From the very beginning, composers have always tried to translate their emotional, active and spiritual life into vivid impressions. Personally, I am convinced that high level musicians are as capable today as they were yesterday, of giving life to these works in a contemporary fashion.
Why open the 20th edition of the Festival with Bach’s B minor Mass, and why precisely this year, which marks the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth?
The B minor Mass is not just a demonstration of beautiful polyphonies, a unique and masterly construction. There are obvious relations between its writing and the universe of the Opera, at a time when singers performed as much in church as on the stage, with equal pleasure, and where breathtaking lyricism was also found in dances. Let us not forget that Bach was very much drawn towards dance music from the very early years of the Köthen period.
The B minor Mass, as well all sacred music, – including Passions and funeral music, – is permeated with choreographic pulsations, in other words with galant dances such as gigs, passepieds, réjouissances, passacaglias, pastorales, gavottes. These, although their names do not appear as such on the score, are nonetheless real and truly present in the writing itself – “crypted dances” – attesting that, as far as Bach was concerned, the “profane” world was the mirror of the sacred world. The a cappella writing here is enriched by constant rhythmic rebounds entrusted to the instruments.
Could we thus consider that the B minor Mass could be Bach’s respectful and admirative answer to the works of Monteverdi, his illustrious colleague, and in particular to the Vespers (1610), another sacred masterpiece despite its many affetti, – two giants whose research bears a disquieting resemblance?
Kei KoitoArtistic Director of the Festival
Translation : Isabelle Watson