell High School before coming Whittier on a major national scholarship. While an undergraduate he gave several solo recitals (including the first concert in the Whittier College Chapel), performed the Schumann Piano Concerto with the Whittier College-Community Orchestra (a critic characterizing him as “a performer of power and musical perception), and participated in the Bach Festivals. Graduating with High Honors, elected to Omicron Delta Kappa, and named “Man of the Year by the Associated Men's Association of the College, he then went to Yale to pursue the Ph.D. in musicology.
While at Yale, Erickson was accepted by the famous harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick as one of a handful of private students; further private studies with pianist Nadia Reisenberg and harpsichordist Albert Fuller, both Juilliard faculty, followed upon his move to New York, where in 1971 he joined the faculty of Queens College of the City University of New York. There he subsequently became the founding Director of the Aaron Copland School of Music there as well as the College's Dean of Arts and Humanities before retiring in 2008. In 1975 he was elected to the faculty of the new Doctoral Program in Music at the City University's new Graduate Center, and ever since he has taught part-time there; he also has taught at Rutgers University and The Juilliard School, and directs a summer workshop at Queens College, “Rethinking Bach,” that has also been invited to Japan in 2014.
Erickson has led a two-pronged career as scholar and performer. Author or editor of four books—one of which, The Worlds of Johann Sebastian Bach (2009), is dedicated to the memory of Margaretha Lohmann—he is an internationally recognized Bach scholar, but also a popular pre-concert lecturer for Lincoln Center and other New York musical organizations. His research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
As a performer, he has appeared in thirty of the continental United States, Italy, Germany, and Austria, and in 2014 will make his debut in China and Japan. He was soloist in the New York first period-instrument performance of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 (New York Times: “brilliantly played”) and was a participant in the first American recording of the complete Brandenburg Concertos on period instruments. The German press has hailed his improvised piano preluding as “genius in the manner of Clara Schumann,” the great nineteenth-century pianist famous for her improvisations.
Erickson's honors include the Endowed Chair in Music at the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa), Honorary Membership in Phi Beta Kappa, the William H. Scheide Research Award of the American Bach Society, and decoration by the German government with the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit.
The composers represented on the April 6th program were all contemporary with J.S. Bach, although each has a uniquely distinctive style. Bach respected and communicated with Couperin, harpsichordist to Louis XIV and arguably the greatest French composer for harpsichord, but certain virtuoso techniques Bach occasionally employed may owe more to either Scarlatti or Rameau, both of whom were given to flamboyance and keyboard pyrotechnics in their music.
Raymond Erickson, harpsichord
"Bach and His Contemporaries"
Whittier College Memorial Chapel Sunday, April 6, 8:00
J.S. Bach (1685-1750) Toccata in F-sharp Minor, BWV 910
Improvisation Prélude non mesuré in B minor
François Couperin (1688-1733) From the Eighth Ordre (1722), in B minor
Allemande: "La Raphaéle”
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) Les tendres plaintes
Gavotte et doubles
J.S. Bach Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 894
Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) Four Sonatas
F minor, K. 466
F major, K. 107
D major, K. 119
D minor, K. 517