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Herreweghe at 60 / Concert Spirituel at 20

Schütz, Opus ultimum, Collegium Vocale Gent, P. Herreweghe

Schumann, Symphonies 1/3, Orchestre des Champs-Élysées, P. Herreweghe

Philippe Herreweghe Retrospective

Two anniversaries to note in the international world of historically informed performance. Philippe Herreweghe first made waves as a conductor of early music and lately has undertaken projects that try to bring that interest into the mainstream orchestra. As reported by Christian Merlin (Philippe Herreweghe, les soixante ans d'un faux austère, May 5) for Le Figaro, Philippe Herreweghe celebrated his 60th birthday (my translation):
In Amsterdam in early March, Philippe Herreweghe has just conducted his Orchestre des Champs-Élysées in the prestigious hall of the Concertgebouw, in a difficult Brahms and Bruckner program and with sovereign mastery. At a restaurant after the concert, our tablemates asked us what concert we had just heard, and the reaction was, "Herreweghe in Bruckner? I thought he was a Baroque conductor!" One cannot sweep away 35 years of Bach cantatas with a sweep of the hand. But that kind of remark should become rarer and rarer, the more Philippe Herreweghe has become uncontested in the world of Romantic music. For his 60th birthday, Harmonia Mundi has shown the extent of his musical palette by publishing both a disc dedicated to the last choral works of Schütz and another to Schumann's first and third symphonies, all performed with poetry and flexibility, as well as a retrospective box set, combined with a great DVD portrait.
available at Amazon
Handel, Water Music and Fireworks, Le Concert Spirituel
Also for Le Figaro, in an interview with Hervé Niquet (Les 20 ans du Concert spirituel, April 17), Jean-Louis Validire reports that Le Concert spirituel is celebrating its 20th anniversary (my translation):
To what do you attribute the particular sound of this group?

We always take risks. The most beautiful memory in this regard was the performance of Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks and Water Music. We had to have 24 oboes reconstructed, and trumpets sans perce and horns sans perce, to play without any concession to modern instruments. That was a dilemma for us. People quit. But in reality that choice confirmed me in the idea that one had to try, because if people in the past did it, that means there was a way to do it.

Perhaps they used so many instruments because they did not have the power of modern instruments...

We are always taking three steps forward and then two steps back. This business of numbers is false. So why did Mahler put so many instruments in his orchestra, why did he write the Symphony of a Thousand? It was not because they did not have enough sound, but because he loved excess as much as those in other periods. Just because it is Baroque, one thinks it must be intimate music. That's wrong, and you have only to look at the palaces of that time. When you realize that Louis XV built for Mme de Pompadour a theater in one of the grand staircases of Versailles, with an orchestra pit for 40 musicians, a huge stage for only 14 seats! The period adored excess and unbalance and disorientation.
Le Concert Spirituel has been in residence at the Opéra National de Montpellier since 2006.

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