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Bach meets Baker meets Indy

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David Baker - COURTESY OF INDIANA UNIVERSITY
  • Courtesy of Indiana University
  • David Baker
Bach Meets Baker is a free public program featuring music composed by Indiana University Distinguished Professor of Music David Baker and J.S. Bach. The performance will feature cellist Manuel Fischer-Dieskau, along with pianist Monika Herzig, bassist Jeremy Allen and drummer Joshua Roberts. Herzig and Fischer-Dieskau shared their thoughts about the program in an email interview with NUVO.

Dr. Monika Herzig is a Jazz Pianist and Composer and is a member of the Indiana University Arts Administration faculty.

NUVO: What prompted you to develop the September 27 program at Central Library?

Monika Herzig: Manuel Fischer-Dieskau invited me last October for a series of concerts in Germany presenting the album Singers of Songs and we did a concert in Cologne as part of the Sister City exchange between Indianapolis and Cologne with the Cologne bassist Andre Nendza who brought his students to Indianapolis the year before. Manuel completed an Artist Diploma at IU in the late 1980s studying with Janos Starker and he really wanted to come back and visit and of course see David Baker again and play the music for him.  Hence I worked out a way to get him here.

NUVO: What do you want the Sept. 27 audience to experience?

Herzig: The audience will hear the beauty of David Baker's Suite [for cello Nr.3 C-major] live; it's a piece that hasn't been performed enough.  Unfortunately David's compositions usually get a boost in February during Black History Month but are not part of the classical performance repertoire for the rest of the year. When I brought the recordings to him for the first time to get his approval he was so happy to hear the pieces and told us we did it exactly the way he had it in mind with the correct amount of jazz interpretation. I'm not sure he has heard this Suite performed live or at least not for a very long time so bringing Manuel and David together will be a very special meeting of culture, history and artistry.
J.S. Bach - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • J.S. Bach

The Indianapolis Sister City Committee is organizing the event and hence the event will exemplify the global nature of this music with David as a living legend from Indiana Avenue, Manuel as the Sister City exchange artist from Germany, me as the immigrant who combines both worlds, Jeremy Allen on bass as a colleague of David's, and Josh Roberts on drums who just graduated from IU and presents the next generation of talent and David's legacy. I think the audience will not only hear beautiful music, but also learn quite a bit about the special jazz history of Indiana, as I will narrate the selection during the program after David's introduction. The audience will witness some very touching moments.

Manuel Fischer-Dieskau is a world-renowned cellist and Professor for Cello and Chamber Music at the Hochschule für Musik Mainz / Johannes Gutenberg Universität and serves as the artistic director of the “Amici dell’Arte“ concert series in Wiesbaden

NUVO: What particularly draws you to David Baker’s compositions for cello?

Manuel Fischer-Dieskau: I just love them! When I heard the recording of Singers of Songs for the first time as an IU-student with Maestro Starker, I immediately went to the Bloomington Music store to buy the score. At that time I wasn't ready to perform these extremely demanding works, but I knew that I would play them one day - A dream was born!
Besides I took part as a guest-listener at some of Maestro Baker's Improvisation classes at that time - and how can one not love and admire this unique personality, which also inspired me a lot.

NUVO: What were the challenges in the process of re-imagining the works for the new album, Singers of Songs, from their original intent for Janos Starker?

Fischer-Dieskau: Unfortunately I was not in direct contact with Mr. Starker during the last years of his life, although he always was and still is very present in my daily musical life.

The idea of dedicating a complete CD to the music of David Baker is not new to me, but it needed many years for me to get ready for this challenge. You should know that all the cello works by David Baker are exceptionally difficult, technically spoken, since most of them where written for Janos Starker, one of the worlds greatest virtuosos of his time. Especially the sonata is one of the most demanding works I ever played, and my admiration of Maestro Starker's art of cello playing grew with every day that I spend preparing this work.


NUVO: What has been most joyful for the outcome? How has the audience in Germany embraced your introduction of David Baker’s music?

Fischer-Dieskau: For me, my CD Singers of Songs is like a gift to myself - it has been a dream for many years and I am so happy that I was finally able to realize it - with the help and support of all my instrumental colleagues and the CD label MDG.

The German public is always extremely surprised about the fact that no other cellist in Europe performs the wonderful music of David Baker. Almost all the people I spoke to were very impressed by Baker's unique musical language. Just like myself most of them loved especially the combination of sounds between the cello and the various percussion instruments in the Singers of Songs suite.

NUVO: What are you most looking forward to regarding the September 27 program?

Fischer-Dieskau: I am looking forward to share my love to the music of David Baker with all of you in Indiana. It will be a great joy for me to renew the wonderful experience of sharing the stage with jazz-musicians like my friend, the pianist Monika Herzig, enjoying together the timeless spirit of David Baker's art. 

And, of course, it will be such an honour and joy for me to come back to Indiana after all these years. I am very much looking forward to my Indiana visit. It will be my first comeback after almost 30 years.

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