ST. MATTHEW PASSION Now Available on Blu-ray
Soli Deo Gloria, Inc., the nonprofit organization that funded production of the recent DVD of John Nelson conducting J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion, has announced that a Blu-ray disc version will be released in the U.S. on March 25, 2014.
Nelson, a Grammy Award-winning American conductor and founding artistic director of Soli Deo Gloria, leads an international cast of singers and instrumentalists in a modern-instrument performance of Bach's epic masterpiece. It was recorded live in July 2011 during the Festival de Saint-Denis near Paris, amid the medieval splendor and reverberant acoustics of the 12th-century Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis.
The critically acclaimed two-DVD set, produced by France's Idéale Audience International, was released worldwide in March 2013 via EuroArts Music International and its distribution partners, including Naxos of America (Ideale Audience DVD 3079658). The DVD set can be purchased directly from Soli Deo Gloria, www.sdgmusic.com, as well as from major online music retailers. The Blu-ray edition will be available from the same sources.
Directed by Louise Negroni, the video production was shot using seven HDTV cameras.
Soloists include German tenor Werner Güra as the Evangelist; American bass Stephen Morscheck as Jesus; Britain's Lucy Crowe, soprano, and Christine Rice, mezzo-soprano; American tenor Nicholas Phan; British bass-baritone Mathew Brook; and French bass Bertrand Grunenwald.
Choirs include the Schola Cantorum of Oxford and Maîtrise de Paris, with the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris.
American Record Guide characterized the DVD as a "vital and riveting" performance by a seasoned conductor who "brings a youthful intensity and . . . passion to this music." BBC Music Magazine praised its "overwhelming sincerity." Gramophone described Nelson's approach as "a rounded and mature vision" of the work. Fanfare deemed it "an excellent performance" that's "an emotional religious experience . . . quite moving."
Nelson's many awards include a Grammy for his recording of Handel's Semele on the Deutsche Grammophon label and France's Diapason d'Or de l'Année award for Berlioz's Béatrice et Bénédict on Erato.
Like the two-DVD set, the Blu-ray edition will include a 177-minute concert disc and a 52-minute companion disc, "John Nelson's Saint Matthew Passion-The Journey," offering an illuminating behind-the-scenes documentary showing Nelson in rehearsals with soloists and choristers. In one scene, he asks a singer for a less "operatic" rendition of a passage. He asks another for a "more personal" delivery of emotion-laden text.
During a one-on-one interview, Nelson says, "The point is for this music to enter into your heart and to affect you as a person."
Soli Deo Gloria: 20th Season of Sacred Music
Now in its 20th season, 2013-14, Soli Deo Gloria is dedicated to enhancing, promoting, and preserving classical sacred music in the biblical tradition at the highest level by sponsoring recordings and concerts and commissioning new works.
During its two decades, Soli Deo Gloria has commissioned 35 works of classical sacred music ranging in scale from Psalm settings for a cappella mixed chorus to oratorios. Among composers who have received Soli Deo Gloria commissions are Aaron Jay Kernis, James MacMillan, Christopher Rouse, and Augusta Read Thomas, to name a few.
On the recording front, Soli Deo Gloria-sponsored DVDs include Nelson conducting Bach's Mass in B Minor at Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral; Beethoven's Missa Solemnis in Lisbon, Portugal; and Haydn's The Creation in Naarden, the Netherlands, in addition to the St. Matthew Passion at Saint-Denis. The sacred-music advocacy organization has also sponsored CD recordings of Henryk Górecki's Miserere and Hector Berlioz's Te Deum.
Founded in 1993, Soli Deo Gloria takes its name from the Latin phrase that Bach inscribed on many of his composition, meaning "to God alone be the Glory."