When J. S. Bach died in 1750 his son, Carl Philipp Emanuel, inherited four folders of music containing twenty-seven musical manuscripts in different styles and with various backgrounds. This variety of scores, perfectly ordered by Bach, is what is known nowadays as the Mass in B minor, a name which was later given to it by the work’s editors.
In the final years of his life Bach began to be concerned with his artistic legacy and, despite his renowned modesty, also with his fame beyond provincial Leipzig. Bach’s music, which is universally admired nowadays, at that time was known only by a very small group of people, mostly inhabitants of Leipzig, and probably not even all of them, but just those who attended mass at the St Thomas Church, where he was an organist and teacher. As a result, Bach was consumed with bitterness.
His will to overcome his geographical limits and also his desire for artistic transcendence urged him to create numerous collections of his music, a kind of summa musicalia, or encyclopaedic works that could systematically bring together all his musical knowledge. Thus were created the Goldberg Variations, an investigation into the limits of the variation form; the Art of Fugue, which delved profoundly into the possibilities of the fugue; the Musical Offering, a systematic study of the potential of counterpoint; and of course the Mass in B minor, a compendium of all Bach’s holy music knowledge. It is worth mentioning that Bach’s encyclopaedist spirit can already be seen in other compilations: six French suites, six English, six German (Partitas), six pieces for cello, six for violin, six concerti grossi and very many others.
The Mass in B minor, nevertheless, poses a great many questions that have not yet been answered. For example, why did Bach write a Catholic mass in Latin if he was a Lutheran? According to other studies, Bach began when the chance arose to debut this piece at the Catholic cathedral in Vienna to celebrate St Cecilia’s Day, an opportunity that never actually materialised. Another explanation is that Bach suspected that a colossal Catholic mass in Latin that included all his musical knowledge (counterpoint, opera duets, plainsong, stile antico imitating Palestrina, basso continuo, instrumental solos, etc.) would allow him to save, and above all preserve his artistic legacy. With Latin, an international language, Bach would cross the borders of Germany, and with the diversity of musical techniques, perfectly organised into the four folders, many composers from all over the world could access his music and understand his genius.
Bach’s life and career was plagued with disappointment and this is not just an irrelevant and romantic tale. He believed that he did too much work for what they paid him and, furthermore, his superiors (bishops and princes) did not even respect his art. In fact, one of them sent him to the dungeon for merely applying for a better job. Humiliated, sometimes the composer lost his papers and showed his bad temper. On at least one occasion, he tried to hit a badly behaved student; on another, he insulted a bassoonist who was out of tune by telling him he sounded sour “like an onion”. And in a famous letter, Bach insensitively complained that not enough people had died yet in his parish and that what he earned from funerals had, therefore, decreased. It is well known that, in his last few years, he cruelly suffered from blindness because of a quack doctor who had already operated on Handel and who had also left him blind. Therefore, arriving at the final stage of his bitter life, Bach remained with just one hope: to be recognised as a musical genius, and the Mass in B minor, significantly the last vocal piece he composed, was the way to guarantee this possible posthumous fame.
And that is how it was. Nowadays, all of Bach’s work is interpreted all over the world, but the Mass is possibly the most complete, the most encyclopaedic and the most admired. And it was all thanks to four folders of paper that his son inherited.
Founded in 1979 by Ton Koopman, the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra is formed by internationally renowned specialist baroque performers that meet several times a year in order to work on new programmes. Each concert is a new experience for its musicians who, along with the energy and limitless enthusiasm of the conductor, are a guarantee of excellence and great musical quality.
The Amsterdam Baroque Choir, founded in 1992, made its debut in the city of Utrecht, at the Dutch Early Music Festival, with the worldwide premiere of Requiem (for fifteen voices) and Vespers (for thirty-two voices) by H.I.F. Biber. The recording of both works obtained the Cannes Classical prize for the best performance of choir music from the 17th and 18th centuries. Due to its unusual combination of performing flexibility and the clarity of its texture, the Amsterdam Baroque Choir is considered to be one of the most outstanding choirs at present.
In 1994 Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir embarked on one of the most ambitious musical projects of recent decades: the complete recording of the sacred and secular cantatas of J.S. Bach. This recording earned the conductor and his group the Deutsche Schallplatten-Preis Echo Klassik.
In 2014 the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir concluded another big objective: performing and recording the entire works of Dieterich Buxtehude, a great source of inspiration for the young Johann Sebastian Bach. 2104 saw the release of the last volume, as well as the celebration of the 35th anniversary of the orchestra, with an extensive tour around Holland and the rest of Europe.
Along with his daughter Marieke Koopman, Ton Koopman undertook the theatre production of Oorwurm, a musical for children that fulfilled his dream of bringing quality baroque music to a young Dutch audience.
The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir has recorded the most important baroque and classic works. Among the numerous prizes obtained, it is worth highlighting the Gramophone, the Diapason d'Or, the 10-Repertoire, the Stern des Monats-Fono Forum, the Hector Berlioz prize and two Edison prizes. In 2008 the group and Ton Koopman were awarded the prestigious BBC prize and in 2009, for the second time, they obtained the Echo Klassik prize for Volume VII of the Opera-Omnia by Buxtehude.
Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir regularly perform at the most important concerts and festivals in Europe, the United States and Asia.
Born in Zwolle (Holland), Ton Koopman received a classical education. He studied organ, harpsichord and musicology in Amsterdam, and he received the Conservatory´s prize for performing excellence for both instruments.
From the outset he was fascinated by original instruments and the pursuit of a performance style based on authenticity. Koopman specialised in baroque music, with a special emphasis on J. S. Bach, and he soon became an outstanding figure in the movement known as “authentic performance”.
As an organist and harpsichord player, Ton Koopman has performed in the most important concert halls in the world and has played the most prestigious original instruments in Europe. At the age of 25 he founded his first baroque orchestra and later, in 1979, he founded the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra; in 1992 he founded the baroque choir of the same city, the Amsterdam Baroque Choir. Joined together, as the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir, they were quickly recognised worldwide as one of the best ensembles with period instruments. With a repertoire that covers everything from early baroque to the latest classics, they have performed at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Théatre des Champs-Elysées and the Salle Pleyel in Paris, the Musikverein and the Konzerthaus in Vienna, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York, the Suntory Hall in Tokyo, as well as in London, Brussels, Madrid, Rome, Salzburg, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Munich, Athens, etc.
One of Ton Koopman´s most prestigious and biggest achievements was the recording of all of Bach´s cantatas, which earned him numerous prizes, such as the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis "Echo Klassik", the BBC Prize, the Hector Berlioz Prize and nominations for the Grammy Awards (United States) and the Gramophone Awards (United Kingdom). Koopman has long been a strong advocate of the music of Dietrich Buxtehude, a predecessor of Bach, and in 2005, as soon as he had finished recording the cantatas, he embarked on the recording of Buxtehude: Opera Omnia. The series consists of 30 CDs, and the last was released in 2014. Ton Koopman is president of the International Dieterich Buxtehude Society. In 2006 he was awarded the Bach Prize by the city of Leipzig, in 2012 he received the Buxtehude Prize from the city of Lübeck, and in 2014 he received the Bach Prize from the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Ton Koopman has a very extensive repertoire: as a harpsichord player and organist he has performed music from the Renaissance to the classical era, with the ABO&C he has intensely explored the Baroque and the classical period, and as a conductor or modern orchestras, he has also performed the first Romantic composers.
In recent years, he has been busy working as a guest conductor and has worked with the most prestigious orchestras in the world, for example the Berlin Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Munich Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the DSO Berlin, the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Vienna Symphony, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra.
Ton Koopman has an extensive discography for labels such as Erato, Teldec, Sony, Deutsche Grammophon, and Philips. In 2003, he founded his own record label, Antoine Marchard, an independent label distributed by Challenge Classics.
Ton Koopman is a teacher at the University of Leiden, an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music of London and artistic director of the Festival Itinéraire Baroque.
Bright-toned soprano Martha Bosch, completed her musical education at the Conservatory of Amsterdam with Hein Meens and Sasja Hunnego. At the early age of seventeen she won the Princess Christina Competition and made her operatic debut as Bastienne in Mozart Bastien und Bastienne with the Residentie Orchestra Den Haag. In the following years she sang leading roles in Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro, Honegger Les Aventures du Roi Pausole, Mozart Die Zauberflöte and Monteverdi Orfeo.
Very much in demand as an Oratorio soloist, Martha Bosch appeared in Bach St Matthew and St John Passion, Haydn Seasons, Vivaldi Gloria, Purcell Te Deum, Pergolesi Stabat Matter, Rutter Magnificat, Fauré Requiem, Rossini Petit Messe Solennelle and in Bach and Telemann cantatas.
Among her recent engagements are concerts with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, Cappella Amsterdam, Netherlands Chamber Choir and collaborations with conductors such as Alfredo Bernardini, Peter Dijkstra, Daniel Reuss and Jos van Veldhoven.
Since December 2016, she has been working on a regular basis with Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir, and has made a successful debut with them at the Festival Bach in Leipzig in June 2018 with a repertoire of Bach Cantatas.
The young Dutch counter-tenor Maarten Engeltjes was born in 1984 and began singing at the age of four as a soprano.
He made his debut as a counter-tenor at the age of sixteen, singing the Arias for Alto in The St Matthew Passion, which was followed by numerous performances, including the masterpieces by J.S. Bach and oratorios of Händel.
With strong ties to both the baroque and contemporary music, some of his recent performances include roles such as Ptolemy in the Julius Caesar of Händel with Capella Cracoviensis in Krakow; Bertarido in Rodelinda by Händel at the Festival Via Stellae in Santiago de Compostela; the role of Adschib in Henze’s L’Upupa by Hans Werner conducted by Markus Stenz at the NTR Zaterdagmatinee of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; the Dresden Requiem by Lera Auerbach with the Staatskapelle Dresden and Jurowski conducting; The St Matthew Passion with the Netherlands Bachvereniging conducted by Jos Van Veldhoven, the Stabat Mater by Pergolesi with Concerto Köln; the Magnificat by Bach with the Bergen Philharmonic conducted by Juanjo Mena; the role of the Christian magician in the Rinaldo by Händel at the Lausanne Opera; the role of Meraspe in the Artemisia by Cavalli with La Venexiana; a tour of the St John Passion with Ton Koopman and his Amsterdam Baroque Soloists; the Mass in B minor with Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin conducted by Daniel Reuss; the role of the Angel in the worldwide release in the opera Adam in Ballingschap by Rob Zuidam at the De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam, Polinesso in Ariodante by Händel conducted by Federico Sardelli at the Beaune International Baroque and Romantic Opera Festival and the Dixit Dominus with the Nederlands Kammerkoor conducted by Peter Dijkstra.
Tilman Lichdi has stood out as one of the most important performers of Bach oratorios and the Lied repertoire. He has especially dedicated himself to the role of the Evangelist and in his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2010, a critic from Chicago wrote: “One can go a lifetime without hearing the Evangelist sung as marvellously well as by Tilman Lichdi, and I’m not forgetting Peter Schreier”. Lichi has given concerts all over Europe, the United States and South America led by truly renowned conductors such as Ton Koopman, Thomas Hengelbrock, Martin Haselböck, Peter Dijkstra, Frieder Bernius, Christoph Perick, Bernard Labadie, Marcus Bosch, Hervé Niquet, Hartmut Haenchen, Kent Nagano, Christoph Poppen, Claus Peter Flor, Michail Pletnev, Michel Corboz, Hans-Christoph Rademann and Teodor Currentzis.
In the 2014/15 season Tilman Lichdi recorded, for Sony Classics, the CD of Don Giovanni by Mozart with Teodor Currantzis and Lux Aeterna, the CD of the St Matthew Passion by Bach with Frieder Bernius and the Musikpodium Stuttgart, a DVD / CD production of the St John Passion by Bach with the BR Choir and Peter Dijkstra. He travelled to Lausanne (Switzerland) for the St John Passion with the Ensemble Lausanne and Michel Corboz, to Munich and Vienna with the Magnificat by Bach, the Wiener Akademie conducted by Martin Haselböck, to Leipzig with the Christmas Oratorio by Bach, Thomaskirche and Christoph Biller and went on a tour around Europe with the Christmas Oratorio by Bach and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra conducted by Ton Koopman.
He has performed in concerts with the Munich Philharmonic, the Spanish National Orchestra, the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, the Orchestra of Lyon and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra with Ton Koopman and with the Lisbon based Gulbenkian Orchestra with Michel Corboz, and toured around Spain with the St Matthew Passion with Illia Korol and the Santa Cecilia Classical Orchestra, ending the season with Die schöne Müllerin by Schubert.
In recent years, we would highlight the St John Passion with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bernard Labadie, his debut with the New York Philharmonic and the Messiah, as well as his Australian debut with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and The Creation by Haydn, at the Chatelet in Paris, a new staged production of Mozart’s version of the Messiah, produced by Hartmut Haenchen, as well as the St John Passion by Bach with the Munich Philharmonic, conducted by Ton Koopman and a concert tour around Europe with the Christmas Oratorio by Bach with the Balthasar Neumann Choir and Ensemble, directed by Thomas Hengelbrock.
Among his discography, in addition to making the first recording of Der Berggeist The Spirit of the Mountain) by Franz Danzl for Carus under the direction of Frieder Bernius, what stands out are the three CDs with works by Buxtehude with the Amsterdam Baroque and Ton Koopman for the label Challenge Classics.
Between 2005 and 2013, Tilman Lichdi was a member of the Nuremberg State Theatre, and he performed roles there such as David in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, the helmsman in The Flying Dutchman by Wagner, Tamino in The Magic Flute by Mozart, Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte, Belmonte in The Abduction from the Seraglio, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Count Belfiore in La finta giardiniera and Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville. Tilman Lichdi was awarded the Bavarian Arts Sponsorship Award 2012 in the Performing Arts category.
Tilman Lichdi grew up near Heilbronn, Germany, and began his first singing lessons at the age of 18 with Alois Treml at the Staatstheater Stuttgart. He first studied the trumpet for four years in Mannheim with Professor Günther Beetz and then later he took up voice training with Professor Charlotte Lehmann in 1999 (also the teacher of Thomas Quasthoff) in Würzburg, where he graduated with honours.
Born in Kleve, Germany, Klaus Mertens began his impressive career as soon as he completed his studies and graduated, working with renowned "early music" specialists such as Ton Koopman, Frans Brüggen, Nicholas McGegan, Philippe Herreweghe, Gustav Leonhardt, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and also with great conductors of the classical repertoire such as Gary Bertini, Herbert Blomstedt, Sir Roger Norrington, Enoch zu Guttenberg, Jun Märkl, Kent Nagano, Hans Vonk, Kenneth Montgomery, Ivan Fischer and Andris Nelsons, among others.
He has enjoyed very successful collaborations with renowned orchestras from all over the world, notably including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Dresden Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra; as well as baroque orchestras such as the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and various chamber music ensembles.
Klaus Mertens is regularly invited as a guest to perform at the most important festivals in the world, and he has become one of the most sought-after signers of the baroque oratorio repertoire. He has recorded many of the masterpieces of J. S. Bach, notably including the recording of all his cantatas with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra conducted by Ton Koopman, a project that ended in 2003 after ten years, marking a turning point in his career, including concert tours around all of Europe, America and Japan; he became the first and only singer to have sung all the vocal works by Bach, in both concerts and recordings.
Klaus Mertens also performs chamber and Lied music. His repertoire encompasses everything from Monteverdi to contemporary composers, including pieces especially composed for him. He is also immersed in discovering and revitalising music that has been unknown of until now.
An extensive discography of 175 CDs and DVDs, as well as appearances of radio and television, endorse the career of Klaus Mertens as a singer of great versatility.