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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Saturday, February 20

Bach and Handel on a date?

Synopsis

In 1724, February 20th fell on a Sunday, and at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig “Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe,” or, in English: “Jesus gathered the twelve to Himself,” a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach was performed as part of the Sunday service.

Meanwhile, on February 20th in London that same year, audiences at the King’s Theater in the Haymarket heard the premiere of “Giulio Cesare in Egitto” or, “Julius Caesar in Egypt,” a new Italian opera by George Frideric Handel.

How interesting to find Bach in church and Handel in the theater, on the very same date—but NOT, is it turns out, on the same DAY.

In 1724, Bach’s Germany kept track of time under the Gregorian calendar, but in Handel’s England, the older Julian calendar was still used, and so Handel’s calendar would say February 20th was a Thursday, while Bach’s would say was it was a Sunday. It wasn’t until 1752 that England adopted the same calendar that Germany used–the Gregorian one we still use today.

In the 18th century, apparently, you didn’t need Albert Einstein to remind you that time is a very RELATIVE concept!

Music Played in Today's Program

J.S. Bach (1685 - 1750) Excerpt fr Cantata No. 22 Yo Yo Ma, cello; Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra; Ton Koopman, cond. Sony Classical 60680

George Frederic Handel (1685 - 1757) Excerpt, fr Giulio Cesare Barbara Schlick, soprano; Concerto Cologne;Rene Jacobs, cond. Harmonia Mundi 90.1458

Additional Information

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