Friday August 11, 2017 | 7:30PM (Pre-concert talk at 6:45)
Chan Shun Concert Hall at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts | Map
Pacific Baroque Orchestra; Alexander Weimann, music director; Vancouver Cantata Singers; Paula Kremer, VCS artistic director; Thomas Hobbs, evangelist; Jenny Högström, soprano; Aleksandra Lewandowska, soprano; Alex Potter, counter-tenor; Robert Getchell, tenor; Stephan MacLeod, bass-baritone; Sumner Thompson, baritone
The St. John Passion by J.S. Bach is absolutely riveting and is the closest the great composer ever came to writing an opera. Written using text mostly from Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible, as well as poetry by Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747), it moves at break neck speed and is filled with an urgency, musical variety and intensity of affect that is unmatched in the history of sacred music. Join the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, the Vancouver Cantata Singers and a cast of international Bach specialists for this dramatic reading of one of the greatest works in the classical repertoire.
Supported by the Drance Family
It is always astonishing to realize how little known Johann Sebastian Bach was in his day, and to learn the circumstance surrounding his accession to the post of cantor of the Saint-Thomas church in Leipzig. When the post became available after the death of Kuhnau in June 1722, it took almost a year of negotiations, and refusals by both Telemann and Graupner, before the city council settled on Bach who, until then, had been in the service of the Prince Anhalt-Cöthen. So it was that on May 13, 1723, after having settled his family in the house the city provided, that Bach took up the post. He was happy to leave Cöthen for a number of reasons. First, Prince Leopold had lost interest in music. Second, Bach wished to give his sons the university training he himself never received, and Leipzig housed within its walls one of the most celebrated universities in Germany. Finally, because Bach had composed a good deal of instrumental music for the Calvinist Cöthen court, he was doubtless stimulated by the prospect of once again writing music for the church. He had been happy in Cöthen but he was unhappy in Leipzig, where for some 30 years he was harassed by the pettiness of the ‘Most Noble and Most Wise’ city council. Bach now began a period of intense creativity, producing an impressive number of cantatas during his first years as cantor. But of the five Passions attributed to his pen, all that has come down to us, apart from some sections reused in various cantatas, are the Saint John Passion, and the Saint Matthew Passion, the latter composed at the end of the 1720s. (Stéphan Vincent- Lancrin believes that we should translate the original German titles, Johannes Passion and Matthäus Passion as Passion According to John and Passion According to Matthew because “Protestants don’t have saints.”)
We do not know whether Bach wrote the first of these two works when he first took up his new post; some believe that it could have been performed in April 1723, as a kind of entrance exam, while others believe it was first heard on April 7, 1724 — or maybe that this was the work Bach performed, in whole or in part, during his visit to Gotha in 1717. Whatever the case, Bach presented the work, with modifications, a further three times: in 1725, in 1728 or 1732, and at the end of the 1740s. Despite this imprecision, we know that in Leipzig the text of the Passion was set to music to be sung during Vespers on Good Friday, in two parts, before and after the sermon, and that this, Bach’s first Passion, was performed in the Saint Nicholas church, which alternated with the Saint Thomas church as the venue for an annual musical representation of the Passion.
The monumental and anguished opening chorus in G minor sets the mood of the drama right away. Though its text invites the believer to pray and to glorify the omnipotent and eternal Lord, the music gives off palpable tension: while the oboes, doubled by the flutes, slowly descend in pungently abrasive seconds, the string figurations evoke the endless suffering of Christ. Then, before returning to the material already presented by the instruments, the chorus enters with exclamations that sound more like pathetic cries than confident affirmations.
This Passion follows the generic rules of oratorio. The story, which is drawn from chapters XVIII and XIX of the Gospel according to John, supplemented by some verses from Matthew, is presented in essence as a commentary with personifications of the protagonists. Following tradition, this narration is assigned to a tenor voice. Other voices personify various key persons, while the choir sings the role of the crowd, of groups of soldiers, and of groups of priests. The role of Christ, sung by a bass, as usual, is “calm and sublimely majestic,” while the treatment of the choruses reveals a crowd that is, in the words of Karl Geiringer, “fervent, impassioned, and aroused.” To render the rapidity of narrative that characterizes this gospel, Bach provides various kinds of contrast, and particularly a rapid alternation between sharp and flat keys.
This scheme is interrupted by commentaries in free poetry, the texts of which Bach may have written himself, drawing inspiration from the writings of pastors Barthold Heinrich Brockes and Christian Heinrich Postel. Arias and ariosos, like the chorales chosen by the composer, serve as resting points as the story unfurls, moments to meditate upon the meaning and implications for the Christian of the sufferings of Jesus. The goal is not only to relate the sequence of events leading to salvation, but also to explain them to the faithful by means at times theatrical, moving, or meditative.
The various sections are not randomly arranged. Rather, as is true of so many elements in the Cantor’s music, they are ordered following rules that are precise though not immediately perceptible to the listener. For an idea of the composer’s organizing thought at work, consider this: all the music between the chorales Ach großer König (nº 17) and In meines Herzens (nº 26), is organized as a vast palindrome extending symmetrically on both sides of the chorale Durch dein Gefängnis (nº 22). The text of this chorale develops the paradoxical idea that it was by his captivity that Christ assured our freedom. By placing it at the centre of his organizational scheme, Bach highlights the centrality of the message of the Redemption.
This structure is not only elaborate — an essential characteristic of the Baroque that Bach developed more than anyone else — but alive, fully inhabited; nothing in it is left to chance and, by a variety of compositional techniques, all emotional responses to the profound subject being treated are plumbed. Note the care with which Bach musically emphasizes the sense of certain key words. For instance, on the words weinete bitterlich (bitterly weeping), recitative no. 12 become an arioso full of chromaticisms evoking Peter’s tears; or, in the unusually long aria Erwäge, wie sein blutgefärbter Rücken (no 20), delicate figurations on two violas d’amore represent the rainbow. With its rapid central part, in which the voice is accompanied by the string ensemble, Es ist vollbracht (no 30), the expressive peak of the work, inverts what was, in Bach’s day, the usual da capo structure of an aria (that is, with a slow central section sandwiched between the first section and its reprise). Grief at the death of Jesus is here doubled by the affirmation, from the left, that it constitutes the ultimate triumph. Bach reaches an incomparable profundity of expressiveness not by rote association of musical motif with image (such literal music is dull), but by the beauty of his melodies, the feeling associated with various keys, and the richness of his harmonies.
His expressive intention is also seen in his choice of instruments. We speak here not of orchestration, but rather of the colors painted by instruments chosen following the theory of affects: that is, according to the conventions of the day by which particular instruments symbolized particular emotions. The use of period instruments today convinces us that these matchings and the composer’s choices are sound. Thus, according to Mattheson, the viola da gamba evokes tenderness and serious matters and is the ideal choice to give an impression of nocturnal mystery in Es ist vollbracht. The violas d’amore, again according to Mattheson, convey languishing tenderness, such as the dolorous joy evoked in the aria Betrachte,mein Seel (nº 31). Flutes are often used as funerary instruments, evoking the departure of the soul, the unknown, mercy, and serene joy. Oboes, when they are not being loud or vehement, as they are when they accompany the crowd scenes, are uneasy and moving. According to André Pirro, the oboe da caccia makes audible “rumors of grief and of the night with the pungent stubbornness of a tolling bell.” Listen, for example, to the arioso Mein Herz […] Was willt du deines Ortes tun? (no 34). Finally, the oboe d’amore evokes abandon and the “grief of compassionate friendship”, while the lute adds its gentle sound to the ethereal voices of the viola d’amore, as if not to rush them.
This Saint John Passion ends with a funerary chorale on a lullaby rhythm, written for the same forces as those used for the opening chorus — its descending motives illustrate the lowering of the body into the grave— and a simple and touching chorale. Compared to the Saint Matthew Passion, this is a more intimate, less grandiose, less orchestral, and possibly also more subjective work. As Geiringer puts it, Bach’s musical setting of the gospel according to Christ’s favorite disciple shows “the celestial power in opposition to earthly suffering.” It is a dramatic work combining great rigor and emotion.
©FRANÇOIS FILIATRAULT, 2010.
TRANSLATED BY SEAN MCCUTCHEON
Texts and Translations
Pacific Baroque Orchestra
The Pacific Baroque Orchestra (PBO) is recognized as one of Canada’s most exciting and innovative ensembles performing “early music for modern ears.” PBO brings the music of the past up to date by performing with cutting edge style and enthusiasm. Formed in 1990, the orchestra quickly established itself as a force in Vancouver’s burgeoning music scene with the ongoing support of Early Music Vancouver.
In 2009 PBO welcomed Alexander Weimann, one of the most sought-after ensemble directors, soloists, and chamber music partners of his generation, as Artistic Director. Weimann’s imaginative programming and expert leadership have drawn in many new concertgoers, and his creativity and engaging musicianship have carved out a unique and vital place in the cultural landscape of Vancouver.
PBO regularly joins forces with internationally celebrated Canadian guest artists, providing performance opportunities for Canadian musicians while exposing West Coast audiences to a spectacular variety of talent. The Orchestra has also toured B.C., the northern United States and across Canada as far as the East Coast. The musicians of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra have been at the core of many large-scale productions by Early Music Vancouver in recent years, including many summer festival performances led by Alexander Weimann.
Alexander Weimann, music director
Alexander Weimann is one of the most sought-after ensemble directors, soloists, and chamber music partners of his generation. After traveling the world with ensembles like Tragicomedia, Cantus Cölln, the Freiburger Barockorchester, the Gesualdo Consort and Tafelmusik, he now focuses on his activities as Artistic Director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in Vancouver, and as music director of Les Voix Baroques, Le Nouvel Opéra and Tempo Rubato.
Recently, he has conducted the Montreal-based baroque orchestra Ensemble Arion, Les Violons du Roy, and the Portland Baroque Orchestra; both the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra have regularly featured him as a featured soloist. In the last years, he has repeatedly conducted the Victoria Symphony and Symphony Nova Scotia, most recently with Handel’s Messiah.
Alexander Weimann can be heard on some 100 CDs. He made his North American recording debut with the ensemble Tragicomedia on the CD Capritio (Harmonia Mundi USA), and won worldwide acclaim from both the public and critics for his 2001 release of Handel’s Gloria (ATMA Classique). Volume 1 of his recordings of the complete keyboard works by Alessandro Scarlatti appeared in May 2005. Critics around the world unanimously praised it, and in the following year it was nominated for an Opus Prize as the best Canadian early music recording. Recently, he has also released an Opus Award-winning CD of Handel oratorio arias with superstar soprano Karina Gauvin and his new Montreal-based ensemble Tempo Rubato, a recording of Bach’s St. John’s Passion, various albums with Les Voix Baroques of Buxtehude, Carissimi and Purcell, all with rave reviews. His latest album with Karina Gauvin and Arion Baroque Orchestra (Prima Donna) won a Juno Award in 2013, and a complete recording of Handel’s Orlando was released in the fall of 2013, with an exciting group of international star soloists and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra performing.
Alexander Weimann was born in 1965 in Munich, where he studied the organ, church music, musicology (with a summa cum laude thesis on Bach’s secco recitatives), theatre, medieval Latin, and jazz piano, supported by a variety of federal scholarships for the highly talented. In addition to his studies, he has attended numerous master classes in harpsichord and historical performance. To ground himself further in the roots of western music, he became intensely involved over the course of several years with Gregorian chant. Alexander Weimann has moved to the Vancouver area with his wife, 3 children and pets, and tries to spend as much time as possible in his garden and kitchen.
Vancouver Cantata Singers
Founded in 1957, the Vancouver Cantata Singers has become one of Canada’s preeminent, award-winning choral ensembles. The choir is known for its technical virtuosity, fine blend and exceptionally high performance standards encompassing 500 years of diverse choral repertoire.
VCS has been awarded the Canada Council’s top prize in choral singing, the Healey Willan Grand Prize, more than any other choir in the country. Led by artistic director and conductor Paula Kremer since 2013, VCS also commissions new works from critically-acclaimed composers, which have led to extremely successful and innovative collaborations with regional and international artists and ensembles.
Paula Kremer, VCS artistic director
Educated at UBC and the Vancouver Academy of Music, mezzo- soprano Paula Kremer has studied voice with Marisa Gaetanne, Bruce Pullan, Phyllis Mailing, Lauren Wagner, and Laura Pudwell. Before becoming Artistic Director of VCS in the fall of 2013, Ms. Kremer was a professional member of the Vancouver Cantata Singers for eighteen years, and has sung extensively as a soloist.
Holding an ARCT in both piano and voice, she began teaching music privately in 1987, and in 1997 joined the faculty of Vancouver Community College’s School of Music where she teaches the program’s solfege courses, voice, and concert choir. Ms. Kremer has studied choral conducting at institutes around the world, including Eton, Westminster Choir College, Eastman School of Music, Sintra, and Oxford. She also conducts the Vancouver Bach Youth Choir and Sarabande.
Thomas Hobbs, evangelist
Thomas Hobbs is in demand with many leading baroque and early music ensembles, appearing throughout Europe and the US as a soloist in key works from the 16th, 17thand 18th centuries. Hobbs works frequently with, among others, Philippe Herrewegheand his acclaimed ensemble Collegium Vocale Gent and Raphaël Pichon and hisEnsemble Pygmalion.
Current and future engagements include Haydn Creation with Israel Camerata inJerusalem and with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, further tours with Collegium Vocale Gent, Bach Cantatas, B Minor Mass, and Easter Oratorio with Nederlandse Bachvereniging. Hobbs will also sing Bach with the Musikpodium Stuttgart, and Monteverdi Vespers with the Academy of Ancient Music.
Recent concert performances include Damon Acis and Galatea with Dunedin Consort,Bach cantatas with De Nederlandse Bachverenigning and Ensemble Pygmalion, BachChristmas Oratorio with the Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich and Le Concert Lorrain. He has also sung Evangelist in the Bach St Matthew Passion and St John Passion with the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge,Le Concert Lorrain and Ensemble Pygmalion, arias in the Passions with the Academy of Ancient Music, CVG and Ex Cathedra, Bach B minor Mass with CVG, Le Concert Lorrain, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Bach Akademie Stuttgart and the Freiburg Bachchor, Bach Magnificant with De Nederlandse Bachverenigning, Bach Ascension Oratorio with CVG, Bach Christmas Oratorio with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, title role in Handel Joshua with the Akademie für Alte Musik and RIAS Kammerchor, Handel Israel in Egypt with the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, Handel Messiah Le Concert Lorrain, Mozart Requiem with Dunedin Consort and Beethoven Mass in Cwith Stuttgart Kammerchor. Hobbs has also made debuts with the Northern Sinfonia, City of Birmingham Symphony, Royal Scottish National and Bournemouth Symphony orchestras and with renowned period ensemble Accademia Bizantina under Ottavio Dantone.
Hobbs’s operatic roles include a critically acclaimed Telemachus The Return of Ulysses in a new production for English National Opera conducted by Jonathan, Apollo and Shepherd in Monteverdi’s Orfeo in semi-staged performances with Richard Egarr and the AAM, the title role in Albert Herring and Ferrando Così fan tutte. A keen recitalist, highlights include Brett Dean Winter Songs at the Cheltenham Festival, Vaughan Williams On Wenlock Edge with the Edinburgh Quartet, Schubert Die Schöne Müllerin and Schumann Liederkreis Op.39, a recital of Mozart songs atLondon’s Kings Place, a recital of English song and German lieder for the Festival Accademia delle Crete Senesi in Tuscany, and, most recently, Wolf songs at the Oxford Lieder Festival and a recital at the Ryedale Festival with Christopher Glynn.
Hobbs’ ever-expanding discography includes Bach B minor Mass with both CVG and Dunedin Consort, Bach Motets, Leipzig cantatas and Christmas Oratorio with CVG, Christmas Oratorio with Dunedin Consort, Handel Acis et Galatea and Esther with Dunedin Consort and Beethoven Mass in C with Stuttgart Kammerchor. His recent recordings of Handel Chandos Anthems with Stephen Layton and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Mozart Requiem with John Butt and the Dunedin Consort have been universally praised, with the latter receiving the 2014 Gramophone Award for best Choral recording.
Born in Exeter, Thomas Hobbs studied at the Royal College of Music under the tutelage of Neil Mackie, where he was awarded the RCM Peter Pears and Mason scholarships, and at the Royal Academy of Music under Ryland Davies, where he held a Kohn Bach Scholarship in addition to a full entrance scholarship. He was also awarded a Susan Chilcott Scholarship, has been made a Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist and was an Associate Artist of the Classical Opera Company. He was also a member of the prestigious Académie at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, where he performed in concert with Louis Langrée and the Camerata Salzburg.
Jenny Högström, soprano
The soprano Jenny Högström was born in Luleå, Sweden. At the age of nine Jenny started learning the clarinet, and later the piano. She decided to study singing at the age of 16 for the soprano Gunilla Niska and later with Synnöve Dellquist at the Collage of Music in Piteå, Sweden, in the spring of 2012 she graduated with distinction from Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, Basel, Switzerland, with a Master of Arts in Historical Perfomance for Professor Ulrich Messthaler, and in 2014 she completed a Master in Music Pedagogy. During her studies she has undertaken Master Classes in singing and chamber music with Andreas Scholl, Margreet Honig, Alessandro de Marchi, Andrew Laurence-King, Anthony Rooley, Birgitta Svendén and Barbro Marklund among others.
As a soloist she has been invited to perform throughout Europe in prestigious festivals, such as Händelfestspiele Halle,Schwetzinger Festspiele und Berliner Tage für Alte Musik (Germany), Stockholm Early Music Festival (Sweden), Cambridge Summer Music Festival (England), Jeune Talents Paris (France) and Trigonale Festival (Austria). The main focus of her repertoire lies in the baroque, but the romantic Lied-repertoire lies very close to her heart. Jenny has worked with orchestras and soloist vocal ensembles such as La Cetra Baroque Orchestra and Vocal Ensemble, Collegium 1704, Ensemble Odyssey, Zürcher Sing-Akademie and Origen Ensemble Vocal. She had the opportunity to work with renowned conductors such as René Jacobs, Andrea Marcon, Hervé Niquet, Václav Luks and Michael Form. Together with Ensemble Odyssee, she recorded solo cantatas from the Neapolitan composer Gaetano Veneziano for Pan Classics: Christmas in Napels (2014), In Officio Defunctorum (2015).
Her performances during the season 16/17 includes tours with the Czech ensemble Collegium 1704 under the direction of Václav Luks, and with Ensemble Odyssey, conducted by Andrea Friggi. She also sang the role of Calliope in Handel’s “Il Parnasso in Festa” in Amsterdam Concertgebouw under the baton of Andrea Marcon. Jenny performs for the first time this summer at Early Music Vancouver.
Aleksandra Lewandowska, soprano
Aleksandra Lewandowska began her musical road studying violin and piano. Later she turned into singing. She graduated with distinction the Music Academy in Poznan (Poland), in the class of Wojtek Drabowicz, and continued as a student of postgraduate studies at the University of Music Franz Liszt in Weimar (Germany).
Since always loving early music, also performing modern repertoire with big enthusiasm (colaboration with excellent swiss Quator Sine Nomine) she now has well-estabilished international career as a lyrical singer (solo and ensemble) and since 2010 has been regularely singing with leading groups and conductors like Philippe Herreweghe (recorded 3 cd’s with music of J.S.Bach and C.Gesualdo with Collegium Vocale Gent), Jos van Veldhoven (Nederlandse Bachvereniging), Stephan MacLeod (Gli Angeli Genève), John Duxbury (Cantatio) and also Andrew Parrot, Ivan Fisher, Giovanni Antonini, Skip Sempé, Daniel Reuss, Christophe Coin, Peter Neumann and Christoph Spering.
She is a guest of such festivals like: Musikfest Bremen, Bachwoche Stuttgart, Thüringer Bachwochen, Festival Oude Muziek (Utrecht), Kulturwald Festspiele Bayerischer Wald, Vratislavia Cantans, Chopin and his Europe.
Alex Potter, counter-tenor
Described as a “rising star of the countertenor world”, Alex Potter is a sought-after interpreter of seventeenth and eighteenth-century music. He has performed with conductors including Philippe Herreweghe, Thomas Hengelbrock, Lars Ulrik Mortensen, Jos van Veldhoven, Peter Neumann, Paul Goodwin and Frieder Bernius. Alongside numerous performances of works by Bach, Handel and other established composers, he takes particular interest in seeking out and singing lesser known repertoire in concerts and recordings under his own direction.
After beginning his musical career as a chorister at Southwark Cathedral, Alex Potter was a Choral Scholar and read Music at New College, Oxford. He then went on to pursue further study in singing and baroque performance practice at the Schola Cantorum in Basel with Gerd Türk, taking additional classes with Evelyn Tubb.
Recent performances of note include the title role Handel’s Solomon with Stephen Layton/The Holst Singers, Bach’s St. John Passion with Manfred Honeck and the Stuttgart Symphony Orchestra, a solo recital at the Utrecht Early Music Festival, Bach’s B-Minor Mass at the Salzburger Festspiele with Collegium 1704/Vaclav Luks, several tours with music by J.S. Bach and Henry Purcell under Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Gent, and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater withArchangelo and Jonathan Cohen in Dresden.
Alex Potter has a large discography with a number of different ensembles. His most recent solo CD – Fede e Amor – with Viennese Baroque Music for alto voice and obbligato trombones was released in 2014 on the Ramée label. He also features on the newly released recording of Bach’s B-Minor Mass with Concerto Copenhagen and Lars Urik Mortensen, which was Editor’s Choice in Gramophone Magazine.
He lives in the Lüneburger Heath region of Germany with his wife and two daughters. When not singing he also enjoys baking bread, restoring his half timbered house and growing vegetables in the garden with varying degrees of success.
Robert Getchell, tenor
Tenor Robert Getchell began singing at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst where he studied French and Spanish literature. In France he studied French baroque music at the ‘Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles’ and continued his studies with Margreet Honig at the Amsterdam Conservatory, specializing in early music interpretation with Howard Crook.
In Europe Robert Getchell is a frequently requested soloist, performing with many ensembles and conductors such as L’Orchestre des Champs-Elysées con. Philippe Herreweghe, Les Talens Lyriques, La Grande Ecurie et Chambre du Roy, Frans Brüggen, Amarillis, Gli Angeli Genève, Le Concert des Nations con. Jordi Savall, Akademie für Ate Muzik Berlin, and is a member of the White Raven Trio. Getchell has performed the role of La Furie in Lully’s Isis with Hugo Reyne, Astolphe in Lully’s Roland, Mercure in Lully’s Persée, The Chamberlin in Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, Eurimaco in Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse, and the title role in Le Claire ́s Scylla et Glaucus withChristophe Rousset. In America he regularly sings with L ́Opéra Lafayette con. Ryan Brown performing roles such as Hyppolyte in Rameau ́s Hyppolyte et Aricie, Le Chevalier in Gluck’s Armide, Polinice in Sacchini ́s Oedipe a Colone, Renaud in Lully’s Armide (the latter two recorded by Naxos). He performed the role of Gomatz and Le Podestat in Mozart Short Cuts a staged opera by Jérôme Deschamps and Macha Makeïf, con. L. Equilbey and the role of Ferrando in Mozart’s Così fan tutte at the Champs-Elysées Theater with con. Jean-Claude Malgoire. Robert Getchell has been invited to sing in various festivals in Europe such as the festivals of Versailles, Ambronay, Fribourg, Beaune and Utrecht, and he has recorded numerous CD’s with works from composers from Charpentier and Mozart to Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Poulenc. Among his projects for 2017 he will perform the role of Damon in La Double Coquette, a contemporary revision of Antoine Dauvergne’s opera comique La Coquette Trompée (1753) by Gérard Pesson, touring in France, the role of Damon in Les Indes Galantes part IV with Opéra Lafayette con. Ryan Brown, J.S. Bach’s St. John’s Passion in Victoria and Vancouver, Canada, and various concerts with J.C. Malgoire, Stephan MacLeod and François Lazarevitch.
Stephan MacLeod, bass-baritone
Born in Geneva, Stephan MacLeod first played the violin and the piano and then studied singing with Kurt Moll in Cologne and with Gary Magby in Lausanne. Active all over the world as a renowned concert singer since his early twenties, his desire to conduct started together with his singing career and he finally founded eleven years ago his own ensemble, Gli Angeli Genève, where he both sings and leads. Gli Angeli Genève is giving its season of concerts in Geneva since 2005, and is now regularly invited in most European concert halls and leading festivals for ancient music.
As a singer, his career started through an intense collaboration with Reinhard Goebel and Musica Antiqua Köln when he was 20 years old. He’s been particularly active in the oratorio repertoire since, particularly under Philippe Herreweghe, Gustav Leonhardt(†), Franz Brüggen(†), Masaaki Suzuki (Bach Collegium Japan), Jordi Savall, Philippe Pierlot (Ricercar Consort), Michel Corboz, Daniel Harding, Vaclav Luks, Sigiswald Kuijken, Konrad Junghänel (Cantus Cölln), Christophe Coin, Helmut Rilling, Frieder Bernius, Jos Van Immerseel, Jésus López-Cobos, Hervé Niquet, Paul Van Nevel (Huelgas Ensemble), and with such ensembles as the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Musica Antiqua Köln, the Freiburger Barockorchester, Tafelmusik or the RIAS-Kammerchor.
In the opera world, he has sung in several productions in Brussels (La Monnaie), Venice (La Fenice), Cologne, Bilbao, Edinburgh or Geneva.
He has been heard as a concert soloist and in recitals in most of the main music centers and festivals in Europe, as well as in the USA, Canada, South America or China, and is a frequent visitor to Japan. His work has been documented on more than 75CD’s, many of which have won awards in the press.
He teaches in Switzerland, where he holds a professorship in singing at the Haute Ecole de Musique of Lausanne.
In recent years, he has been conducting a production of Cavalli’s La Calisto in Geneva, Mozart concerts at the Lausanne Opera, a production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd in Geneva, Bach’s Matthew Passion in Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands and orchestral works by Bach and Rameau with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.
In 2016, he has given over 35 concerts with Gli Angeli Genève ans has also been singing, amongst other projects, on numerous concert tours with Jordi Savall and Vaclav Luks (Collegium 1704). He also conducted Bach Motets with the Netherlands Bach Society, and 2 orchestral Bach programs with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.
In 2017, he conducts the South Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra in a Bach’s Matthew Passion tour, Mozart’s Requiem and c-minor mass or Bach’s St John Passion with Gli Angeli Genève, and starts a new concert series in Geneva dedicated to the complete Haydn symphonies.
Sumner Thompson, baritone
Described as possessing “power and passion,” and “stylish elegance,” Sumner Thompson is in high demand on the concert and opera stage across North America and Europe. He has appeared as a soloist with many leading ensembles and orchestras including the Britten-Pears Orchestra, the National Symphony, the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, Apollo’s Fire, Pacific Baroque Orchestra, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Les Voix Baroques, The Handel and Haydn Society, Tafelmusik, Arion Baroque Orchestra, Gli Angeli Genève, and the orchestras of Phoenix, Memphis, Indianapolis, Buffalo, and Charlotte.
Recent engagements include a repeat performance of Handel’s Messiah with Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers with the critically acclaimed Green Mountain Project, Britten’s War Requiem with the Boston Philharmonic, Bach’s St. John Passion at the National Cathedral, and the title role in Britten’s Saint Nicolas with Philadelphia Choral Arts. On the operatic stage he performed the role of El Dancaïro in Carmen with the Cincinnati Opera, and the role of Siegmund in a concert version of Act I of Wagner’s Die Walküre in Boston.
Mr. Thompson can be heard on the Boston Early Music Festival’s Grammy-nominated recording of Lully’s Psyché on the CPO label, with the Handel and Haydn Society on their recording of Handel’s Messiah on the Coro label, and also with Les Voix Baroques on Canticum Canticorum, Carissimi Oratorios, and Humori, all on the ATMA label.
In addition to his musical pursuits, Mr. Thompson spends his time restoring his 1885 Stick-style Victorian home, building various types of bass guitars, and entertaining his 4 year old daughter.