A wild night opened the 123rd season of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts – The Proms – with the host BBC Symphony Orchestra’s performance of the short, fresh, invigorating world premiere of St John’s Dance by 29-year-old British composer Tom Coult. The piece starts with a stutter in the strings then flings lightly at manic, constantly changing speeds and rhythms …
“Without Luther there would have been no Bach.” So said the Mayor of Leipzig, Burkhard Jung, at the opening concert of the Bach Festival in his city, half a millennium on from the start of the Reformation.
The crown of opera
Monteverdi reigns supreme
Opera, invented in Italy in 1597, might not have succeeded so spectacularly without Claudio Monteverdi, who wrote the first masterpieces. Equally, Monteverdi might not have achieved his current towering genius status without Sir John Eliot Gardiner who formed the Monteverdi Choir when he was a Cambridge student 53 years ago and its Baroque orchestra four years later.
Excitement, relief and the eventual disappointment generated by the Bishop of London’s premature announcement in 1555 that Queen Mary and her husband, King Philip of Spain, were going to have a baby is reflected in the sumptuous music on the new Signum CD performed with supreme artistry by the vocal group, Gallicantus.
Under the title “Invocazioni Mariane” – “Tears of Mary” or “A Mother’s Tears” – the German countertenor Andreas Scholl presented a programme of Italian Baroque devotions to the Virgin at the Barbican recently.
The origins of oratorio are a fascinating episode in the history of music. They lie in St Philip Neri’s progressive, modernising reaction to the Reformation, his followers recognised as the order of the Congregazione dell’Oratorio by Pope Gregory XIII in 1575.
Traditional Christian teaching excuses the eroticism in the Song of Songs as a metaphor for Christ’s love for the Church. To emphasise a secular interpretation for the night after Valentine’s Day, however, Ensemble Plus Ultra included recitations of four Shakespeare sonnets in its concert in London’s Choral at Cadogan series.
When the choir of The Sixteen sings Bach, it is like switching on electricity. From a standing start, suddenly they are in the middle of flowing counterpoint: perfectly synchronised parts enter with imperceptible attack as the current picks up where it left off, usually two nights previously.
It is one of the mysteries of life that the language of music, while being inadequate to describe a chair or what we had for lunch, can say everything there is to say about fear, love, awe and other complex emotions that words often struggle with.