Today's Classical Music Video

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

John Eliot Gardinet at 70




I expect a few eyebrows would be raised if I declared John Eliot Gardiner one of the great conductors of our time. Many music-lovers have probably not even heard of him. Others would associate him solely with the period instrument and historically informed performance movement. But Gardiner's importance cannot be underestimated.

With the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra Gardiner has indeed been a leader in performing older music as it was probably played in its own time. But he is at home conducting virtually everything from Monteverdi to the present. Audiences in London know him as a master of a vast repertoire and look forward to every concert he conducts. But he seldom appears in North America, except when touring occasionally with his own musicians.

At age 70 he can look back on a career that has illuminated a huge amount of music, not least of all, every one of Bach's hundreds of cantatas. Several years ago he toured Europe with the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra on what was called the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage. The idea was to perform in the very churches where the music was performed in Bach's lifetime. The project was to be captured for posterity by Deutsche Grammophon. DG lost its nerve part way through the project but Gardiner persisted by raising money to release the remaining cantatas on his own label.

In this video done four years ago one gets a sense of the magnitude of the project and how brilliantly it succeeded. As always with Gardiner, the performances were vibrant and imaginative. Rhythms were infectious and the virtuosity of the singing and playing was breathtaking. The performances accomplished what all fine performances aspire to achieve: fill listeners with wonder at the beauty and profundity of the music.

Happy 70th birthday, Sir John!


Paul E. Robinson

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