J.S. Bach: St. Matthew’s Passion, BWV 244
James Gilchrist, Evangelist
Josep-Ramon Olivé, Jesus
Marta Mathéu, soprano
Alex Potter, countertenor
Ilker Arcayürek, tenor
Andreas Wolff, bass
Juan de la Rubia, organ
Joan Seguí, organ
Cor Infantil de l’Orfeó Català
Berliner Barock Solisten/Members of Berliner Philharmoniker
Orquestra Simfònica Camera Musicae
Simon Halsey, conductor
EVERYTHING HAPPENS IN BACH
To speak of the St. Matthew Passion is also to speak of the recovery of early music; after Bach’s death the work was forgotten. At that time, religious music of the Lutheran environment had a practical purpose and it was difficult for the works to resonate with audiences outside the churches.
The composer/conductor Felix Mendelssohn returned to interpret the Passion in 1829 conducting a shortened version, adapted to the aesthetic tastes of the moment. From then on, the reinterpretation of this work generated a great interest in the study of Bach’s works. In Spain, this recovery began 100 years ago at the Palau de la Música Catalana. In February 1921, the Orfeó Català achieved a historic event by scheduling the first performance of the St. Matthew Passion in Catalonia and anywhere in Spain.
The work interprets the suffering and death of Christ according to the Gospel of Saint Matthew. It is written for a group of instruments and two choirs. The words of Christ are accompanied by the strings, while the other characters are only accompanied by the basso continuo. The only exception occurs when Christ speaks his last words: the strings no longer accompany a Christ from whom human nature emerges.
To commemorate that February 1921, the Orfeó Català together with guest soloists from the Berliner Philharmoniker and the musicians of the Orquestra Simfònica Camera Musicae again represent the Passion at the Palau de la Música Catalana.
Biography Simon Halsey
Simon Halsey occupies a unique position in the world of classical music. He is a trusted choral advisor to the world’s leading conductors, orchestras and choirs, as well as being a source of inspiration as a teacher and ambassador of choral singing for amateurs of all ages, levels and backgrounds. He has placed singing as a central element in the worldwide institutions with which he collaborates and has played a key role in changing the level of symphonic singing throughout Europe.
He holds various positions in the United Kingdom and in Europe: he is choral conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and Choir, choral conductor of the Birmingham City Symphony Orchestra Choir, artistic director of the choirs of the Orfeó Català and artistic advisor to the Palau de la Música de Barcelona, artistic director of the youth choir programme of the Berlin Philharmonic, creative director of music and choral projects of the WDR Rundfunkchor choir, director of the BBC Proms youth choir, choral artistic consultant of the Schleswig Music Festival – Holstein, Honorary Director of the Rundfunkchor Berlin Choir and Professor and Director of Choral Activities at the University of Birmingham.
Born in London, he studied conducting at the Royal College of Music in London. In 1987, together with Graham Vick, he founded the City of Birmingham Touring Opera. He was the principal conductor of the Netherlands Radio Choir between 1997 and 2008, as well as principal conductor of the Northern Sinfonia choral programme from 2004 to 2012. Between 2001 and 2015, he conducted the Rundfunkchor Berlin choir, of which he is now honorary conductor.