Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists are set to renew their formidable creative partnership with DG for a production of J.S. Bach’s St John Passion. The globally renowned conductor’s interpretation, to be given at the historic Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, will be streamed live on DG Stage at 3pm (CET), 2 April 2021. They will be joined by a team of outstanding young soloists in what is sure to be one of this year’s landmark cultural events.
Following the reissue of Bach’s St Matthew Passion, released 19 March 2021, this performance on DG Stage marks the start of a renewed partnership between Gardiner with his ensembles and the Yellow Label. Their remarkable legacy of recordings for Deutsche Grammophon and Archiv Produktion, including music by Bach, Beethoven, Monteverdi, Mozart and Schumann, will be issued as a 104 CD Box set in May 2021.
The choral masterpiece ‘St John Passion’ was first performed in Leipzig’s Nikolaikirche on Good Friday 1724. The composer’s setting of St John’s account of Christ’s trial and crucifixion was unprecedented in its power to bring the Passion story to life for the congregation. Rich in dramatic contrasts, the score conveys everything from Peter’s shame at denying Christ, the violence of the mob and the suffering of Christ on the Cross to an uplifting sense of faith in anticipation of the Resurrection. Its music is by turns evocative, stirring, exultant and profoundly moving – vital elements in a composition that holds our attention from beginning to end.
The DG Stage concert comes from the historic Sheldonian Theatre, the ceremonial hall of the University of Oxford. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built between 1664 and 1669, the Sheldonian is crowned by an eight‑sided cupola, offering panoramic views of this “city of dreaming spires”. It also boasts a magnificent 32‑panel painted ceiling, the work of Robert Streater, court painter to Charles II.
“I look forward to this performance for DG Stage of Bach’s St John Passion,” says Sir John Eliot Gardiner. “I recorded the piece for the first time for Archiv Produktion back in 1986 and it remains truly special to me. Bach conceived the piece as much as an act of worship as a work of religious art. Almost 300 years after it was heard for the first time, it continues to move listeners of all faiths and none.”
“I’m really pleased that after a gap of more than 20 years, my collaboration with Deutsche Grammophon is about to be renewed,” says Gardiner. “I look back with great pride on the many recordings we made together with the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique.”
Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon, welcomes the opportunity to work with Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir & Orchestras. “I am delighted that we can share Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s vision of a work so dear to his heart with a global audience via DG Stage,” he observes. “His profound insights into Bach’s music come from a lifetime of study and performing experience. Sir John Eliot Gardiner is undoubtedly one of the artists who have defined Deutsche Grammophon and our Archiv label with his landmark recordings, ranging from the Renaissance and Baroque masters to the Classical and Romantic periods and even encompassing such diverse 20th-century composers as Holst, Lehár and Stravinsky. We feel privileged to reconnect with that rich legacy and present a retrospective of his work as well as a brand-new production with his wonderful longstanding partners the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists.”