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In 1725 Johann Sebastian Bach was two years into his post as kappelmeister in Leipzig and had been married to his second wife, Anna Magdalena, for four years. Anna Magdalena was the daughter of J C Wilcke, court and field trumpeter at Weissenfels, and a fine singer in her own right. She was of huge assistance to her husband, looking after his children (four had survived from his first marriage) and helping him copy out parts for performances.
Two collections of music survive in her hand designed for her private music-making. Much of the music is charming verse songs written by others and presumably used by Anna Magdalena for teaching and her own entertainment, but the notebooks also contain early workings of pieces by Johann Sebastien, later to be taken and created into great works in their own right.
This programme, based around the 1725 notebook of Anna Magdalena offers a charming view to the more domestic side of the Bach household. Kate and Steven will perform sequences of short songs and preludes interspersed with longer pieces including ‘Ich habe genug’ and ‘Schlummert Ein’ as well as solo harpsichord music from the French Suites.
Kate Semmens is a soloist with many leading groups and opera companies, and has sung with some of the UK's finest choirs with conductors including Sir John Elliot Gardiner, Paul McCreesh, John Butt and Eric Whitacre. Her opera performances have included Cupid (Venus and Adonis), Mycene (Isis), Suzanna (Le Nozze de Cherubino), and Mrs P (The Man who mistook his wife for a hat). Kate is a regular performer for New Chamber Opera, with whom performances include Galatea (Acis and Galatea), Second Woman (Dido and Aeneas), Orgando (Amadigi), Atalanta (Xerxes), Semira (Artaxerxes). She was the title role in Mozart's 'Il Re Pastore' and most recently played Asteria in Handel's 'Tamerlano'. She created the role of Euridice in Caldwells' The Story of Orpheus. Of her Ciro, in their production of Stradella's Il Trespolo Tutore, Opera Magazine wrote "the clarity and charm of Kate Semmens' soprano was dissarming".
Steven Devine enjoys a busy career as a music director and keyboard player working with some of the finest musicians. Since 2007 Steven has been the harpsichordist with London Baroque in addition to his position as Co-Principal keyboard player with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. He is also the principal keyboard player for The Gonzaga Band, Apollo and Pan, The Classical Opera Company and performs regularly with many other groups around Europe.
He has recorded over thirty discs with other artists and ensembles and made six solo recordings. His recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations (Chandos Records) has been received critical acclaim - including Gramophone magazine describing it as "among the best".
Kate and Steven have been giving day workshops for Early Music Fora across the country based on Restoration Music in the church and on the stage 'The secrets of our hearts' and also based around the music created for the Pleasure Gardens of London.
Their recording of the Notebooks of Anna Magdalena Bach is available from www.devinemusic.co.uk.