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John Eliot Gardiner and ORR offer new live Beethoven recording Oct 14

Following their “electrifying” (BBC Music magazine) live recording of Beethoven’s heroic Fifth and Seventh Symphonies captured at New York’s Carnegie Hall, John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique (ORR) turn to the composer’s ebullient Second and Eighth Symphonies for a new live album recorded in November 2013 at London’s Cadogan Hall. The album’s U.S. release on the SDG label this month marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of the ORR, which Gardiner formed to explore the music of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The new release, pairing two of Gardiner’s favorite Beethoven Symphonies, also comes on the heels of a unique live recording from SDG of vocal music by Scarlatti, Bach and Handel, with Gardiner leading the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists. The recording, made just days ago in London’s newest concert hall, Milton Court, was released immediately following a concert celebrating the culmination of the Monteverdi Choir’s 50th anniversary tour; it is available for digital-only purchase here:

Two decades ago, Gardiner and the ORR recorded a complete cycle of Beethoven Symphonies for Deutsche Grammophon’s Archiv label, and in recent years they have returned to this repertoire with thrilling results. Their recording of Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh Symphonies for SDG, captured live by WQXR at New York’s Carnegie Hall, was a sensation. The New York Times reported, “Mr. Gardiner wrought Beethoven fresh and strange, with gutsy, brash, and rasping instrumental voices united in triumph.” Gramophone named the album an “Editor’s Choice,” noting, “John Eliot Gardiner and his resplendent Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique rejoice in the sheer physicality of the music, the bounding rhythms, the stomping accents.” The UK’s Observer concluded, “This is the most exciting Beethoven release you are likely to hear this year.”

SDG’s “instant download” of Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater, Bach’s Cantata BWV 199, “Mein Herze Schwimmt im Blut,” and Handel’s Dixit Dominus was recorded on September 25 at London’s Milton Court and made available the next morning for purchase at the Monteverdi Choir’s website. A reviewer for The Times of London gave the performance a five-star review, observing, “They certainly sang like young tearaways in this celebratory concert, where their joyful sounds threatened to shake down Milton Court’s fixtures and fittings. … I was in heaven.”

The SDG label was founded in 2005 with the aim of releasing over 50 recordings made in 2000 during Gardiner’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage with the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists. Subsequent recordings from Gardiner and the ensembles have showcased music from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical eras, including the recent Vigilate!, an album on which the Monteverdi Choir sings English polyphony by Catholic composers who worked covertly in Elizabethan England. Autumn 2007 saw the first SDG recordings from the ORR, which last season was heard with the Monteverdi Choir on a new recording of Beethoven’s monumental Missa Solemnis. Gramophone named the album an “Editor’s Choice,” with London’s Times declaring, “[The work is] performed to perfection and brought into new, terrifying life.”

Highlights of an historic season
The new SDG releases ride a wave of momentum created by a historic season for Gardiner and his ensembles. Besides the publication of Gardiner’s first book, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, which was named a “best of the year” by the Economist and the Wall Street Journal, 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. Gardiner, who describes their past half-century together as “a tremendous collective adventure,” 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 saw the release of a limited edition boxed set of Bach’s complete cantatas, recorded live by Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir, and the English Baroque Soloists during their Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, which was hailed as “one of the most ambitious musical projects of all time” (Gramophone magazine). Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir also 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.

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) and give a concert performance of his groundbreaking opera L’Orfeo (May 1). 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.”

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© 21C Media Group, October 2014


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