Best Opera Recording / 2014 Grammy Nomination
Le Nozze di Figaro
“The joy and panache of Concerto Köln’s music-making has been one of my great musical experiences of the last few years. Whether it be on the concert platform or in the opera house, these dedicated musicians use their fantastic skills to recreate the impulse behind the score. May they continue in this way for the next 25 years, bringing pleasure to the public and inspiration to their colleagues."
Concerto Köln was founded in 1985, and it was not long before it had established a solid place amongst the highest-ranking orchestras for historical performance practice. From the very beginning,
both audience and critics alike were highly enthusiastic about the energetic performance style of the ensemble. Thoroughly-researched interpretations brought to the stage with a new vivacity soon became the trademark of Concerto Köln, quickly paving the way to the most renowned concert halls and music festivals. During extensive tours throughout the USA, South East Asia, Canada, Latin America, Japan, Israel and most countries in Europe, Concerto Köln has spread its musical message and the name of its hometown throughout the world. A partnership with the leading High End Audio specialists, MBL (www.mbl-germany.de), was established in October of 2009. Both the company and the orchestra combine shared goals and values: “We maintain a similar philosophy and Concerto Köln pursues the same goals at a musical level as we do at the technical-musical level – to evoke the listener’s emotions through technical perfection and passion.” (MBL)
Concerto Köln is working in close collaboration with the label Berlin Classics and has numerous recordings with the Deutsche Grammophon, Harmonia Mundi, Teldec, EMI-Virgin Classics and Capriccio and is able to boast a discography of more than 50 CDs, many of which have been awarded by Echo, Grammy, The German Record Critics Award, the Choc du Monde de la Musique, the Diapason d’Année or the Diapason d'Or. The CD, “Symphonies”, including works by Henri-Joseph Rigel (BERLIN classics/Edel) was honoured just recently with the Echo Klassik Award 2009 in the category “Symphonic Recording of the Year”.
The musicians of the ensemble have been described as "musical truffle pigs" and it is fair to say that the orchestra has, with striking consistency, re-discovered composers whose beautiful music has remained hidden in the shadows of the great names and unfortunately forgotten by historyY. Since 2005, Martin Sandhoff is responsible for the artistic direction of the orchestra. In addition to concertmasters from within Concerto Köln, external concert masters are also engaged on a regular basis. The size of the ensemble varies according to program and repertoire. As an ensemble that feels a responsibility to historical performance practice, Concerto Köln performs predominantly without a conductor. For large-scale productions such as operas and oratorios, Concerto Köln enjoys working together with conductors including René Jacobs, Marcus Creed, Daniel Harding, Evelino Pidò, Ivor Bolton, David Stern, Daniel Reuss, Pierre Cao, Laurence Equilbey and Emmanuelle Haïm.
Further musical partners include the mezzo-sopranos Cecilia Bartoli, Waltraud Meier, Magdalena Kožená, Vivica Genaux and Jennifer Larmore, the sopranos Natalie Dessay, Patricia Petibon, Malin Hartelius and Véronique Gens, the counter tenors Andreas Scholl, Matthias Rexroth and Philippe Jaroussky, the tenor Christoph Prégardien, the pianist Andreas Staier, the actor Bruno Ganz and Ulrich Tukur, the director Peter Sellars as well as the Balthasar-Neuman-Choir, the NDR Choir, the RIAS Chamber Choir, Accentus and Arsys de Bourgogne.
and rebuilds an instrument
"Why should we record the Brandenburg Concertos when there are so many exemplary recordings on the market already?"
With a passion typical of the orchestra, this question was discussed over and over again. An agreement was quickly reached: Concerto Köln would adopt Bach‘s compendium into the program and capture it on CD only if new and enlightening ideas could emerge through existing approaches. For this purpose, bassoonist Lorenzo Alpert, surveyed the trusted ground anew. Questions regarding instrumentation and its impact on sound were the starting points of his research and are topics which have, until now, never been systematically addressed and carried out. Which continuo instruments should be used in the various concertos? Which trumpet is played in the second Brandenburg?
What did Bach mean when he called for "Fiauti d'Echo" in the fourth Brandenburg Concerto? Which gambas did Bach have in mind for the sixth concerto?
As for Bach‘s orchestral suites, Concerto Köln chose the tuning pitch of a1=392 Hz for the Brandenburg Concertos. The highly virtuosic trumpet part in the second concerto is one argument that supports the use of this particular pitch. "The high trumpet passages seem significantly more idiomatic in the lower tuning pitch and it is possible to produce a softer blend within the quartet of soloists," explains Lorenzo Alpert.
In Baroque era Germany, such a high trumpet part would most likely have been played on a so-called "French or Chamber-Pitched F Trumpet" which was tuned a whole tone higher than the "German Trumpet." It is highly likely that Bach wrote the second Brandenburg for this instrument. Trumpet player, Hannes Rux, plays a modified instrument that is adjusted to the lowered tuning pitch of the strings and woodwinds.
Concerto Köln has also just recently found an answer to the question regarding the flutes in the fourth Brandenburg Concerto. "Fiauti d‘Echo" was specifically written into the score by Bach, leading to much speculation as to what kind of instrument Bach had in mind. For Lorenzo Alpert an idea originally came from reading Bruce Haynes "A History of Performing Pitch." Even though the book mentions only Anciutti Doubleflutes, which are not Echoflutes, we were inspired to pursue the idea. In addition to the Haynes book we also referred to Marissen, Lasocki, Goebel, Dart, Higbee, and others.
A determinate clue was found in a treatise by the French composer and theorist, Ètienne Louilé: "He wrote in 1696: 'Les Sons de deux Flûtes d‘Echo sont différents, parce que l‘un est Fort & que l‘autre est Foible', so, the sound of the two echo flutes is different - one is loud and the other is faint. As a result, I realized that we may be talking about a double flute that is able to produce an echo effect."
As no original instruments from that time are preserved, flautist Cordula Breuer sought after an instrument maker who would be prepared to construct a double flute according to historical illustrations.
"I asked various flute makers but all of them declined due to the intense effort involved."
Finally she happened upon Andreas Schöni who was willing, based on descriptions of the historical instruments, to construct the double flute most likely known to Bach. Made from one piece of wood, Andreas Schöni‘s
echo flute is essentially two recorders each with a row of finger holes, a labium and a mouthpiece whereby the one recorder plays loudly, the other quietly.
"A dynamic effect that can not be produced by normal recorders."
Concerto Köln is the first orchestra that utilizes real echo flutes for the fourth Brandenburg Concerto. "I think it‘s brilliant!", raves Lorenzo Alpert. "Until now, all orchestras resorted to compromises and ways around the problem. We won‘t go down in music history. That‘s not the point.
But we are doing something
that has not been done before.
And with this, I hope that we are able to contribute something new to the discussion!"
The realization of this project is made possible by the support of the Kunststiftung NRW ( Arts Foundation of North Rhein-Westphalia).
The Baroque in England, France, Germany and Italy
Bach and Italy
Bach and the Dance Rhythms of France
Pastorale – Concertos for Christmas
The Virtuoso Dresden Orchestra
Pergolesi & Pärt
The French Violin School and the Debut of Romanticism
Beethoven Piano Concerti
Baroque Trumpet: Purcell and Händel
Dream of the Orient
Bach - St. John Passion
Peter Dijkstra, Conductor
Johannette Zomer, Mezzo-soprano
Maarten Engeltjes, Countertenor
Karina Gauvin, Soprano
Kuba Jakowicz, Violin
Giuliano Carmignola, Violin
Ronald Brautigam, Forte-piano
Alison Balsom, Baroque Trumpet
Click for Program Details
"British conductor Ivor Bolton led the finely polished Concerto Köln, the Balthasar Neumann Choir and a solid slate of soloists in a vital account of Athalia…" Allan Kozinn, New York Times
"..[Athalia] was nothing short of a triumph for all involved..filled with nuances...heavenly... tender...glorious... stunningly played…"
Robert Levine, www.classicstoday.com
"...Athalia was almost restive in its concert chains, straining to get out and be a drama at every twist and turn. All the fine singers were acting, and Concerto Köln made the most of Handel’s various accompaniments: the slashing strings (one section after another)... or the recorders that attempted to console the restless, guilt-ridden Athalia. Rhythms were crisp and danceable, and the tension of the story never relaxed…" John Yohalem, www.operatoday.com
• • •
"Bach and the Concerto di Camera
Early Music Society of the Islands
San Diego Early Music
Da Camera Society
on Deutsche Grammophon (477 7468):
Concerto Köln with soprano Patricia Petibon
Amoureuses: Arias by Mozart, Haydn & Glück
Daniel Harding, conductor
Music Magazine’s “Opera Recording of the Year”