Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Berliner Philharmoniker Releases Bach's St Matthew Passion Conducted by Sir Simon Rittle & "Ritualized" by Peter Sellars on DVD and Blu-Ray

The Berliner Philharmoniker is releasing today their live recording of the St Matthew Passion, in a semi-staged “ritualization” by director Peter Sellars, on DVD and Blu-ray. Conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, who called these performances “the single most important thing we ever did here,” the production was called “the most moving concert and music theatre event of the season” by the Berliner Zeitung. The St Matthew Passion was recorded live at the Philharmonie in Berlin on April 11, 2010; the last of five sold out performances. The DVD and Blu-ray will be released on The Berliner Philharmoniker’s own label available exclusively at the Berlin Philharmonie shop and the Berliner Philharmoniker online shop at www.berliner-philharmoniker.de/shop.

Soloists for the performance were soprano Camilla Tilling, mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená, tenor Topi Lehtipuu, tenor Mark Padmore, baritone Thomas Quasthoff, baritone Christian Gerhaher with the Rundfunkchor Berlin (Berlin Radio Chorus) with chorus master Simon Halsey, and the Staats- und Domchor Berlin (boy’s choir of the Cathedral of Berlin) with chorus master Kai-Uwe Jirka.

Bach’s St Matthew Passion is widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of classical sacred music. Though an oratorio, the performances have often been staged as theatre. The Berliner Philharmoniker’s performances, mounted by Peter Sellars in the Berlin Philharmonie’s 360 degree auditorium, were conceived as a “ritualization” that incorporated two choruses and two orchestras facing each other in a “musical cross,” thus creating a community that engages with itself. The soloists and chorus members memorized their parts, leaving them free to move throughout the theatre within the ritual and present the audience with a series of dramatic, powerful images. “It’s not theatre,” says Peter Sellars about the St Matthew Passion, “it is a prayer, it is a meditation.”

The performances were praised by the German daily Die Welt as “Simon Rattle’s Easter miracle,” and the Guardian wrote “I challenge you not to be an emotional wreck by the end of it: the singers, especially Mark Padmore as the Evangelist, give the performance of their lives; Sellars sensitively connects the Passion story with the performances and the audience, without distorting Bach’s drama; and Rattle and his players are collectively raised to spooky, spiritual levels of inspiration.”

Both the DVD and Blu-ray editions contain booklets with introductory texts, biographies and photos. Bonus footage includes an in-depth conversation between Peter Sellars and Simon Halsey, conductor of the Berlin Radio Chorus. The price is approximately $ 32.00 USD (25 Euros) for the DVD and $38.00 USD (30 Euros) for the Blu-ray (plus shipping).

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