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27th Bach & Beyond Festival set for this weekend

The Bach & Beyond Baroque Music Festival celebrates its 27th year when it returns to the 1891 Fredonia Opera House Performing Arts Center Friday to Sunday. Under Festival Director Grant Cooper, this year’s series of three concerts features a central theme of contrast and comparison, as well as offers three world premiere performances, and showcases an emerging artist.

While the music of Johann Sebastian Bach is the foundation of the Festival, performances also often feature music by other familiar Baroque composers such as Vivaldi, Handel and Telemann, for example. The “Beyond” in the Festival’s name refers to the inclusion of works of other lesser-known (and some present-day) composers who are artistically linked to the more familiar Baroque superstars.

This year’s Festival features an exciting program theme of contrast and comparison. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonio Salieri and Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges … who was the superior composer? Through representative symphonies, the Bach musicians will present and explore these three contemporaries and examine their musical prowess.

This year’s Festival also will feature three world premiere performances. Two new works composed by Festival Director Grant Cooper, Impossible Burger and Vergessenheit, will be performed at the Friday and Sunday concerts. Saturday’s concert will include Serenata in Stile Antico, a composition by renowned composer Byron Adams for orchestra and oboe that features the Festival’s founding oboist, Cheryl Bishkoff. Bishkoff and Cooper are the only musicians who have participated in all 26 festivals to date.

Continuing a practice started in 2022, the ensemble of Bach Musicians will be joined by a featured emerging artist on the cusp of a performance career. Cellist Alexander Davis-Pegis will perform Vivaldi’s Concerto for Violoncello on Saturday, and Cooper’s Vergessenheit on Sunday.

Originally from Plano Texas, Davis-Pegis began undergraduate studies at the Eastman School of Music before transferring to and graduating from the University of North Texas. During summers, he has attended the Chautauqua Music Festival, Sound Encounters, Lonestar Young Artist Program, Heartland Chamber Music, and Colorado College Music Festivals. As a soloist, he has appeared with the Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Plano Symphony Orchestra, performing works by Shostakovich, Dvorák and Tchaikovsky. He was featured in the Basically Beethoven Festival’s Rising Star Recital, and has played in masterclasses for musicians such as Tanya Carey, Merry Peckham, Ralph Kirschbaum, and Astrid Schween. An avid chamber musician, Davis-Pegis is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at the New England Conservatory in the studio of Yee Sun Kim.

Opera House Executive Director Rick Davis has previously noted that various factors, financial and logistical, have contributed to this very likely being the final year of the Festival. “But, we’re very excited about what this year’s Festival offers and plan to conclude with a great hurrah!”

The Festival’s concerts are scheduled for Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Complete concert programs are listed on the Opera House web site at www.fredopera.org. Tickets are $20 reserved seating for each concert; student tickets are $10. A subscription to all three concerts is available for $51. Tickets may be purchased in person at the Opera House Box Office or by phone at 716-679-1891, Tuesday-Friday, 12-4:30 p.m. They also may be purchased anytime online at www.fredopera.org.

The Bach & Beyond Festival is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. Founding Festival Benefactors are Jim and (the late) Carol Boltz. Festival Sponsors are Minda Rae Amiran and Gerda and Tom Morrissey. Concert Sponsors are Evans & Evans Law Offices, Anne Patterson and Martin Shaffer, and Cindy and Barbara Yochym.

The 1891 Fredonia Opera House Performing Arts Center is a member-supported not-for-profit performing arts center with a mission to “present the performing arts for the benefit of our community and region … providing access to artistic diversity … and high quality programming at an affordable price.” It is located in Village Hall in downtown Fredonia. For a complete schedule of events, visit www.fredopera.org.

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