Bach: Music and Legacy



On Sunday, November 19, the lofty, lean figure of cellist Florent Renard-Payen commanded the attention of a captivated audience at the Colgate University Memorial Chapel during his concert, Bach and Beyond.

The show featured inventive works by Johann Sebastian Bach and modern day symphonist David Liptak along with works by other composers. The pieces ranged from classical to contemporary. The music offered a variety of sounds and tonal variations both delicate and agreeable to the ear.

“The idea behind Bach and Beyond came from my devotion to the performance of new music,” writes Renard-Payen in his program. “By presenting these recent works on a program juxtaposed with the Preludes of Bach Suites, I hoped to create a beautiful musical introduction or interlude to set the tone for each piece.”

Renard-Payen was born in Paris and grew up among a family of professional musicians. Both his parents were harpists, and they encouraged him to pursue his passion for the cello. He studied in France and in 1988 was the top prizewinner at the U.F.A.M International Cello Competition.

Renard-Payen moved to America when he was twenty for graduate school, eventually earning his Master’s degree and the Pi Kappa Lambda award for musical achievement from Boston University in 1996. In 2004 he was named a Doctor of Musical Arts in ‘Cello Performance from the Eastman School of Music. Since 1999, Renard-Payen has taught cello and chamber music at Colgate University and Hamilton College.

As is evident from the diversity of contemporary symphonists in his program, Renard-Payen has spent much of his career performing recently-composed pieces. He is the founder of the Tarab Cello Ensemble, a group devoted to maintaining a contemporary range of music in its performances. He is also a member of Open Gate, a new chamber group also looking to play a range of newer music alongside the classics.

Many members from the surrounding Hamilton community came to listen as Renard-Payen filled the Chapel with the poignant melodies of Bach, Liptak, Coleman, Mertl, Trueman and Travers.

Beginning the show with Bach’s Suite No. 5 in C Minor, and again opening after intermission with Suite No. 2 in D Minor, Payen paid homage to the composer he so obviously admires.

“The cello world is very fortunate to have the Six Suites by Johann Sebastian Bach,” writes Renard-Payen. “It is quite amazing to think that at one time these pieces were not performed in a concert setting.”

In the final piece before the intermission, he performed Recitative on an Absent Sky, a dramatic monologue for solo cello composed by Gregory Mertl. In the pamphlet he tells the audience that Recitative “was written for, and is dedicated with affection to Florent Renard-Payen.”

In his notes to the audience, Renard-Payen explains how he arrived at the arrangement for Bach and Beyond: “The analogy of this musical journey was perhaps inspired by my observations on many occasions at the Glass Pyramid and the historical Louvre Museum during my late night walks in Paris.”

Upcoming musical events this semester include Blues and Coltrane in the Palace Theatre on November 29 and 30, December Lights performed by the Colgate Chamber Players on December 3, Hear it. See it. Live it. : An exploration of art through music performed by the Colgate Wind Ensemble on Decmeber 5, and Luncheon Musicale performed by student musicians over lunch on December 7.