Strictly Ex Cathedra: 2014/15 Season Introduction
Welcome to our new season which is quintessential Ex Cathedra: ravishing French Baroque music The Sun King at Versailles, Handel’s all-heavenly Messiah, Christmas Music by Candlelight, a major new commission Seven Angels from James MacMillan, Rachmaninoff’s iconic Vespers and a Good Friday performance, sung in English, of Bach’s monumental St Matthew Passion in Symphony Hall. Six of the best !
Ex Cathedra’s love-affair with French music has led us to explore repertoire from Machaut to Messiaen and just about everything in between. In May we are collaborating with the Canadian dance company Cas Public in Concert Dansé, a world-premiere of a choreographed version of Duruflé’s Requiem. In June’s Summer Vespers we perform a spectacular programme of Venetian music commissioned in 1638 to celebrate the birth of France’s greatest monarch Louis XIV, the Sun King.
In the autumn our new season opens with music by Michel-Richard de Lalande and includes some of the Sun King’s favourite pieces – ‘que le Roi demandoit souvent’ – and some of the finest music of the age. The grand motet De Profundis was performed at the funeral of Louis XIV in 1715 and ends with a heart-rending setting of the Requiem text. It is one of the great moments in the choral repertoire.
Ex Cathedra has given many performances of Handel’s Messiah and whilst giving prominence to essential elements of performance practice of the period, it is Handel’s unstoppable creative energy, the extraordinary pace and conviction of the work, its profound spirituality and infectious optimism which are our over-riding inspiration. We welcome the distinguished Argentinian soprano Maria Christina Kiehr and Chilean tenor Rodrigo del Pozo who will join our highly-praised community of young soloists, two of whom were very successful in this year’s Handel Singing Competition.
Christmas Music by Candlelight will provide the usual mix of old and new favourites. This year there is an international flavour and a special tribute to those involved in the conflict of the 1914-18 World War. This theme continues into 2015 with New Jerusalem, a programme which includes two commissions and Parry’s final masterpiece Songs of Farewell written between1916 and 1918. Elgar’s unfinished oratorio Last Judgement was a starting-point for James MacmIllan’s Seven Angels. He has chosen texts from Revelation and uses an instrumental ensemble of biblical instruments. For the first time one of Ex Cathedra’s Angels, Jane Arthur, has commissioned a new work from Roxanna Panufnik Since we parted, which continues the Edwardian theme.
We celebrate the centenary of the composition in Moscow of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, first performed on March 10 1915 as a charity concert for the war-wounded. It was one of Rachmaninoff’s favourite works and in many ways marks the end of an era.
In Ex Cathedra’s 40 year history we have performed Bach’s St Matthew Passion on many occasions, creating our own constantly regenerating and evolving tradition. From the very start our aim was always to be true to Bach, using two choruses, two groups of soloists singing from the choir, and two orchestras. It is still rare to hear live performances that are faithful to these crucial elements of the work. We have performed the work almost always in English. The English translation currently used was commissioned by Symphony Hall in 2008.
The season comes full circle with dance and a welcome return of BRB’s earthy interpretation of Orff’s Carmina Burana. It’s time to come dancing again!
Artistic Director & Conductor