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02 June 2017
"Special praise goes to the Armonico Consort for their beautiful sound and transparent interplay."Stretto, 04-7-2017
Soprano Gillian Keith joins the acclaimed Baroque ensemble Armonico Consort under Christopher Monks for the first release in a three disc series featuring the solo cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Bach’s cantatas hold a special place amongst performers and devotees of his music. Whether sacred or secular, these works provide incredible variety for listeners and players alike. Some contain elements of storytelling similar to arias and recitatives from his great Passions; many have instrumental movements and solo passages that rival any of his concerti, and are indeed borrowed directly from some of the most famous. Not surprisingly, Bach’s cantatas are often incredibly virtuosic, demanding as much technical ability, style and understanding of the music as any of his other works.
This first release features the cantatas nos. 82a, 202 (the famous “Wedding Cantata”) and 210.
Originally from Toronto, Canada, now living in London UK, Gillian Keith has emerged as one of the leading lyric sopranos of the 21st century. Her superb voice and musicianship are at home both on the opera stage and on the concert platform‚ making her one of the most stylish and versatile artists of her generation.
A past winner of both the prestigious Kathleen Ferrier Award and the ROSL Singing Prize, and a distinguished graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, soprano Gillian Keith made her Royal Opera‚ Covent Garden debut as Zerbinetta in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos and has gone on to repeat the role with great success at Ópera de Oviedo and Welsh National Opera. Other operatic appearances include Tytania in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at ROH and at English National Opera‚ Nannetta Falstaff and Pretty Polly in Birtwistle’s Punch and Judy‚ both for ENO‚ and Pretty Polly in Geneva. She has sung Lucinda in Conti’s Don Chisciotte for Netherlands Opera under Rene Jacobs‚ Tiny in Britten’s Paul Bunyan for the Bregenz Festival‚ Elmira in Opera North’s Croesus‚ Ginevra in Handel’s Ariodante in Halle‚ Philine in Thomas’ Mignon, and Iphis in Handel’s Jeptha, both for Buxton Festival, The Woodbird in Scottish Opera’s Siegfried, and Poppea in Basel and in Boston.
Concert performances include Oliver Knussen’s Symphony No. 2 at the BBC Proms, Exsultate, jubilate with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, the Angel in Handel’s La Resurrezione with Ars Lyrica Houston, Bach’s St Matthew Passion and Mozart’s C Minor Mass with Handel & Haydn Society, Boston, Handel’s Messiah and Silete venti with The Sixteen in Hong Kong, Sydney Opera House and New Zealand, and The Songbook with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group at Wigmore Hall. She has presented her original scripted recital Debussy And His Muse at Wilton’s Music Hall, Buxton Festival, and Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Recent appearances include the title role in H.K. Gruber’s Gloria: A Pigtail at Royal Opera’s Linbury Studio Theatre, Buxton Festival and Bregenz Festival, Bach solo cantatas with Northern Chamber Orchestra, Kurtág’s Scenes from a Novel with the Psappha Ensemble, Handel’s Messiah in Washington National Cathedral, Bach’s St Matthew Passion (Handel and Haydn Society, Boston), Miss Wordsworth in Britten’s Albert Herring with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at The Barbican, the role of Ruth Ellis in Tom Randle’s new opera Love Me To Death at The Barbican’s Pit Theatre, and the premiere of works by David Matthews and Cecilia McDowall at the Presteigne Festival. Her original scripted recital ‘The Formidable Frau’, based on the wife of Richard Strauss was received with enthusiastic praise at the 2016 Buxton Festival. This season’s and future projects include performances and a multi-disc recording of Bach solo cantatas with Armonico Consort, as well as concerts of Beethoven’s Christ on the Mount of Olives at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, Handel’s Messiah at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, and Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor at the Three Choirs Festival.
She has recorded the role of Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Sir Richard Armstrong, as well as orchestral songs by Dallapiccola, Nielsen’s 3rd Symphony, and Casella’s Le convent sur l’eau with Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic, all for Chandos. Other recordings include Handel’s Gloria and Bach Cantatas with John Eliot Gardiner, Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s C Minor Mass with Harry Christophers, and Handel’s Nine German Arias with Florilegium. Her recital discs include Schubert Lieder on Marquis, and with pianist Simon Lepper Debussy: Early Songs, and Debussy Songs For His Muse for Deux-Elles, as well as Gillian Keith – bei Strauss for Champs Hill Records.
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and hundreds of cantatas. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth.
Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest in and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.
Special praise goes to the Armonico Consort for their beautiful sound and transparent interplay.