Great artists talk about their past recordings This month: RENÉ JACOBS conductor/countertenor
MY FINEST MOMENT
Charpentier Leçons de Ténèbres du Vendredy Sainct
Judith Nelson (soprano), René Jacobs (countertenor), Concerto Vocale Harmonia Mundi HM901007 (1978)
In my first life as a singer, the Charpentier’s Leçons de Ténèbre was very important because it was my first recording for ★armonia Mundi – and the first of a very long series. It was also the first recorded collaboration with people like conductor William Christie and soprano Judith Nelson; those were
unforgettable moments in my life. We recorded in the south of France, in Carcassonne, and I discovered great music. I regret a little bit that, as a conductor, I have done so little French Baroque music but that can still come. We had not sung the Leçons before as far as I remember, or performed them in concert – we did a er – and we were very much inspired by this small church that ★armonia Mundi hired to record in. It was a church with a good acoustic but not too much echo – just exactly what you want. The first of the Leçons is something like 20 minutes for solo voice, and I think we used the first take; we had, of course, rehearsed it before, but it was so fresh. I can’t say, as someone
who has conducted so much opera, that I have a great a nity with spiritual moments, but it really was the case here.
MY FONDEST MEMORY
JS Bach St Matthew Passion
Werner Güra (Evangelist), Johannes Weisser (Christus), Sunhae Im, Christina Roterberg (sopranos), RIAS Kammerchor; Academie für Alte Musik Berlin/jacobs Harmonia Mundi HMC802156/58 (2013)
I have a love a air with the St Matthew Passion. I sang it as a boy in the cathedral in Ghent and it was there my love for music and the dream to become a professional musician was born. I think it was also the first time that I sang with a big orchestra. The possibility for me to record it came very late – I had been wanting to record the Bach Passions for ★armonia Mundi for a long time, but they had already released recordings. We recorded this very special version of the St Matthew as I, and some musicologists, imagined it had been done in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. The theory is that the two orchestras, the two organs and the two choruses were very far apart in the church; one chorus was in the front of the church and the other was in the back. In modern performances, the groups are equal, symmetric; but the beautiful drama of the thing is that the smaller group is further away. So, we had a construction in the studio that allowed us to have the two groups far apart. I have great memories of it, and we rediscovered the St Matthew Passion… I did, in any case.
I’D LIKE ANOTHER GO AT… Monteverdi L’incoronazione
Danielle Borst (Poppea), Guillemette Laurens (Nerone), Axel Köhler (Ottone), Jennifer Larmore (Ottavia) et al;
Concerto Vocale/rené Jacobs
Harmonia Mundi HML590133032 (2010)
I would be very happy to record Poppea again. Each time that I have the chance to perform one of the three Monteverdi operas, especially the two Venetian ones, I discover so many more things. The Neopolitan version of Poppea is so long, but although I was not under pressure from ★armonia Mundi to make it shorter, I put myself under pressure; I thought that many of the scenes were redundant. Since then I understand so much more not only about the music of the time, but also the literature and the poetry, and now I cannot miss out any of the lines of the libretto. Of course, where it’s for a performance in the theatre you have to have a director, who also has some things to say; but for recording, I would be happy to do it again without any cuts. I’ve made so many recordings in the studio that I automatically think of recording there. But for Monteverdi, and for Poppea which is such a masterpiece, I could imagine recording it a er a good production. Maybe we would then take a day or so a erwards to record some of the scenes that will have surely been cut for the scenic production.
Cori spezzati: René Jacobs conducts his choirs in Bach’s St Matthew Passion