Robert Aldridge and Herschel Garfein are internationally renowned for their Grammy award-winning opera Elmer Gantry (2007). Their follow-up collaboration, Parables (2010) is a cantata for soloists, a 200-voice choir and 80-piece orchestra. The attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001 haunts its writing but the use of passages from the Torah, New Testament and Koran seeks to bind the major faiths' commonality, hopeful of healing and reconciliation. In this staged performance young dancers, costumes, and projection emphasize the music's powerfully theatrical impact.
Dutch conductor Sigiswald Kuijken presents the two Ascension Oratorios by father and son Bach. Johann Sebastian Bach's work was first performed in Leipzig on Ascension Day in 1735. The text mixes biblical and poetic material. Recorded live at the beautiful Church of St. Nikolai in Leipzig 2004, one of the venues in Leipzig for which J.S. Bach conceived many of his works, this video comes close to the atmosphere of the first performance, thus creating a feast of Baroque music surrounded by the beauty of a gothic cathedral. Sigiswald Kuijken is widely accepted as a leading authority on Baroque music. Together with La Petite Bande, an outstanding orchestra for early music, the chamber choir Ex Tempore, specialists in music of the 17th and 18th century and a cast of very refined soloists, he celebrates two remarkable vocal works by Johann Sebastian Bach and his most famous son, Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach.
Bach's Christmas Oratorio was first heard in its entirety at Leipzig's St. Thomas church at Christmastime 1734. Some Leipzig church-goers may have recognized some of the melodies, since Bach used material from earlier works, sometimes reworking the music to fit new texts. This practice, called the "parody technique", was frequent in Bach's time. The six separate, large-scale but related parts of the Oratorio tell the Nativity story through texts of the apostles St. Matthew and St. Luke, and through traditional or newly written material. Bach is credited with shaping the text and selecting the Biblical passages in such a way that the work follows a logical sequence. This contribution gives the piece a musically dramatic and compelling textual unity.
Considered one of the world's leading specialists of Baroque music, Nikolaus Harnoncourt founded the Concentus Musicus Wien in 1953. It has since become one of the world's most respected ensembles specializing in the performance of early music on original instruments or faithful reproductions. With its opulent decor and gilt ornamentation, the Austrian Baroque church of Waldhausen provides a setting evocative of Bach's times. An added highlight of the program is the retelling of the Nativity story with the magnificent carved...
Karl Richter, the world-renowned Bach specialist who died in 1981, recorded the St. Matthew Passion at the splendid Benedictine abbey of Ottobeuren with two choruses, his Munich Bach Orchestra and the outstanding soloists Peter Schreier (Evangelist), Ernst Gerold Schramm (Jesus), Siegmund Nismgern (Judas) as well as Helen Donath, Julia Hamari, Walter Berry and Horst Laubenthal. Director Hugo Käch took the cross as his main motif for his stage setting by using a gigantic cross above the performers to suggest menace and oppression as well as protection. Richter's style blends the solid craftsmanship of a Leipzig "cantor" and a profound need for the freedom of improvisation. "I cannot gauge the tempo from the metronome; I have to take to it from my pulse, since the pulse is linked to the center of man, the heart." (Karl Richter)
Over the course of his long career as conductor, organist and harpsichordist, Karl Richter (1926-1981) became synonymous with Bach. He founded the Munich Bach Choir and the Munich Bach Orchestra, and helped trigger the Bach revival in the 1950s. He recorded all the major choral and orchestral works of Bach, including more than 100 cantatas. Although Richter saw several dramatic shifts in Baroque performance practice during his lifetime, he remained true to his own style, which was considered revolutionary in the 1950s and 60s. This was a "de-romanticized" Bach which featured a reduced body of performers more in keeping with the composer's original forces. Richter's style also accented a cool, brisk, almost abstract attitude toward the music. Our recording with the Munich Bach Choir and Orchestra features such world-renowned soloists as Helen Donath, Julia Hamari, Peter Schreier and Horst Laubenthal.
Filmed in the breathtaking Gothic Basilica of Saint-Denis, just outside Paris, extraordinary musicians bring the profound drama to life, capturing Bach's brilliant intensity in the narrative sung by the Evangelist, the words of Jesus and his disciples, and the expressive reflections of the chorus.
On the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Handel's death, Vienna's Theater an der Wien, famous for innovative and unconventional opera productions, realized a unique and truly extraordinary project: the staging of one of Handel's most popular oratorios. For this production, the theater signed up one of the most renowned stage directors of our time, Claus Guth. The result: "An emotionally and psychologically changed sequences of images", as the Suddeutsche Zeitung wrote about Gith's portrayal of a family dynasty, complete with guilt, betrayal, suicide and reconciliation.
Conductor Jean-Christophe Spinosi triumphs "with his phenomenal orchestra (Ensemble Matheus) and the subtle Arnold Schoenberg Choir" (Suddeutsche Zeitung). Winner of the Diapason d'Ore and the BBC Music Magazine Award, the ensemble is internationally acclaimed for its interpretation of early music on authentic period instruments. Offering "the best of Handel vocal artistry" (Frankfurter Rundschau) are Cornelia Horak, Susan Gritton, Richard Croft and the sublime altus Bejun Mehta. Video director Hannes Rossacher, internationally known as one of the leading video directors for rock and pop events (Rolling Stones), has captured this unique performance of the oratorio on film.
A highlight of the Handel commemorative year (250th anniversary of death) was the Salzburg Festival's first-ever staging of Handel's oratorio Theodora of 1750. Christof Loy, who was voted "director of the year" three times by the prestigious journal "Opernwelt", created a production that is, in his words, "almost as an installation", and groups his characters around the remains of a gigantic organ in situations that echo the libretto's tragic dilemma of love, faith and virtue. His concept is supported by the vigorous Ivor Bolton and the Freiburger Barockorchester playing on original instruments, the Salzburger Bachchor, and, above all, by a fine cast. It is led by the luminous Christine Schafer as a Theodora who "perfectly encapsulates the heroine's combination of fragility and defiance" (AFP), and countertenor Bejun Mehta, who "excels as Theodora's lover Didymus" (The New York Times).
Video director Hannes Rossacher, known both in the pop (Rolling Stones) and classical worlds, captures the essence of this rarely recorded work, another joint project of the exclusive audiovisual partners Salzburg Festival and Unitel Classica.
Haydn's oratorio Die Schopfung (The Creation) is one of the greatest masterpieces in the repertoire. Its libretto was constructed by Gottfried van Swieten who took texts from the Book of Genesis, the Psalms and employed his own original poetry. In this radical and compelling staging by the ground-breaking Catalan theatre collective, La Fura dels Baus, and internationally acclaimed stage director Carlus Padrissa, the oratorio is seen through the prism of a stream of refugees expelled from Paradise. Stunning light projections encapsulate the stage space and incorporated philosophical and scientific perspectives makes this truly an oratorio for our time.
Written in spring 1771, Betulia Liberata is an azione sacra, a sacred play in the style of the Italian oratorio. The libretto takes up the well-known biblical story of Judith and Holofernes. The Assyrian general and dictator is laying siege to the Jewish town of Betulia. He has the town surrounded and its water supplies cut off. While the Prince of Betulia, Ozias, and religious leaders discuss what to do, the widow Judith decides to act: she boldly strides into the enemy camp, where she wins Holofernes' trust, arouses his senses and cuts off his head.
As befits an oratorio, the Salzburg production of Betulia Liberata is a semi-staged concert performance. The incisive playing of the Munich Chamber Orchestra under its early-music-inspired conductor Christoph Poppen provides the dynamic basis for the homogeneous cast headed by Jeremy Ovenden as Ozias, a demanding tenor part sung with nimble bravura, Marjana Mijanovic as a darkly hued and sensual Judith, Franz-Josef Selig as a profound Alchior and Julia Kleiter as a luminous Amital. Noteworthy is the rousing vitality of the Chorus of the Vienna State Opera.