John Eliot Gardiner, Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists Make Princeton Debut in Only U.S. Appearance of Choir’s 50th Anniversary Season (Sunday, June 15)
On Sunday, June 15, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir, and the English Baroque Soloists make their Princeton debut with a performance at Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University that marks their only U.S. engagement of the season. To celebrate the choir’s 50th anniversary, their program comprises a trio of Baroque sacred choral masterpieces: Bach’s cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden and motet for double choir Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, and Handel’s early psalm setting Dixit Dominus. The concert is presented in joint partnership between Princeton University Art Museum and philanthropists William and Judith Scheide. William Scheide is the centenarian Bach scholar who currently owns Elias Haussmann’s famous 1748 Bach portrait. The painting formerly hung in the Gardiner family home, as the conductor so eloquently recounts in Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven; published by Knopf this past fall, Gardiner’s biography was named a 2013 Book of the Year by both The Economist and the Wall Street Journal.
Highlighting a tour that also includes stops in London, Aldeburgh, Paris, Versailles, Strasbourg, Santander, San Sebastian, Pisa, Cologne, Vienna, and Salzburg, the upcoming U.S. appearance is timed to coincide with the Monteverdi Choir’s release of Vigilate! on their own label, Soli Deo Gloria (SDG). Bringing together the polyphonic mastery of Byrd, Tallis, Morley, Philips, White and Tomkins – composers who were all recusants, or undercover Catholics, in post-Reformation England – the album is due for digital release on May 27 and will be available on CD from July 8.
Highlights of an historic season
These events crown an historic season for Gardiner and his ensembles. Besides the publication of Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven (see excerpts from reviews below), 2013-14 saw the launch of the Monteverdi Choir’s 50th anniversary celebrations with a gala concert and dinner at Buckingham Palace, hosted by the Prince of Wales. It was Gardiner, who describes their past half-century together as “a tremendous collective adventure,” who founded the choir in order to sing Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers in a seminal 1964 performance that they recreated together this spring – 50 years later to the day – at King’s College, Cambridge. The concert scored five-star reviews in both the Financial Times and The Times of London, which observed:
“Gardiner’s 1964 performance was a double revelation: of Monteverdi’s genius, forgotten for centuries, and the nascent talent of the ambitious student who would go on to shape our entire understanding of Baroque music. This golden jubilee confirmed that at 70 he still towers over the scene.”
The season also brought two major releases on the SDG label. Beethoven’s monumental Missa solemnis was, under Gardiner’s leadership, “performed to perfection and brought into new, terrifying life” (The Times, UK) by the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. Likewise Bach’s complete cantatas – recorded live by Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir, and the English Baroque Soloists during their Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, hailed as “one of the most ambitious musical projects of all time” (Gramophone magazine) – were issued together for the first time as a limited edited boxed set. Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir received Gramophone’s 2013 Baroque Vocal Classical Music Award for their SDG recording of Bach motets, and the conductor remains the musician to have received the most Gramophone Awards to date.
Equally renowned for his scholarship, Gardiner began his tenure as President of the Leipzig Bach-Archiv Foundation in January.
Looking ahead: Carnegie Hall in 2015
Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir, and the English Baroque Soloists look forward to returning to the States next spring for a tour that will include two appearances at Carnegie Hall, where they reprise their signature take on Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers (April 30, 2015) and give a concert performance of his groundbreaking opera L’Orfeo (May 1, 2015). As the UK’s Guardian recently noted, Gardiner continues “to shock and awe, agitate and enlighten, entertain and energize audiences and performers all over the world.”
Acclaim for Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven by John Eliot Gardiner (Knopf, 2013)
“It is hard to imagine what the English maestro John Eliot Gardiner … might do to surpass Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven in its commitment, scope and comprehensiveness. … [He] has done a masterly, monumental job of taking the measure of Bach the man and the musician.”
– New York Times
“With Bach we seek the elusive man hiding, perhaps, under the dense, spectacular music. … As eloquent a writer as he is a musician, Gardiner brings to his study the invaluable perspective of the practitioner. … One of the stars of the revolution over the past 50 years that has brought period instruments into the mainstream of early-music performance, … [Gardiner’s] depth of knowledge permeates his writing.”
– New York Times Book Review
“Mr. Gardiner writes in the refreshing voice of a man who has studied and performed Bach’s music for decades. … Like his conducting, the author’s writing is lively, argumentative and passionate. He believes deeply in Bach’s music and wants to understand each aspect of its construction. … Bach’s music is one of mankind’s greatest achievements, and his genius touches upon matters eternal and profound. His choral music is less well-known than it should be – especially the cantatas, which Gardiner lauds as ‘gripping musical works of exceptional worth.’ Spurred by Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, many listeners will discover them for the first time. In performance and now in print, Mr. Gardiner is Bach’s most eloquent champion.” Best Nonfiction of 2013.
– Wall Street Journal
“Very rewarding.” A 2013 Book of the Year.
– The Economist
“It is Gardiner’s experience as a conductor that informs so much of this book. Not only does he explain the harmonic, contrapuntal and polyphonic underpinnings of Bach’s music, … he also comments on these scores from practical experience, having spent countless hours working out instrumental balances and sonorities, textures and dynamics, in concert halls and churches alike.”
– Washington Post
“It is rare indeed to find a working musician with a high-profile international career who also has the versatility and talents (not to mention the sheer energy and dedication) to produce a work of real scholarship and originality. Music in the Castle of Heaven is sure to be found on the bookshelves of Bach-lovers for many years to come.” Five stars.
– Sunday Times (UK)
“Only a conductor could write as vividly as Gardiner about the thrills to be extracted from every bar of Bach’s majestically dramatic music, with its switchback shifts between horror, ecstasy and corybantic joy, and its plate-spinning stunts with simultaneous melodic lines. As an exploration of Bach’s labyrinthine thought-processes, and as an analysis of his music’s overwhelming emotional power, this book will now be required reading … for listeners and performers alike.” Five stars.
– The Independent (UK)
“Gardiner can be wonderfully Wagnerian, and the book is a pleasure to read. … It is on Bach’s compositional method that Gardiner’s ability to convey his enthusiasm is at its highest. His detailed commentaries on individual sections of cantatas and examples of how theology is represented in sound are ear-opening, and surely a reason for his success as a conductor. … Another monumental achievement by John Eliot Gardiner.” Five stars.
– Literary Review (UK)
“Gardiner, as this book amply demonstrates, reads and thinks about the music with astonishing depth. … Truly enlightening.” Five stars.
– The Scotsman (UK)
“[Gardiner] weaves industrial-strength scholarship, musical analysis and performing insight into a highly readable narrative. He may claim at the start that ‘we know less about [Bach’s] private life than about that of any other major composer of the last 400 years,’ but that’s not how one feels after reaching the end of this 628-page survey. Its scope is extraordinary. … An awesome scholarly achievement.”
– The Times (UK)
“What Gardiner offers is an intimate knowledge of the choral music … and a powerful sense of its cultural context, structural evolution and doctrinal intent. … If you want a detailed analysis of the cantatas, the two Passions and Mass in B minor, and a feeling for their wondrous piety, Gardiner provides exhaustive satisfaction. His ‘portrait’ reads like a pilgrim’s progress, in which a privileged man-of-the-modern-world is transformed by Bach’s musical revelation and faces his own mortality – triggering the very confession of moral frailty and faith-in-salvation the cantatas were designed to induce in 18th-century listeners. … Infectious.”
– Financial Times (UK)
“A penetrating study of the vocal works that Gardiner has specialized in conducting: the cantatas, the two Passion settings, the motets and the B minor Mass. … We learn a lot about Bach himself, and the picture is more rounded than I can remember from even the best general studies.”
– Spectator (UK)
“A very personal book. … Gardiner is an expert guide who loves this music deeply.”
– Telegraph (UK)
“It never happens often enough, but now and then, a subject gets the book it deserves. So it is with John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, a biography so thoughtful, well-researched, and beautifully written that it should satisfy both the well-informed enthusiast and readers simply seeking to become better acquainted with a musical giant.”
– Daily Beast
“Gardiner presents a nuanced account of the constellation of personal, musical, religious, and cultural forces that shaped Bach’s astonishing body of compositions. He writes with the care of a scholar, the knowledge of an expert musician, and the passion of a believer (in Bach if nothing else).”
– Christian Science Monitor
“An erudite work resting on prodigious research and experience and deep affection and admiration.” Starred review.
John Eliot Gardiner, Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists in the United States
Sunday, June 15 at 3pm
Princeton, NJ (debut)
Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall
J.S. Bach: Singet dem Herrn (BWV 225)
J.S. Bach: Christ lag in Todesbanden (BWV 4)
Handel: Dixit Dominus, Psalm 110 (HWV 232)
Ticket information: www.scheideconcerts.com
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© 21C Media Group, June 2014
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