Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Artistic Director and Conductor
Simon Callow, Narrator
Michael Spyres, Tenor
Ashley Riches, Bass-Baritone
National Youth Choir of Scotland
Christopher Bell, Artistic Director
Event DurationThe printed program will last approximately two and one-half hours, including one 20-minute intermission.
Sponsored by Ernst & Young LLP
This concert is made possible, in part, by an endowment fund for choral music established by S. Donald Sussman in memory of Judith Arron and Robert Shaw.
At a Glance
This program revisits a crucial moment in the history of the avant-garde: an 1832 performance of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique followed by its “conclusion and complement,” Lélio, ou Le retour à la vie. The Symphonie fantastique is a revolutionary work that has become one of the most popular symphonies in the repertoire; Lélio is a multi-genre extravaganza for orchestra, singers, chorus, piano, and narrator that is rarely heard today, but was regarded by Berlioz’s contemporaries as the more novel and important of the two works. Both are subjective musical autobiographies based on love obsessions, one depicting seduction and drug-induced hallucination, the other a recovery and “return to life” through the healing power of art. Both works inaugurated an aesthetic based on hallucinatory colors, unusual timbres, sudden shifts in mood and dynamics, and surreal structures—a “psychological” music that abandoned classical models and established new ones. These works are at once specimens of pure Romanticism and—in their dissonance, rhythmic displacement, and emphasis on sound for its own sake—a forecast of modernism.
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Founded in 1989 by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique (ORR) aims to bring the stylistic fidelity and intensity of expression of the renowned English Baroque Soloists to the music of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
From its inception, the ORR won plaudits internationally, notably for its interpretation of the works of Beethoven, which it performed extensively and recorded for Deutsche Grammophon in the 1990s. The orchestra has also mounted successful tours of Beethoven symphonies and the Missa solemnis in Europe and the US, as well as a live recording of the Missa solemnis released by Soli Deo Gloria.
The orchestra has been acclaimed for its interpretations of all the major early Romantic composers, starting with Hector Berlioz. The ORR performed and recorded his Symphonie fantastique in the hall of the Paris Conservatoire, where the very first performance of the work took place in 1830. In 1993, together with the Monteverdi Choir, the orchestra gave the first modern performances of Berlioz’s newly rediscovered Messe solennelle. They later joined forces to perform L’enfance du Christ at the Proms, as well as the first complete staged performances in France of Berlioz’s masterpiece Les Troyens, given at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.
Other critically acclaimed projects include Schumann Revealed (recordings of the complete Schumann symphonies and Das Paradies und die Peri), along with operas by Weber (Oberon and Der Freischütz), Bizet (Carmen), Chabrier (L’étoile), Verdi (Falstaff), and Debussy (Pelléas et Mélisande), which were performed in new productions in France, Italy, and London.
Most recently, the ORR has turned its focus again to Berlioz, performing the Symphonie fantastique and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 at the 2015 BBC Proms, followed by performances at the Edinburgh International Festival and Festival Berlioz. The orchestra returned to the Proms in 2016 with Roméo et Juliette as part of Shakespeare 400, and in 2017 with performances of La damnation de Faust. More recently, the orchestra toured a program of Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms with Kristian Bezuidenhout.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Sir John Eliot Gardiner is founder and artistic director of the Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique (ORR). A key figure in the early music revival and a pioneer of historically informed performances, he is a regular guest of the world’s leading symphony orchestras and conducts repertoire from the 17th through 20th centuries.
The breadth of Mr. Gardiner’s repertoire is illustrated in his extensive catalog of award-winning recordings with his own ensembles and leading orchestras. Since 2005, the Monteverdi ensembles have recorded on their independent label, Soli Deo Gloria, established to release the live recordings made during Mr. Gardiner’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage in 2000. His many recording accolades include two Grammy awards; he has received more Gramophone awards than any other living artist.
Mr. Gardiner has conducted opera productions at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Vienna State Opera; and Teatro alla Scala. From 1983 to 1988, he was artistic director of Opéra de Lyon, where he founded its new orchestra. Following the success in 2008 of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra at the Royal Opera House, Mr. Gardiner returned in 2012 to conduct Rigoletto and again in 2013 for Le nozze di Figaro, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of his Royal Opera House debut. In the fall of 2015, he again returned to conduct Orphée et Eurydice with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, co-directed by Hofesh Shechter and John Fulljames.
An authority on the music of J. S. Bach, Mr. Gardiner is the author of Music in the Castle of Heaven: A Portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach, published in October 2013 by Allen Lane and awarded the Fondation Singer-Polignac’s Prix des Muses. Among the numerous awards in recognition of his work—including the Concertgebouw Prize in 2016—Mr. Gardiner holds several honorary doctorates and was awarded a knighthood for his services to music in the 1998 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
More recently, Mr. Gardiner and the Monteverdi ensembles celebrated the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth with staged performances of his three surviving operas across Europe and in the US. Recordings in 2017 included two Bach releases with Soli Deo Gloria—the Magnificat in E-flat major and St. Matthew Passion—along with the London Symphony Orchestra recording of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2, “Lobgesang.”
Simon Callow is an actor, author, and director. He studied at Queen’s University Belfast, and then trained as an actor at Drama Centre London. He joined the National Theatre in 1979, where he created the role of Mozart in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus. His many one-man shows include The Mystery of Charles Dickens, Being Shakespeare, A Christmas Carol, Inside Wagner’s Head, Juvenalia, The Man Jesus, and Tuesday at Tesco’s. Mr. Callow has appeared in many films, including A Room with a View, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love, The Phantom of the Opera, The Man Who Invented Christmas, and Victoria & Abdul. He directed Shirley Valentine in the West End and on Broadway, Single Spies at the National Theatre, and Carmen Jones at the Old Vic, as well as the film adaptation of The Ballad of the Sad Café. He has written biographies of Oscar Wilde, Charles Laughton, and Charles Dickens, and three autobiographical books: Being an Actor, Love Is Where It Falls, and My Life in Pieces. The third volume of his massive Orson Welles biography, One-Man Band, appeared in 2016. Being Wagner: The Triumph of the Will, a short biography of Wagner, was published last year. Music is Mr. Callow’s great passion, and he has made many appearances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, and London Mozart Players.
Michael Spyres is one of the most sought-after tenors of his generation and has been celebrated at many of the most prestigious international opera houses, festivals, and concert halls. His career has taken him from Baroque to Classical to 20th-century music, while firmly establishing him as a specialist in the bel canto repertoire, as well as Rossini and French grand opera. He is featured on numerous CDs and DVDs/Blu-rays, which include his solo albums, A Fool for Love and Espoir.
In the 2018–2019 season, Mr. Spyres makes debuts at the Vienna State Opera as Don Ramiro (La Cenerentola) and Opera Philadelphia as Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor). He makes role debuts as Florestan in concert performances of Fidelio with the Kammerorchester Basel, Gualtiero (Il pirata) at the Grand Théâtre de Genève, Chapelou (Le postillon de Lonjumeau) at Paris’s Opéra Comique, and Pollione (Norma) at Opernhaus Zürich. On the concert platform, he will sing concerts and recitals at the Royal Concertgebouw, Oper Frankfurt, and Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa.
Recent performances include debuts at the Paris Opéra (title role, La clemenza di Tito) and Bayerische Staatsoper (title role, Les contes d’Hoffmann); Mozart’s Mitridate, re di Ponto at Covent Garden, La Monnaie, and in Paris; role debuts as Don José (Carmen) in Paris and Vasco de Gama (L’Africaine) in Frankfurt; Fernand (La favorite) at Liceu Opera Barcelona; his Zurich debut in Orlando paladino; and La damnation de Faust at the BBC Proms. Mr. Spyres has also performed leading roles at the Teatro alla Scala, Semperoper Dresden, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Salzburg, Aix-en-Provence, and Rossini Opera festivals.
Mr. Spyres was born in Mansfield, Missouri, where he grew up in a family of musicians. He began his studies in the US and continued them at the Vienna Conservatory.
Ashley Riches studied English at King’s College, Cambridge, where he sang in the King’s College Choir under Stephen Cleobury. From 2012 to 2014, he was a member of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House, where he made his debut in a duet with Roberto Alagna. He also represented the Royal Opera House at a gala for the Young Artists Programme at the Bolshoi Theatre. He is a BBC New Generation Artist.
Highlights of Mr. Riches’s season include Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex (Creon) with Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Berliner Philharmoniker, Purcell’s The Fairy Queen with Richard Egarr and the Academy of Ancient Music, a European tour of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with Masaaki Suzuki and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Britten’s Curlew River (Ferryman) with the Britten Sinfonia at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Mike Leigh’s production of The Pirates of Penzance (Pirate King) at English National Opera, and the title role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni with Opera Holland Park, along with song recitals and recordings with pianists Simon Lepper, Sholto Kynoch, Anna Tilbrook, and Joseph Middleton.
Mr. Riches’s song discography includes Poulenc’s Chansons gaillardes with Graham Johnson (Hyperion), the songs of Arthur Sullivan with David Owen Norris (Chandos), and a world premiere recording of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Shakespeare Sonnets with Emma Abbate (Resonus). He has also recorded Handel’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato with the Gabrieli Consort & Players conducted by Paul McCreesh (Winged Lion / Signum); Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, singing the bass arias and Pilate with the Monteverdi Choir (Soli Deo Gloria); and the St. John Passion, singing Jesus with the Crouch End Festival Chorus—the first recording in English in more than 50 years.
National Youth Choir of Scotland
Formed in 1996 by artistic director and conductor Christopher Bell, the National Youth Choir of Scotland is an outstanding choir for young people ages 16–25. Membership is granted by annual auditions to singers born, residing, or studying in Scotland.
The National Youth Choir of Scotland has performed at events all over the UK and internationally, including the Edinburgh International Festival, BBC Proms, XX Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, Festival Berlioz, Grant Park Music Festival, and Grand Teton Music Festival. The choir has also toured internationally to Ireland (2000), Sweden (2001), the US (2004 and 2016), Hungary (2007), Germany (2010), and Central Europe (2013).
In 2012, the choir became the first youth company to win a Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award in the ensemble category, which was given in celebration of outstanding achievement over the previous year, including a critically acclaimed performance of Duruflé’s Requiem with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Robin Ticciati, and a gala concert performance of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
In 2017, the National Youth Choir of Scotland returned to the BBC Proms under Sir John Eliot Gardiner to perform Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust, and performed Owain Park’s Footsteps alongside the Tenebrae Choir at the Lammermuir Festival in Scotland. The choir also performed at the Passchendaele Centenary in Ypres, Belgium, broadcast live on the BBC. This year has seen the choir in residency at the Edinburgh International Festival, performing Haydn’s The Creation in the opening concert as well as a special matinee concert conducted by Christopher Bell.