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In this programme, BL!NDMAN presents a special performance of the four Choralpartiten by J.S. Bach (1685-1750). Of these little-known organ works, Eric Sleichim made a transcription for saxophone quartet.

It is usually assumed that Bach wrote these organ works at the age of barely 15 and that he later reworked them, which seems to be confirmed by their perfection. The chorale partita is a cycle of variations using a simple sequence of different ‘adventures’ around the same theme. In these works, however, it becomes clear with what great ingenuity Bach uses this ‘poor’ technique. By assigning a distinct identity to each of the variations, he creates the impression that each piece can still exist as a fully-fledged independent piece at any time despite its uniform atmosphere. As such, through its variations, each chorale partita demonstrates Bach’s inventiveness and innovative take on the German polyphonic tradition.

With its modern instrumentation, the BL!NDMAN saxophone quartet gives a new shape to this authentic style. The extraordinary sound spectrum of the saxophones equally evokes the austere sounds of certain baroque organs. The choice of performance of the Choral Partitas by wind instruments therefore rests on the source of all music: the breath.
In an idiosyncratic take on polyphony, BL!NDMAN hooks baroque scores to contemporary compositions that take a highly idiosyncratic approach to polyphony. These short works traverse the partitas and, together with BL!NDMAN’s visual approach, give a kaleidoscopic dimension to the musical subject matter.

Eric Sleichim: artistic direction, arrangements and electronics

BL!NDMAN [sax]
Pieter Pellens: soprano saxophone
Hendrik Pellens: alto saxophone
Piet Rebel: tenor saxophone
Sebastiaan Cooman: baritone saxophone

BL!NDMAN plays Bach is a BL!NDMAN-production in co-production with Happy New Ears, Vooruit and Ufafabrik Berlin (Artists in Residence programme).


Johann Sebastian Bach / Arr. Eric Sleichim
BWV 766: Christ, der du bist der helle Tag
BWV 770: Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen
BWV 767: O Gott, du frommer Gott
BWV 768: Sei gegrüßet, Jesu gütig

Contemporary compositions:
Louis Andriessen: Workers Union
Eric Sleichim: Storm at Low Tide
John Cage: Five
Steve Reich: New York Counterpoint


‘The way the Belgian BL!NDMAN quartet plays Johann Sebastian Bach’s music is as characteristic as it is original. Nothing of Bach’s texture is altered. Bach is simply performed in a new, different way, often with an unusual, fresh phrasing free of any historicism, and with great musical sensitivity.’ – Frankfurter Rundschau

‘More than 250 years ago sound and space were already being changed in a comparable way by J.S.Bach. To this extent the transcription for saxophone of choral variations for organ was legitimate. The exceptional aspect of this evening, which revolved round the theme of ‘Polyphonic Variations’, was the fact that the four Belgian musicians also played in exquisite tones and with perfect fingering.’ – Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

‘There have already been made a lot of transsriptions of Bach’s music, in different degrees of disrespectfulness. That it is in fact possible to arrange the music of the great composer in a way that is at the same time original and respectful, is now proved by BL!NDMAN… Classical music is in a way an unexpected choise from the man who treats his sax in such a different way that sometimes the sound of air and the keys is the music itself. But the result finally became a beautiful cd, which will appeal to a large public.’ – Hans-Maarten Post, Het Nieuwsblad

‘This cd is a relief in a time of numerous arrangements brought to us in this remembrance year of Bach. Instead of delivering us yet another version of the most famous Bach highlights, BL!NDMAN has chosen the little known partita’s for organ… The themes of the four partita’s are repeatedly presented by one of the solo saxophones, a moment at which nothing really announces the heavenly beauty which is to come: the four-part arrangement of the thomascantor, which, by the total harmony of the wind instruments sound as if played on organ. All that is required for the devotee of classical music, is an ear free of prejudices. For those who want to be convinced immediately: listen to the chorale ‘Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gutig’ and hear that it’s really, really good.’ – De Morgen/Metro, 28-06-2000


30 Apr
Sint Pauluskerk
Gent (BE)
29 Apr
Stadhuis (org. CC Het Perron)
Poperinge (BE)
04 Dec
De Meermin
Waasmunster (BE)
24 Sep
Sint-Bavokerk (org. Theater Vooruit)
Boechout (BE)
11 Jun
Church Bystřice nad Pernštejnem (org. Manažerka festivalu)
Brno (CZ)
20 Jul
Hilversum (NL)
12 Nov
Miryzaal Conservatorium
Gent (BE)
02 Oct
Bochum (DE)
27 Aug
Boussu-en-Fagne (BE)
01 Jul
Kasteel van Poeke
Aalter (BE)
21 Jun
Fort 4
Mortsel (BE)
01 Sep
Brussel - Bruxelles (BE)
15 Jul
Auditorio (Internat. Music Festival)
Espinho (PT)
09 Jul
Sint Laurentiuskerk (Museumnacht)
Ename (BE)
22 Apr
Zeeuwse concertzaal
Middelburg (BE)
21 Apr
Den Egger
Scherpenheuvel (BE)
24 Apr
Kapel Scholengroep St. Rembert (org. CC De Brouckère)
Torhout (BE)
01 Feb
Oudergem (BE)
25 Jan
Thurn & Taxis
Brussel (BE)
27 Nov
Edegem (BE)

15 Jun
13 Apr
Georgenkirche (org. Thüringer Bachwochen)
Eisenach (DE)
14 Feb
CC De Kleine Beer
Beernem (BE)
29 Dec
Frankfurt (DE)
23 Aug
Martinikerk (org. Frysk Festival)
Franeker (NL)
23 Aug
Museum Belvedère (org. Frysk Festival)
Heerenveen (NL)
24 May
Kerk van Imde
Imde (BE)
24 Feb
Stavanger (NO)
24 Feb
Stavanger (NO)
16 Dec
CC Genk
Genk (BE)
16 Nov
Sint-Rochus kerk
Blankenberge (BE)
05 Nov
Antwerpen (BE)
13 Oct
CC De Meent
Alsemberg (BE)
02 Sep
Thurn & Taxis
Brussel - Bruxelles (BE)
20 Jul
Jardins Artistiques et Musicaux St Julien
Saintes (FR)
29 Oct
Brussel - Bruxelles (BE)
26 Oct
Brugge (BE)
25 Oct
Antwerpen (BE)
22 Oct
CC Hasselt
Hasselt (BE)
25 Feb
Eindhoven (NL)
19 Feb
CC Casino
Koksijde (BE)
12 Dec
Amsterdam (NL)
19 Aug
MDR Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk
Volkenroda (DE)
05 Aug
Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore (org.Festival Philippe Herrewege)
Asciano (IT)
19 Feb
org. Int. Festival Sarajevo Winter
Sarajevo (BA)
28 Sep
Cité de la Musique
Paris (FR)
20 Sep
Sint-Pietersabdij (org. Bach-dag)
Gent (BE)
28 Mar
Musik in St.Michael
Waldkirch (DE)
25 Mar
Fundacion Carlos de Amberes
Madrid (ES)
20 Oct
Vrijthof (org Stiching Intro)
Maastricht (NL)
01 Oct
Elsene - Ixelles (BE)
18 Aug
Thorn (NL)
04 Jun
UC Kortenberg
Kortenberg (BE)
26 May
Sint Salvatorkerk (org. Brugge 2002, European cultural capital)
Brugge (BE)
14 Apr
Middelburg (NL)
08 Mar
CC De Schakel
Waregem (BE)
06 Mar
CC De Spil
Roeselare (BE)
13 Feb
Theater Romein
Leeuwarden (NL)
24 Dec
Frankfurt (DE)
21 Dec
Geel (BE)
08 Dec
Théâtre de la Balsamine
Schaarbeek - Schaerbeek (BE)
05 Dec
Brugge (BE)
30 Nov
Sint Vincentiuskerk
Evere (BE)
28 Nov
Gent (BE)
13 Nov
De Brakke Grond
Amsterdam (NL)
25 Oct
Hertoginnedal (org. BVB)
Brussel (BE)
12 Oct
Le Lieu Unique
Nantes (FR)
18 Jul
L'Abbaye aux Dames
Saintes (FR)
16 Jul
Saintes (FR)
11 Jul
Ancienne Belgique
Brussel - Bruxelles (BE)
08 Jul
Sint-Salvator Kathedraal (org. Opera De Dunis)
Brugge (BE)
06 Jul
Quadrum Festival
Aken (DE)
19 Jun
Helikon Opera
Moscow (RU)
16 May
Belgian Embassy / Belgium Watching
Tokyo (JP)
21 Feb
CC De Brouckère
Torhout (BE)
19 Feb
Antwerpen (BE)
18 Feb
CC De Scharpoord
Knokke (BE)
17 Feb
Brussel - Bruxelles (BE)
16 Feb
Mechelen (BE)
15 Feb
De Velinx
Tongeren (BE)
14 Feb
Leuven (BE)
13 Feb
Gent (BE)
10 Feb
CC De Werf
Aalst (BE)
20 Jan
CC Adelberg
Lommel (BE)
03 Dec
CC Luchtbal
Deurne (BE)
19 Aug
Bjørgvin Kirkemusikk
Bergen (NO)
13 Aug
org. Summer in The City
Frankfurt (DE)
25 Jun
Alden Biesen (org. Internat. Dag Oude Muziek)
Bilzen (BE)
22 Jun
Rito Gebouw
Leuven (BE)
31 May
Basiliek (org. CC Strombeek)
Grimbergen (BE)
06 Apr
Teatro Isauro Martínez
Torreón (MX)
04 Apr
Teatro de la Ciudad
Monterrey (MX)
01 Apr
Centro Nacional de las Artes
Mexico City (MX)
14 Jan
Budapest (HU)
13 Jan
Archa theatre
Prague (CZ)
27 Dec
Finistèrekerk (org. Fest. Europese Culturen)
Brussel- Bruxelles (BE)
21 Dec
St-Geertruikerk (org. STUK)
Leuven (BE)
20 Oct
CC De Werf
Aalst (BE)
02 Oct
Limelight (org. Happy New Ears)
Kortrijk (BE)
11 Sep
St Baafskathedraal (org. Festival van Vlaanderen)
Gent (BE)
10 Sep
de Bijloke (première)
Gent (BE)

The ‘Bachs’

BWV 766 – Christ, der du bist der helle Tag (11 min)
Adaptation for saxophone quartet by Eric Sleichim – Cantus Firmus (alto saxophone) + a selection of7 Partitas
This work dates from the period when the young musician was still a pupil at the Lyceum of Lüneburg. (between 1700 and 1703). BWV 766 is less complex than the 3 other Choral Partitas, but illustrates wonderfully how Bach gracefully highlights each variation with a different compositional technique each time.

BWV 770: Ach, was soll ich Sünder (13 min)
Adaptation for saxophone quartet by Eric Sleichim – Cantus Firmus (baritone sax) + a selection of 7 Partitas
Bach wrote these first Choral Partitas when he was only 15 years old. The melodic freshness already testifies to his genius.

BWV 767: O Gott, du frommer Gott (10 min)
Adaptation for saxophone quartet by Eric Sleichim – Cantus Firmus (tenor sax) + a selection of 6 Partitas
A musical poem about life, death and resurrection that illustrates the text of the hymn, as a sequence of miniatures.

BWV 768: Sei gegrüßet, Jesu gütig (11 min)
Adaptation for saxophone quartet by Eric Sleichim – Cantus Firmus (soprano saxophone) + a selection of 7 Partitas
Throughout his career, Johann Sebastian Bach reworked this score, the first version of which he wrote when he was 25. Here, the great master’s polyphonic skill once again leads to a great mystical moment known as one of the emotional highlights of Bach’s work.