MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

St. Matthew Passion: Free Access at Digital Concert Hall

The Berlin Philharmonic is making its 2013 video of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in the Peter Sellars staging available for free until Monday.

The St. John Passion is similarly available until Monday.

From the Berlin Philharmonic’s program guide for St. Matthew Passion:

“Not all musicians believe in God, but they all believe in Johann Sebastian Bach,” said Mauricio Kagel, who grappled intensely with the life of the cantor at St. Thomas’s Church, plagued by bureaucratic city fathers and unmotivated Latin pupils, when he composed his own Passion. The term “Passion” is inextricably linked with the name “Bach”, first and foremost due to his St. Matthew Passion, already a work of superlatives in terms of its external dimensions.

That’s because the oratorio of the suffering and death of Christ, which in Bach’s lifetime eclipsed anything conceivable in the field of music, consists of no fewer than 68 individual movements (formerly counted as 78), which include, among others, the monumental opening chorus, the chorale setting “O Mensch, bewein dein Sünden groß” and the epic final chorus.

Already in the first version of the work from 1727 an extensive double choir setting of choir and orchestra is also required: the impressive stereophonic effects have lost none of their fascinating impact. (Bach himself demonstrably dared at a 1736 performance to separate the ensembles completely, enabling the real-spatial differentiation of the dialogue between the two vocal-instrumental ensembles.)

Starting off a week of festivities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Hans Scharoun’s Philharmonie, Sir Simon Rattle conducts Bach’s greatest passion music, together with the Rundfunkchor Berlin, boys from the Berlin Staats- und Domchor and a top-class ensemble of soloists. It is a work you can become addicted to, a work in which you can always discover something new even if you have listened to it repeatedly. This concert is also a feast for the eyes: as in April 2010, the St. Matthew Passion is performed in Peter Sellars’ unforgettable staging.

go to performance

Filed under: Bach, Berlin Philharmonic, Peter Sellars

Ending an Era with Mahler 6

Simon Rattle’s final concert with the Berlin Philharmonic: how fitting for our tragic time: streaming live from the Digital Concert Hall.

Filed under: Berlin Philharmonic, Mahler, Simon Rattle

Le Grand Macabre directed by Peter Sellars

Peter Sellars’s production of Ligeti’s <i>Le Grand Macabre</i> is being live-streamed on the Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall today.

Filed under: Berlin Philharmonic, Ligeti, Peter Sellars

John Adams in Berlin

09-adamsJohn Adams has just started his season as artist-in-residence with the Berlin Philharmonic — with a program in which he also makes his debut conducting the Berliners.

BP’s Digital Concert Hall will live stream tonight’s performance (19:00 Berlin time). My essay for the Berlin Philharmonic program is available on the labeled tab here.

Filed under: Berlin Philharmonic, John Adams

Opening Night of the Berliner Philharmoniker

The new season opened with a masterful pairing of early Britten and Shostakovich: in fact, with what is arguably the most thrilling and audacious symphony Shostakovich ever wrote, the — bafflingly, frustratingly rarely programmed — Symphony No. 4.

Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliners will bring the same program to the Lucerne Festival on Tuesday.

Here’s more info and a link to the performance in BP’s Digital Concert Hall.

Filed under: Berlin Philharmonic, Britten, Shostakovich

Kirill Petrenko Goes to Berlin

The Berlin Philharmonic’s choice of the Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko, a native of Omsk, as the new chief conductor to replace Sir Simon Rattle is the biggest piece of orchestral news this week.

Here’s an interview in English from Maestro Petrenko’s visit with the orchestra in 2009:

And here’s one from a visit to Israel (start at 4:50):

On a side note, FAZ reporter Eleonore Büning denounces some media commentators for marring the news with ugly anti-Semitic innuendo. But William Osborne, in the comments section here, suggests this may be a case of irony gone wrong rather than nefarious intentions.

Or does it come down to a repugnant example of clickbait? I’ve now learned a new term for that in German: Quotenjägergerüchteküche, which Osborne translates as “unappetizing quota-hunting-insinuation-kitchen.”

Filed under: Berlin Philharmonic, conductors, music news

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