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Classical Music - Passacaglia

In early 18th century Leipzig one of the pressing social problems was an addiction to coffee, available in a number of coffee houses, the most popular of which was Zimmerman’s. These coffee houses had become the cultural epicentre of city life, where philosophers and writers held forth. They were also the scene of the first chamber concerts played for the general public. Before that classical music had only been accessible in aristocratic settings or the church. Telemann, a great entrepreneur as well as a great musician, was quick to cash in on this new phenomenon, and a number of his pieces, as well as those of his contemporary Bach, were written for performance in Zimmerman’s.

As part of the Brighton Early Music Festival, the acclaimed Baroque ensemble Passacaglia are prming a concert in Pelham House tonight which is based around pieces written to be performed in coffee houses. “This will include some works by Telemann,” says the group’s flautist and spokeswoman Annabel Knight, “as well as some by Bach, and one by Marais, who performed in coffee houses in France.” “One of the pieces is particularly relevant,” she continues. “It is the much-loved satirical piece by Bach called ‘Coffee Cantata” which looks at the bad effects of coffee. Its original title is ‘Be Still, Stop Chattering.’” Another coffee-relevant piece to look forward to is Marais’s ‘Salle de Café’, written for the viola da gamba, a cross between a cello and a guitar. “The music describes the effect of coffee. It basically goes mad in the middle,” she says. AG

Bach in time: Passacaglia transport you to the Leipzig coffee
bars of the early eighteenth Century

Pelham House
When? Midday
How Much? £12
(t) 01273 833746