The Japan Bach Collegium has become perhaps the finest Japanese period-instrument ensemble from the late-twentieth and early-twenty first centuries.
Consisting of a chamber orchestra of 20 or so members and a choir of about 25, the ensemble has devoted itself largely to the cantatas and other choral works of J.S. Bach and to those of various Baroque-era composers such as Handel, Schütz, and Buxtehude. The group occasionally pares down its forces for instrumental works, such as the Brandenburg Concertos. The Japan Bach Collegium regularly appears in concert at home, as well as at major international locales. It has made over 40 recordings for BIS Records.
The Japan Bach Collegium was founded in 1990 by its music director Masaaki Suzuki. Over the years the ensemble has performed its regular concerts at two locations: Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall and the Kobe Shoin Women's University Chapel.
Beginning in 1995 the JBC began a massive project for the BIS label -- recording all the Church cantatas of J.S. Bach. By January 2007, it had completed 33 CDs containing well over 100 cantatas. Intermixed with these releases have been albums of other Bach works, including secular cantatas and violin concertos, as well as CDs devoted to Handel (Messiah), Buxtehude (Membra Jesu Nostri), and many others.
The JBC initiated its first international tours in 2000 with appearances in Israel, Spain, and Australia. The following year included a highly successful tour of Italy (Rome, Milan, and Florence), and in 2003 it debuted in the United States, giving concerts in six cities, including New York (Carnegie Hall), Boston, and Los Angeles. Music director Masaaki Suzuki has performed at the keyboard in many concerts and recordings, typically on the harpsichord or organ, two instruments on which he had developed virtuosic skills. It should be noted that Suzuki, apart from his work with the JBC, has forged a highly successful career as a recitalist and soloist with other ensembles and as a recording artist.
Concert activity of note by the JBC has included a return tour of the United States in March 2006 and appearances in May that same year in London, Amsterdam, and Madrid. In 2011, following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the ensemble and presenting organizations donated proceeds from its US tour concerts to relief efforts. Among the JBC's recordings is the 2009 BIS set of Bach Brandenburg Concertos and Orchestral Suites. Admirers continue to be astonished at the pace of the Bach cantata series, with four or five volumes appearing each year between 2006 and 2010!