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John Eliot Gardiner and Monteverdi Choir and Orchestras Celebrate “Beethoven 250” and More with Four Major International Tours and Two New Recordings in 2019-20

The award-winning Monteverdi Choir and Orchestras (MCO) look forward to launching another ambitious season, this time featuring four major international tours and two new recordings on their SDG label. To celebrate both the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth and the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique (ORR), MCO founder and artistic director John Eliot Gardiner, the winner of more Gramophone Awards than any other living artist, leads the ORR in five complete period-instrument Beethoven symphonic cycles. The tour visits the Harris Theater in Chicago and New York’s Carnegie Hall, where Gardiner is a featured 2019-20 Perspectives artist, as well as London and Barcelona, where they will be joined by members of the MCO’s innovative Monteverdi Apprentices Programme. Later in the season, Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir, and the ORR also tour Italy, France and Austria with French Romantic choral music in “Fauré | Berlioz | Brahms.” Meanwhile this fall, Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists (EBS) make national debuts in Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Slovakia and Uruguay with “Monteverdi | Carissimi | Scarlatti,” a program of choral masterpieces. Gardiner and the ensembles then reunite next spring for “Monteverdi: Sacred and Secular,” touring to eight prominent destinations across Europe. The ensembles round out the 2019-20 season with two new titles on SDG: a November release of Bach concertos with EBS leader Kati Debretzeni as soloist, and an April album capturing their recent live London performance of Handel’s Semele, which evoked “a touch of the sublime” (Telegraph, UK).

“Beethoven 250”

When the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique’s performance of Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh Symphonies under Gardiner’s leadership at Carnegie Hall was released on disc, the UK’s Observer stated, “This is the most exciting Beethoven release you are likely to hear this year.” To celebrate “Beethoven 250,” the landmark anniversary that falls next year, the coming season sees the conductor and orchestra perform no fewer than five complete Beethoven symphonic cycles at high-profile destinations on both sides of the Atlantic: Barcelona’s Palau de la Música (Feb 9–14), Chicago’s Harris Theater (Feb 27–March 3), London’s Barbican Hall (May 11–16), a major European festival, yet to be announced (June 22–27), and New York’s Carnegie Hall (Feb 19–24), where Gardiner is being honored as a 2019-20 Perspectives artist. Spread over five concerts, each cycle features the Monteverdi Choir and a stellar quartet of vocal soloists in the monumental and uplifting “Choral” Symphony and presents the First Symphony alongside three relative Beethovenian rarities: excerpts from Leonore (the original version of Fidelio) and the scene and aria “Ah! Perfido,” both featuring Lucy Crowe, a soprano blessed with “artistry beyond compare” (The Independent, UK), and excerpts from Beethoven’s only full-length ballet, The Creatures of Prometheus.

“Monteverdi | Carissimi | Scarlatti”

Curated by Gardiner, the “Monteverdi | Carissimi | Scarlatti” tour showcases the virtuosity of the Monteverdi Choir and celebrates the stylistic innovations of the Italian Baroque. The program comprises Monteverdi’s final setting of the mass, which intersperses old-fashioned polyphonic choral writing with more forward-looking declamatory passages; Carissimi’s Jephte, a miniature sacred musical drama combining quasi-operatic solo writing with meltingly beautiful choruses; Domenico Scarlatti’s ten-voice Stabat mater, which fuses polyphony with passionate rhetoric; and two Italian-influenced pieces by Purcell: the almost Monteverdian Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes, one of the English composer’s few Latin text settings, and his moving eight-voice supplication Hear my prayer, O Lord. Marking the MCO’s long-awaited Russian debut, the tour launches with concerts at Moscow’s state-of-the-art new Zaryadye Concert Hall and the St. Petersburg Philharmonia. These highlight the UK-Russia Year of Music, a new binational program supported by the British Council to celebrate the two countries’ rich musical cultures. With performances in a succession of storied venues – Bratislava’s Reduta Bratislava, Rio de Janeiro’s Theatro Municipal, the Sala São Paulo, Montevideo’s Teatro Solís, Buenos Aires’ Teatro Colón, Santiago’s Teatro CorpArtes, Frutillar’s Teatro del Lago, and Curitiba’s Teatro Positivo – the tour also features the ensembles’ national debuts in Slovakia, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile (Sep 26–Nov 19).

“Monteverdi: Sacred and Secular”

It was to sing Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers that Gardiner first founded the Monteverdi Choir some 55 years ago, and the ensembles have since become a byword for “magical and memorable Monteverdi” (The Guardian). Next spring, under his leadership, the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists tour “Monteverdi: Sacred and Secular,” a program combining works from the composer’s later madrigal books with selections from his Selva morale e spirituale, to the Paris Philharmonie, Zurich Tonhalle and Vienna Musikverein, as well as to leading venues in Hamburg, Aix-en-Provence, Bologna, Turin and Budapest (April 15–26).

“Fauré | Berlioz | Brahms”

On the MCO’s recording of Fauré’s Requiem, Gardiner offers a “dramatic and direct” interpretation, “with a typically splendid execution from the Monteverdi Choir” (Classic Review). The work forms the centerpiece of their final tour of the season, when Gardiner leads the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique in a program of late-Romantic French choral music. Pairing the Requiem with works by Brahms and Berlioz, this takes them to Italy’s Pavia and Udine, Austria’s Salzburg Whitsun Festival, and a major French festival, yet to be announced (May 26–June 2).

2019-20 Monteverdi Apprentices Programme

Launched in 2007, the Monteverdi Apprentices Programme was the first of its kind in the UK. Designed to follow undergraduate or postgraduate study, and typically alternating by season between string players and vocalists, it enables outstanding young musicians to spend a full year working with Gardiner alongside some of the best and most experienced musicians in the business. The 2019-20 program offers emergent young string players the opportunity to perform, tour and train throughout the season with Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. Up to eight successful applicants will be fully integrated into the period-instrument orchestra’s schedule, performing alongside the ORR in concerts at home and on tour in a wide range of repertoire, as well as receiving dedicated coaching, workshops, and mentorship. As a primary focus of the yearlong program, the young apprentices will take part in the orchestra’s complete Beethoven cycles in London and Barcelona, before performing in major projects and a showcase recital early next fall. They will then be considered for further professional engagements with the ORR; indeed, of the program’s 60-plus alumni, around 70% have gone on to work as fully-fledged members of the MCO.

New recordings of Bach and Handel’s Semele

The MCO release two new titles on their SDG label this season. Due for release in November, the first features the English Baroque Soloists in four concertos by Bach: his First and Second Violin Concertos and violin arrangements of his D-minor Keyboard Concerto and F-major Oboe Concerto. Ensemble leader Kati Debretzeni undertakes the solo role, as on EBS’s previous recording of the Baroque master’s Brandenburg Concertos, of which the BBC marveled, “What more could anyone ask for?

Due for April release, the second album captures the ensembles’ recent live account of Handel’s Semele – which Gardiner considers “Handel’s sexiest opera” – at London’s newly restored Alexandra Palace. This prompted the Financial Times to declare: “Gardiner has always been a spirited conductor of Handel and there was not a dull minute in this performance.” The Guardian found International Opera Award-winner Louise Alder “a glowing, unusually sympathetic Semele.” “She made ‘O sleep why dost thou leave me’ glow with feline post-coital bliss and turned the bravura of ‘Myself I shall adore’ into an exhilarating game. A lovely performance,” agreed the Telegraph, before concluding: “The greatest joy of the evening was generated by the wonderfully crisp and rhythmically alert singing of the Monteverdi Choir. … Sublime.”

Upcoming this summer: Benvenuto Cellini

By way of an upbeat to the new season, the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Monteverdi Choir and Gardiner give staged performances of Berlioz’s first opera, Benvenuto Cellini, on a high-profile European tour that marks both the 150th anniversary of the French composer’s death and the 30th anniversary of the orchestra. Representing the work’s first modern performances on period instruments, the tour kicks off today at the annual Festival Berlioz in the composer’s birthplace, La Côte-Saint-André (Aug 29), before taking Gardiner and the ensembles to the Berliner Festspiele (Aug 31), London’s BBC Proms (Sep 2), and the Theatre of the Palace of Versailles (Sep 8). Featuring tenor Michael Spyres in the title role, it provides a fitting sequel to the ensembles’ transatlantic “Berlioz Series 2018” tour, of which the Financial Times observed: “Berlioz has no idea what he missed.”

About the Monteverdi Choir & Orchestras (MCO)

The three ensembles that make up MCO – the Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique – are a leading force on the international music scene. Comprising world-class instrumentalists and singers of many different nationalities, they help realize the distinctive vision of their Founder and Artistic Director, John Eliot Gardiner, in groundbreaking projects spanning eight centuries of musical masterpieces. The Monteverdi Choir was founded in 1964 to bring fresh drama and immediacy to the choral repertoire. Performing on period instruments, the English Baroque Soloists specialize in Baroque and early Classical music, while the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique focuses on music of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Known for their expressive intensity, consummate technique, and historically informed performances, all three ensembles share an instantly recognizable core sound. Their 150-plus recordings have been honored with numerous prizes, including two Grammys and 14 Gramophone Awards.

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Monteverdi Choir and Orchestras: 2019-20 engagements

Sep 26–Nov 19: “Monteverdi | Carissimi | Scarlatti”: international tour
Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists and John Eliot Gardiner
MONTEVERDI: Messa à 4 voci da cappella
PURCELL: Hear my prayer, O Lord
PURCELL: Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes
D. SCARLATTI: Stabat mater
   Sep 26: Moscow, Russia (Zaryadye Concert Hall; Russian debut)
Sep 27: St Petersburg, Russia (St. Petersburg Philharmonia)
Oct 1: Bratislava, Slovakia (Reduta Bratislava; Slovakian debut)
Nov 7: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Teatro Municipal; Brazilian debut)
Nov 9: São Paulo, Brazil (Sala São Paulo)
Nov 11: Montevideo, Uruguay (Teatro Solís; Uruguayan debut)
Nov 13: Buenos Aires, Argentina (Teatro Colón; Argentinean debut)
Nov 15: Santiago, Chile (Teatro CorpArtes; Chilean debut; sold out)
Nov 16: Frutillar, Chile (Teatro del Lago)
Nov 19: Curitiba, Brazil (Teatro Positivo) 

Feb 9–May 16: Beethoven symphonies, complete cycle: transatlantic tour
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and John Eliot Gardiner
With Monteverdi Choir and Lucy Crowe, soprano
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 1 in C
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 2 in D
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat, “Eroica”
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4 in B-flat
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 in C minor
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 in F, “Pastoral”
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7 in
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8 in F
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D minor, “Choral” (with Monteverdi Choir; Lucy Crowe, soprano; Jess Dandy, mezzo-soprano; Ed Lyon, tenor; Tareq Nazmi, bass)
BEETHOVEN: Excerpts from Creatures of Prometheus
BEETHOVEN: Excerpts from Leonore (with Lucy Crowe, soprano)
BEETHOVEN: “Ah! Perfido” scene and aria (with Lucy Crowe, soprano)
Feb 9–14: Barcelona, Spain (Palau de la Música)
Feb 9: Symphony No. 1, Prometheus excerpts, Leonore excerpts, “Ah! Perfido”
Feb 10: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3
Feb 11: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5
Feb 13: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7
Feb 14: Symphonies Nos. 8 & 9
Feb 19–24: New York, NY (Carnegie Hall)
Feb 19: Symphony No. 1, Prometheus excerpts, Leonore excerpts, “Ah! Perfido”
Feb 20: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3
Feb 21: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5
Feb 23: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7
Feb 24: Symphonies Nos. 8 & 9
Feb 27–March 3: Chicago, IL (Harris Theater)
Feb 27: Symphonies Nos. 8 & 9
Feb 28: Symphony No. 1, Prometheus excerpts, Leonore excerpts, “Ah! Perfido”
Feb 29: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3
March 2: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5
March 3: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7
May 11–16: London, UK (Barbican Hall)
May 11: Symphony No. 1, Prometheus excerpts, Leonore excerpts, “Ah! Perfido”
May 12: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3
May 14: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5
May 15: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7
May 16: Symphonies Nos. 8 & 9
June 22–27: European festival TBA
June 22: Symphony No. 1, Prometheus excerpts, Leonore excerpts, “Ah! Perfido”
June 23: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3
June 24: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5
June 26: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7
June 27: Symphonies Nos. 8 & 9

April 15–26: “Monteverdi: Sacred and Secular”: European tour
Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists and John Eliot Gardiner
MONTEVERDI: Selva morale e spirituale
April 15: Aix-en-Provence, France (TBA)
April 16, Paris, France (Philharmonie de Paris)
April 18: Zurich, Switzerland (Tonhalle Maag)
April 19: Bologna, Italy (TBA)
April 21: Turin, Italy (Auditorium Giovanni Agnelli)
April 23: Budapest, Hungary (TBA)
April 24: Vienna, Austria (Musikverein)
April 26: Hamburg, Germany (TBA)

May 26–June 2: “Fauré | Berlioz | Brahms”: European tour
Monteverdi Choir, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and John Eliot Gardiner
FAURÉ: Requiem
May 26: Pavia, Italy (TBA)
May 29: Udine, Italy (TBA)
May 30: Salzburg, Austria (Salzburg Whitsun Festival)
June 2: Saint-Denis, France (TBA)

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© 21C Media Group, August 2019

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