1 April 2013 (Easter Monday)
1.00pm – c.10.00pm

Royal Albert Hall & BBC Radio 3

Sir John Eliot Gardiner leads a nine-hour celebration of the music of J.S. Bach at the Royal Albert Hall on Easter Monday 1st April 2013.

The cornerstones of this Bach Marathon are performances of three of his choral masterpieces: the motet for double choir Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, the Easter cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden, and to close the concert, the Mass in B minor. All three works feature Gardiner and his world-renowned Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Gardiner is joined by some of today’s foremost Bach interpreters, including the pianist Joanna MacGregor (for the Goldberg Variations), the violinist Viktoria Mullova (who plays the Partita in D minor, which includes the famous Chaconne), the cellist Alban Gerhardt (Cello Suite No. 6) and the organist, conductor and musicologist John Butt (in a selection of organ chorales, preludes and fugues).

The audience will be invited to join Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir in the performance: Howard Moody will teach everyone to sing the chorale from Bach’s Easter Day cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden, and they can then become part of the event, singing the final chorale of this extraordinary cantata.

The American pianist and musicologist Robert Levin joins the participating artists and a distinguished panel of writers, philosophers and scientists in stimulating discussions throughout the day about the composer’s life and works, and to probe the disparate ways in which Bach’s music has weathered huge changes of culture and style to transcend the confines of time and achieve universal appeal. Among the contributors are Raymond Tallis (author, philosopher and former professor of geriatric medicine), Anna Starkey (science communicator and writer), Tamar Pincus (psychologist), Julian Joseph (pianist), and Paul Elie (author).

To mark this exceptional event, broadcast live in its entirety on BBC Radio 3, SDG releases a new recording of Bach’s four Ascension Day cantatas which will complete the award-winning Bach Cantata Pilgrimage series for the independent label.

Gardiner, who celebrates his 70th birthday on 20 April, recalls that he grew up literally “under the Cantor’s gaze”, since the most important portrait of Bach (by EG Haussmann, 1748) hung in his parents’ house during his childhood, having been entrusted to them for safekeeping by a refugee fleeing from Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Gardiner’s fascination with the music of the great composer dates from those years when he learnt by heart the treble parts of all Bach’s motets and then went on to conduct them for the first time in his teens. It has developed throughout his life, often marking milestones in his life and career, most notably when he celebrated the new Millennium with the epic Bach Cantata Pilgrimage.

He reflects, “Several of the big moments in my life seem to be linked in some way with the music of Bach, and 2013 is no exception. The enormous appeal of his music today extends to an astonishing variety of people from all walks of life. To spend a whole day in the company of distinguished fellow musicians, writers and scientists to perform, discuss and enjoy the music of this supreme composer whose music lights our lives more than 300 years after his death, is absolutely the best birthday present I could wish for.”

The climax of the BBC’s Baroque Spring season, The Bach Marathon is the highlight of a remarkable year which also sees Gardiner front a 90-minute TV documentary The Genius of Bach due for broadcast on BBC TWO on Easter Saturday (31 March 2013), and in October the publication by Penguin of his long-awaited biography of the composer.

In March, Deutsche Grammophon releases a 30-CD limited edition selection of Gardiner’s most distinguished recordings series from its Universal Music catalogue, ranging from Monteverdi to Stravinsky, and taking in the Baroque greats, the Viennese classics, the Romantics and modern composers most dear to his heart. Other events in 2013 include Sir John Eliot Gardiner guest conducting the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican on 25 April in a special programme to mark his 70th birthday, comprising Stravinsky’s Apollon Musagete and Oedipus Rex, and a return to the Royal Opera House in the autumn.

Tickets for the Bach Marathon start at £20 and are valid for the whole day of events starting at 1.00 pm.

The Bach Marathon is presented with the generous support of: Dunard Fund, Countess Yoko Nagae Ceschina, Santander, Jane Patterson and Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni, The Kohn Foundation.

The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists are under the Patronage of HRH The Prince of Wales.


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