On this day in classical music: Johann Sebastian Bach died in Leipzig in 1750. More than a century after he was buried at St. John’s cemetery, his body was exhumed and reburied in St. Thomas Church where he has served as cantor. Although considered an accomplished organist, Bach didn’t receive his due as one of the baroque era’s great composers until the early 19th century. Felix Mendelssohn was largely responsible for reviving Bach’s music, begun in 1829 with a performance of the “St. Matthew Passion.” Two decades later, the Bach Gesellschaft was founded in an effort to promote his works. A comprehensive edition of Bach’s works was published in 1899. Bach’s compositional output is enormous and includes “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” numerous inventions and sinfonias, several dance suites, the “Goldberg Variations,” many sonatas, six solo cello suites, a wealth of cantatas, passions, masses and oratorios. Listen to a performance of the “Little Prelude in C Major, BWV 553.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fraT8PeozYM
On this day in the musical theatre: Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me, Kate” closed on Broadway in 1951 after a 2½ year run. While Porter produced a dozen musicals between “Anything Goes” in 1934 and “Kiss Me, Kate” in 1948, none approached the classic status of “Anything Goes.” “Kiss Me, Kate” is a musical based on Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” that focused on a troupe of actors whose conflicts on and off stage provided the show with much of its humor. Porter’s score was brilliant and made hits of “Wunderbar,” “So In Love,” “Were Thine That Special Face” and “Too Darn Hot.” “Kiss Me Kate” was the first musical to be awarded a Tony Award for Best Musical. It won four other awards, including one for Porter’s score. The original production starred Alfred Drake, Patricia Morison, Lisa Kirk and Harold Lang. “Kiss Me, Kate” has had two Broadway revivals, the first, a one-week disappointment in 1952 and a widely acclaimed production in 1999 that ran for more than two years. Listen to Howard Keel sing “Where Is the Life That Late I Led?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_ui18maOq0
Musical musings: The electric excitement that comes to the theatre when everything goes right was present last night with the arrival of “Kiss Me, Kate.” From the opening number it was obvious to everybody that the first-nighters were seeing a smash hit of epic proportions, and nothing occurred throughout the evening to let them down. “Kiss Me, Kate” is beautiful, tuneful, witty, gay, high-spirited, and delightfully sung, acted and danced. Again the American musical comedy proved itself the best in the world. – from Richard Watts Jr.’s opening night review in the New York Post.