John Eliot Gardiner Leads Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists in Monteverdi’s Vespers and L’Orfeo on Eight-Concert U.S. Tour (April 19–May 1)
John Eliot Gardiner first founded the Monteverdi Choir to sing Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610) – one of the crowning glories of the sacred choral repertoire – in a seminal 1964 performance that they recreated with the English Baroque Soloists last spring, 50 years later to the day, at King’s College, Cambridge. It scored five-star reviews in both the Financial Times and The Times of London, which observed: “This golden jubilee confirmed that at 70 [Gardiner] still towers over the scene.” Now, on the heels of these 50th-anniversary celebrations, it is again with the 1610 Vespers – and with concert performances of L’Orfeo, another of the Italian composer’s most enduring masterpieces – that the conductor and his forces come to the United States for an eight-concert, bicoastal tour. This launches in Chapel Hill, NC (April 19) and travels to Washington’s Kennedy Center (April 21), Costa Mesa, CA (April 24 & 25), San Francisco’s Davies Hall (April 27), and Princeton, NJ (April 29), before culminating with a pair of programs at New York’s Carnegie Hall (April 30 & May 1), the first of which will be broadcast “Live from Carnegie” by WQXR. The tour is a prelude to a major Monteverdi Trilogy project in 2017—the 450th anniversary of Claudio Monteverdi’s birth—that will feature Gardiner and his forces in staged performances of all three Monteverdi operas.
Last time the preeminent English conductor took the Monteverdi Choir to Carnegie Hall, in 2012, it was also to perform a pair of monumental works by a single master composer. At that time the composer was Beethoven; as the New York Times reported, Gardiner led his forces in a “flame-drawn rendition of the Ninth” and “a glowing performance of the Missa solemnis.”
This time their focus is on Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1743), the late-Renaissance Italian composer for whom the choir was named. Perhaps the most influential exponent of the newly emerging genre of opera, in L’Orfeo (1607), a retelling of the classical story of Orpheus and Eurydice, Monteverdi succeeded in creating the earliest surviving opera that is still regularly performed today. As Gardiner himself explains:
“With L’Orfeo, Monteverdi made the creative leap – from a play intended to be sung and not spoken throughout, to dramma per musica with the emotions generated and intensified by his music. … Monteverdi was mapping out a new musical terrain with a fresh vision of music, one that would dominate composition for the next 400 years.” (Guardian, UK)
Similarly, Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 was unprecedented in the grandeur of its scale and the opulence of its sound. By taking traditional Gregorian chant as the basis for most of its major movements, yet drawing on his expertise as a composer of opera and madrigals to produce the richest, most up-to-date sonorities, in the 1610 Vespers Monteverdi achieved an astonishing and revolutionary synthesis of old and new.
The winner of more Gramophone Awards than any other living artist, Gardiner has already made definitive recordings of both works with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists. Their 1987 Deutsche Grammophon set of L’Orfeo stars Anthony Rolfe Johnson and Anne Sofie von Otter, and their 2003 DG DVD release of the 1610 Vespers, recorded in Venice’s galleried St. Mark’s Basilica with Ann Monoyios, Michael Chance, and Bryn Terfel, earned a coveted rosette in the Penguin Guide, which declared: “The beauty and grandeur of the setting exactly match the glories of the music, superbly interpreted.”
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Besides the recreation of his historic first performance with the Monteverdi Choir, last season saw the publication of Gardiner’s first book, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, named one of the “Best of the Year” by the Economist and the Wall Street Journal, as well as the release of a limited edition boxed set of Bach’s complete cantatas, recorded live by Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir, and the English Baroque Soloists during their Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, which was hailed as “one of the most ambitious musical projects of all time” (Gramophone magazine). Bach’s music was also the vehicle for their sole U.S. appearance of the 50th anniversary season, which took place in Princeton, NJ. According to the New York Times,
“The performances were wonderful. Mr. Gardiner’s troops are always superbly drilled, and he has always favored vivid music making over doctrinaire or purist considerations. … Celebration is indeed the only word for performances on this level. … This concert was a privilege to attend.”
More information may be found at the choir’s website: www.monteverdi.co.uk, and high resolution photos are available here.
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The Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists would like to thank and acknowledge the following for their support of this tour: Dunard Fund USA; the Negaunee Foundation; William and Judith Scheide; Michael Cioffi & Monteverdi Tuscany; and the American Friends of the Monteverdi Choir & Orchestras, Inc.
John Eliot Gardiner, Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists
Monteverdi: Vespers of 1610; L’Orfeo
U.S. tour, April 19–May 1
April 19: Vespers, Chapel Hill, NC (Memorial Hall)
April 21: L’Orfeo, Washington, DC (Kennedy Center)
April 24: Vespers, Costa Mesa, CA (Segerstrom Hall)
April 25: L’Orfeo, Costa Mesa, CA (Segerstrom Hall)
April 27: L’Orfeo, San Francisco, CA (Davies Hall)
April 29: L’Orfeo, Princeton, NJ (Richardson Auditorium)
April 30: Vespers, New York, NY (Carnegie Hall; WQXR broadcast)
May 1: L’Orfeo, New York, NY (Carnegie Hall)
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© 21C Media Group, March 2015