Always passionate, always historically informed

by Christoph Gaiser
Sir John Ellio Gardiner conducting an orchestra

Artist in residence
Sir John Eliot Gardiner


If there's one thing he hates, it's being put into the period performance practice corner, even if the music world owes the founding of the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists and the spectacular rediscovery of Rameau’s opera Les Boréades in 1975 to the British conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Not to forget the «Bach Cantata Pilgrimage», for which Gardiner travelled for a full year to perform Bach’s cantatas in 90 concerts in 15 countries. Gardiner, however, has always seen himself as a musical allrounder, equally interested in sacred vocal works as operas and symphonies. His founding of the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique in 1990 was a decisive contribution to a fresh look at the music of Hector Berlioz and other 19th century composers on a new, historically informed basis. France has always been an important reference point for Gardiner, who was chief conductor of the Lyon Opera from 1983 to 1988. He musters equal enthusiasm for Gabriel Fauré’s ethereal Requiem as for Georges Bizet’s sultry Carmen score, which Gardiner conducted in 2009 at the place of its world premiere, the Salle Favart in Paris. One prominent composer of the era, however, has always been given a wide berth by Gardiner – Richard Wagner. On the contrary, his activism on behalf of Wagner’s antipode malgré lui, Johannes Brahms, has been all the more passionate. Gardiner has paid homage to Brahms not least with a 30-concert project resembling the «Pilgrimage». In Luxembourg, Gardiner will conduct all of Brahms’ symphonies on two evenings. He also honours the choral composer Brahms in two other performances, which combine the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg with the Monteverdi Choir and also reflect the connection between Brahms and Antonín Dvořák, who were friends. Nor will Bach be absent from this Luxembourg residency. Leipzig’s St. Thomas Cantor, to whom Gardiner has dedicated a widely-acclaimed book, once felt the urge to forge a new whole from individual pieces he had composed for various liturgical purposes. Even though it may never have been performed as a whole during Bach’s lifetime, it has taken its place in the pantheon of European classical music under the title Mass in B minor. And who could be more deeply versed in this incomparable music than the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists under the baton of their tireless, charismatic founder?

We’ve got something similar coming up soon at the Philharmonie: