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Jillon Stoppels Dupree, All-Bach Recital

Jillon Stoppels Dupree, All-Bach Recital

: Photo by William Stickney.

This is Bach as you’ve never heard him before. Bach that will make you sigh… and snicker, too. Intimate; personal; expressive; even romantic.

Those are the terms Jillon Stoppels Dupree chooses to describe the music she’ll play in an all-Bach harpsichord recital at PONCHO Concert Hall on the Cornish College of the Arts campus on January 27th.

By Melinda Bargreen

“Forget your preconceived ideas about Bach as a cerebral composer. You might just be surprised at how moving, even how transformative, these pieces are,” says Dupree, a member of the early music faculty at Cornish College of the Arts. “I think the recital is also going to be a fun experience. For me, this repertoire is like coming home: it’s all music I love to play.”

Although Bach wrote music for both large and small forces, it is his keyboard works that many consider the closest to Bach’s heart. The harpsichord was a work tool and a beloved friend; every morning Bach tuned his harpsichord before playing it. Performers on the kind of double-manual (two-keyboard) harpsichord that Dupree will play—a contemporary copy of a 1624 Ruckers harpsichord from Colmar, Germany—can imagine their fingers moving over the keys just as Bach’s did on a similar instrument three centuries ago. Dupree calls the keyboard works “a window into Bach’s emotional life.”

She has been gazing through that window ever since she was a 15-year-old in Grand Rapids, Michigan, participating in a church music program that presented Bach’s St. Matthew Passion every spring. One year, the conductor thrust a tuning hammer into Dupree’s hands, pointed to a nearby harpsichord, and said: “Tune it – you’re going to play it this year.” And she did.

“I fell in love with the sound of the harpsichord,” she says, “and when I turned 16, my parents bought me one. I devoured Bach—every piece I could get my hands on.” She plans on recording the upcoming Cornish concert next May in San Francisco.

Dupree will introduce each of the selections on her January 27th recital. “I want to set the scene a little, with a few stories or anecdotes about why these pieces are significant. It will all be very personal and intimate.”

One of the pieces is a suite in six short movements called Capriccio on the Departure of a Dearly Beloved Brother, a youthful work composed farewell tribute to his brother Jacob as he went off to join the army. Each section of the Capriccio is given a subtitle explaining what’s going on in the music: friends try to dissuade the brother from leaving, pointing out the perils of the destination, lamenting his decision to depart (in weepy descending motifs), and then observing the arrival of the horse-drawn coach with its jaunty horn (in up-tempo octaves), and finally concluding in a bustling fugue on the post-boy’s horn. It’s utterly charming, never failing to draw appreciative chuckles from an audience.

Also on Dupree’s recital program: the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, a work Dupree calls “so improvisatory and imaginative,” and Bach’s “lush and beautiful” harpsichord transcription of his A-Minor Violin Sonata.

“We think of Bach as a religious, strict, conservative composer,” Dupree observes, “and he does reflect those traits, but he must have been an incredibly passionate man as well. After all, he had 20 children!”

Melinda Bargreen, a Washington State writer, critic, composer and teacher, was previously classical music critic for The Seattle Times for 31 years.

Jillon Stoppels Dupree performs at Cornish College of the Arts’ PONCHO Concert Hall on Sunday, January 27th at 7:00 pm. Tickets: $20 general; $15 seniors; $10 students and Cornish alumni.


PHOTO: Jillon Stoppels Dupree by William Stickney.


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