- Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Business Courier
Principal Conductor of the Cincinnati May Festival and Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester, United Kingdom, Juanjo Mena is one of Spain’s most distinguished international conductors.
Berit Norbakken Solset is one of the most sought-after sopranos in Scandinavia.
A revelation among the young generation of counter-tenors, Carlos Mena is a sheer delight for the emotion his voice stirs, the quality of its tessitura and his sensitive, intelligent performances.
After performing as a guest artist in Frankfurt and Basel, Werner Güra is now a member of the Semperoper in Dresden
Andrew Stenson is quickly building a reputation as one of the United States’ most exciting young tenors.
John Relyea continues to distinguish himself as one of today's finest basses.
The German bass baritone Hanno Müller-Brachmann works together with many influencing musicians’ personalities of our time.
MATTHEW SWANSON • DIRECTOR
The May Festival Youth Chorus connects, inspires, and educates young people through the study and performance of choral music.
ROBERT PORCO • CHORUS DIRECTOR
The May Festival Chorus has earned acclaim locally, nationally and internationally for its musicality, vast range of repertoire and sheer power of sound.
LOUIS LANGRÉE • MUSIC DIRECTOR
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is one of America’s finest and most versatile ensembles.
Following his recent debut with the Berlin Philharmonic and appearances with the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood, highlights of Maestro Mena’s 2016-17 season include his debuts with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, NHK Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony and the Swedish Radio Orchestra, as well as return visits to Boston, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Copenhagen, Dresden and Oslo, and two European tours with the BBC Philharmonic.
In Europe he has worked with many prestigious orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, Munich Radio Orchestra and the Dresden Philharmonic, as well as with all the major Spanish orchestras. He has been Artistic Director of the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra, Chief Guest Conductor of the Orchestra del Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa and Principal Guest Conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.
He has conducted most of the leading orchestras in North America, including Chicago, Boston, Houston, Cincinnati, Montreal, Toronto, Baltimore and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestras, the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
A guest of international festivals, he has appeared at the Stars of White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Hollywood Bowl, Grant Park (Chicago), Tanglewood and La Folle Journée (Nantes). He has led the BBC Philharmonic on tours of Europe and Asia, including performances in Cologne, Munich, Vienna, Madrid, Beijing and Seoul, and performs with them every year at the BBC Proms in London.
His operatic work includes The Flying Dutchman, Salome, Elektra, Ariadne auf Naxos, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle and Erwartung and productions including Eugene Onegin in Genoa, The Marriage of Figaro inLausanne and Billy Budd in Bilbao.
He has made several recordings with the BBC Philharmonic, including a disc of works by Manuel de Falla, which was a BBC Music Magazine Recording of the Month, Gabriel Pierné, which was a Gramophone Editor’s Choice, and releases of music by Ginastera, Albéniz, Montsalvatge, Weber and Turina which have gained excellent reviews from the specialist music press. He has also recorded a critically acclaimed rendering of Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony for Hyperion with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. Juanjo Mena’s Messiaen interpretation is said to “utterly redefine the terms under which past/current/future Turangalîlas need to be judged”. (Gramophone, October 2012).
“…Two vocal works are included: the cantata “Herminie” and “Air de l’Opéra Médée” The 15-minute cantata is, quite simply, a masterwork of vocal writing. It hints at what the operatic world lost with Arriaga’s early death.
Soprano Berit Norbakken Solset sings with a clear, pure tone that continually delights. Her delivery reinforces the stylistic similarities between Arriaga and Mozart…”
charlottesvilleclassical.org/Chandos release of Arriaga/BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena, 2018
«…and so wonderfully performed, and the fabulous soprano, Berit Norbakken Solset, who has exactly the right blend of straightness, so you can hear every note, but when she decides to open up, it´s just fabulous, for me, it´s got everything…».
BBC Radio 3/Review of her recording of Ave Maria by Fartein Valen (Refractions, 2013, BIS Records).
Berit Norbakken Solset is one of the most sought-after sopranos in Scandinavia.
As a concert-singer she has given concerts all over Scandinavia, Europe and in cities as Tokyo and Sidney. She appears regularly with Bjarte Eike and the Baroque Soloists in a number of different concerts and recordings.
Berit Norbakken Solset made her opera debut in Ophelias – Death by Water Singing, by Henrik Hellstenius. Her opera roles have included Abel in Il Primo Omicidio (Scarlatti), Adonis in Giardino d’Amore (Scarlatti), Ermione in Oreste (Handel), Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart), Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini), Belinda in Dido and Aeneas (Purcell), Sigrun in the world premiere of Malleus Maleficarum (Rasmussen) and an ensemble part in Melancholia (Haas).
Solset’s versatility and flexibility of voice have allowed her to master a repertoire ranging from Baroque to contemporary, including folk music. She appears regularly in performances of oratorios, passions, and masses, and continues her work with leading ensembles, orchestras and conductors, such as Juanjo Mena, Daniel Reuss, Olof Boman, Benjamin Bayl, George Petrou, Erik Nielsen, Andreas Spering and Michael Pletnev, both in Scandinavia and throughout Europe.
The Spanish counter-tenor, Carlos Mena, was born in Vitoria (Spain), where he began his musical studies. He first worked as a counter-tenor in master-classes with Charles Brett and in 1992 he went to Switzerland to study toward a Diploma of Renaissance-Baroque Music at the prestigious Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (SCB) of Basel, where he studied with his maestros R. Levitt and René Jacobs, and in master-classes given by Emma Kirkby and others. He also took an interest in medieval music with D. Vellard and in opera, earning his diploma in 1997.
A revelation among the young generation of counter-tenors, Carlos Mena is a sheer delight for the emotion his voice stirs, the quality of its tessitura and his sensitive, intelligent performances. As soloist he is a member of several important ensembles including Al Ayre Español, Ensemble Guilles Binchois, Il Seminario Musicale, Ricercar Consort, La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Hespèrion XX, and Orphenica Lyra.
With them Carlos Mena travels around the world singing in Auditorio Nacional of Madrid, Palau de la Música of Barcelona, Konzerthaus of Vienna, Stadtsoper of Berlin, Chapelle Royale of Versailles, Sidney Opera House, Concert Hall of Melbourne, Teatro Colon of Buenos Aires, Alice Tully Hall of New York City, and Sakura Hall of Tokyo.
Carlos Mena records for Decca, Accord, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Glossa, and Alia Vox. He is also very interested in 20th century repertoire (Igor Stravinsky, Benjamin Britten, Orff, Bernaola, Aracil, Benjamin Britten).
In 1997 Carlos Mena sang the role of Orfeo in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice at the Teatro Guaira (Brasil). He has taught courses in Ancient Music at the University of Salamanca.
The German tenor, Werner Güra, studied at the famous Salzburg Mozarteum. He continued his studies with Kurt Widmer in Basel and then with Margreet Honig in Amsterdam, while taking acting courses with Ruth Berghaus and Theo Adam.
After performing as a guest artist in Frankfurt and Basel, Werner Güra is now a member of the Semperoper in Dresden where he excels in W.A. Mozart and Rossini. From the very beginning of his career he has attached great importance to the balance between the opera house and the concert stage. He is much in demand as an oratorio singer and has sung in numerous productions like Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah (under Philippe Herreweghe) at the Salzburg Festival. He has also sung under conductors like Peter Schreier, Wolfgang Gönnenwein and Friedemann Layer.
Werner Güra has already made several recordings for Harmonia Mundi France under René Jacobs: Georg Philipp Telemann’s Orpheus and J.S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248).
Andrew Stenson is quickly building a reputation as one of the United States’ most exciting young tenors, with a brilliant tone, artistic intellect, and superb portrayals of a variety of roles. He is the first prize winner in both the 2015 Giulio Gari International Vocal Competition and 2016 Gerda Lissner Foundation Competition. He is also the recipient of a 2011 Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Foundation.
During the 2019-2020 season, Mr. Stenson will make his debut with Opera Colorado as Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia. He will return to Utah Opera as Sprink in their production of Silent Night, and appear with St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in Mozart’s Requiem.
Mr. Stenson’s 2018-2019 season began with his Dallas Opera debut as the Steersman in Der Fliegende Holländer. He joined the Minnesota Opera as Fadinard in The Italian Straw Hat, as well as Utah Opera as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte. He appeared with Mostly Mozart Festival for Mozart’s Requiem, the Cincinnati Symphony for St. Matthew Passion, and the Philadelphia Orchestra as King Kaspar in Amahl and the Night Visitors.
The 2017-2018 season included the tenor’s role and company debut with Wexford Festival Opera as Ernesto in Foroni’s Margherita. He also returned to the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte, sang the title role of Candide with the San Francisco Symphony, and made his company debut with Opera Theatre of St. Louis in the world premiere of the two-act version of An American Soldier, singing the role of Danny Chen.
Mr. Stenson’s 2016-2017 season included appearances as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte with Seattle Opera, Frederic in Pirates of Penzance with Palm Beach Opera, the title role of Candide with Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse, and Opéra National de Bordeaux, and a company debut with Washington National Opera as Tonio in La fille du Régiment. He also appeared in concert with the Kansas City Symphony for Mozart’s Requiem. He concluded the season with a return to Glyndebourne Festival Opera to sing Ernesto in Don Pasquale.
During the 2015-2016 season, Andrew Stenson made his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut, singing Gen in the world premiere of Bel Canto. He also debuted with Arizona Opera as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, and with Fort Worth Opera as Count Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia. In concert, he sang the Messiah with the Cincinnati Symphony and Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with the Rochester Philharmonic.
In the 2014-2015 season, the tenor finished as a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. Amongst his assignments, he performed Beppe in Pagliacci, in a new production conducted by Fabio Luisi. In the summer he returned to the Glimmerglass Festival, as the title role in Candide.
Andrew Stenson was a 2nd year member of the Lindemann Program during the 2013-2014 season. He performed Demetrius in The Enchanted Island at the Metropolitan Opera, and also made a return to Seattle Opera as Tonio in La fille du régiment, and his role debut as Belmonte in Die entführung aus dem Serail with Utah Opera. Additionally, Mr. Stenson appeared on the concert stage with the Seattle Symphony and Nashville Symphony, for Handel’s Messiah, and sang Mozart’s Requiem with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. In June 2014, he made his Washington National Opera debut as Danny Chen in Huang Ruo’s An American Soldier.
The summer of 2012 found him with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program for Argento’s Postcard from Morocco. During the 2012-2013 season, Mr. Stenson joined the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. His assignments at the Metropolitan Opera that season included Esquire #3 in the company’s new production of Parsifal. The season also found his debuts with the San Francisco Symphony, for Handel’s Messiah, and with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, as Brighella in a new production of Ariadne auf Naxos.
Mr. Stenson began the 2011-2012 season with the Seattle Opera as Le Remendado in the mainstage production of Carmen. Continuing the season, he performed Orphée in Orphée et Euridice, replacing an indisposed colleague on short nice, and performed both the title role in Werther and Ernesto in Don Pasquale in the company’s Young Artist Productions. Also in 2011-2012, Mr. Stenson made his Metropolitan Opera as a Rameau Quartet Member in The Enchanted Island, and made his role debut as Cassio in Knoxville Opera’s production of Otello. The summer of 2012 found him with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program for Argento’s Postcard from Morocco.
The tenor joined the Seattle Opera as a member of its Young Artist Program for the 2010-2011 season, where his roles included Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor on the mainstage, and Don Ottavio in the Young Artist production of Don Giovanni. In the summer of 2011, he returned to the Glimmerglass Festival, performing Jimmy O’Keefe in John Musto’s Later the Same Evening.
In previous seasons, the tenor appeared as Martin in The Tender Land with Glimmerglass Opera. Mr. Stenson was a Young Artist with the Santa Fe Opera in 2009, where he covered Head Man in The Letter and received the D. Gramm Memorial Award. He was a Regional Finalist in the 2010 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Mr. Stenson is the 2015 recipient of the Richard F. Gold Career Grant from the Shoshana Foundation (Lindemann Program), a Major Award Winner from Opera Index (2015), Second Prize winner from the Queen Sonja International Vocal Competition (2013), and Second Prize winner from the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation (2015).
At just 26, British baritone James Newby is the recipient of multiple awards including the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Award, the Wigmore Hall/Independent Opera Voice Fellowship (2016), the Richard Tauber Prize (for best interpretation of a Schubert Lied), overall Third Prize at the Wigmore Hall/Kohn International Song Competition (2015), the Trinity Gold Medal (2017) and Glyndebourne’s prestigious John Christie Award (2017). He was selected to be one of Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s Rising Stars for 2017-2019 and is a BBC New Generation Artist from 2018-2020.
Passionate about the medium of Lied, James enjoys a busy schedule as a recitalist with appearances at the Wigmore Hall including a shared recital with Dame Sarah Connolly, Leeds Lieder, Oxford Lieder and Perth International Arts Festival, Australia working with pianists Joseph Middleton, Simon Lepper, Garry Matthewman and Panaretos Kyriatzidis. Next season he will make his recital debut at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam with Julius Drake.
From September 2019 James joins the ensemble of the Staatsoper Hannover for two seasons where roles will include Papageno/Die Zauberflöte, Fiorello/Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Schaunard/La Bohème , Dr. Falke/Die Fledermaus and Kostandis/Greek Passion. James was a 2017 Jerwood Young Artist at Glyndebourne Festival Opera and appeared in La Traviata, Hamlet, La Clemenza di Tito and the role of the notary in Don Pasquale. Other operatic roles include Count Almaviva Le Nozze di Figaro for Nevill Holt Opera, Howard Moody’s PUSH for Glyndebourne Opera and most recently for his debut at La Monnaie Brussels, and a staged Bach St John Passion (Jesus) with the Bilbao Orkestra Sinfonikoa, directed by Calixto Bieito.
In concert James has appeared at the BBC Proms singing Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music conducted by Sakari Oramo, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Douglas Boyd (Berlioz), Gabrieli Consort (Purcell), La Nuova Musica and RTE National Symphony Orchestra (Bach). Performances with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment have included ‘Christus’ in the world premiere of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion; the role of Apollo in Handel’s Apollo e Dafne under Jonathan Cohen, St Matthew Passion under John Butt and various Bach Cantatas as part of the OAE’s ‘Bach, the Universe and Everything’ series at Kings Place, London. He recently made debuts with the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century (Handel’s Messiah) and with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under Juanjo Mena as part of the Cincinnati May Festival.
Future highlights, in addition to his roles in Hannover, include debuts with BBC National Orchestra of Wales, a return to the BBC Symphony Orchestra, concerts with Orquesta Sinfonica y Coro de RTVE and recitals at Wigmore Hall, Oxford Lieder and the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.
Mr. Relyea has appeared in many of the world’s most celebrated opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera (where he is an alumnus of the Merola Opera Program and a former Adler Fellow), Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Paris Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Vienna State Opera, Theater an der Wien, and the Mariinksy Theater.
His roles include the title roles in Attila, Le Nozze di Figaro, Bluebeard’s Castle, Don Quixotte, Attila, and Aleko; Zaccaria in Nabucco, Bertram inRoberto le Diable, Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Colline in La Bohème, Don Alfonso in Lucrezia Borgia, Don Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Alidoro in La Cenerentola, Giorgio in I puritani, Banquo in Macbeth, Garibaldo inRodelinda, Méphistophélès in both Faust and La Damnation de Faust, the Four Villains in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Escamillo in Carmen, Marke in Tristan und Isolde, Caspar in Der Freischutz, Nick Shadow in The Rake’s Progress, Collatinus in The Rape of Lucretia, and King René in Iolanta.
Mr. Relyea also remains in high demand throughout the concert world where he appears regularly with orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Berlin Philharmonic.
He has also appeared at the Tanglewood, Ravinia, Blossom, Cincinnati May, Vail, Lanaudière, Salzburg, Edinburgh, Lucerne and Mostly Mozart festivals, and in the BBC Proms.
In recital, he has been presented at Weill Hall and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Wigmore Hall in London, the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, and the University of Chicago Presents series.
The many conductors with whom Mr. Relyea has worked with include Harry Bicket, Pierre Boulez, Sir Colin Davis, Christoph von Dohnányi, Gustavo Dudamel, Christoph Eschenbach, Valery Gergiev, Bernard Haitink, Mariss Jansons, James Levine, Lorin Maazel, Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Neville Marriner, Zubin Mehta, Kent Nagano, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Sir Roger Norrington, Seiji Ozawa, Antonio Pappano, Sir Simon Rattle, Donald Runnicles, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Robert Spano, Wolfgang Sawallisch, and Ilan Volkov.
Mr. Relyea's recordings include the Verdi Requiem (LSO Live), Idomeneo with Sir Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (EMI), Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (EMI), and the Metropolitan Opera’s DVD presentations of Don Giovanni, I Puritani and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Deutsche Grammophon), and Macbeth (Metropolitan Opera HD Live Series).
This season, Mr Relyea debuts the roles of Fiesco in Simon Boccanegra with Teatro di San Carlo in Napoli, Hunding with New York Philharmonic, and John Claggart with Opera Di Roma. He returns to Boston Symphony for La Damnation de Faust, conducted by Charles Dutoit.
The German bass baritone Hanno Müller-Brachmann works together with many influencing musicians’ personalities of our time as a song, concert and opera singer. Including Sir Simon Rattle, Bernard Haitink, Daniel Barenboim, Andris Nelsons, Iván Fischer, Christian Thielemann, Michael Gielen, Franz Welser-Möst, Herbert Blomstedt, Riccardo Chailly, Zubin Mehta, Christoph v. Dohnanyi, Sir John Eliott Gardiner, Peter Eötvös, Marek Janowski, Sir Andrew Davis, Adam Fischer, Donald Runnicles and in the past Sir Neville Marriner, Pierre Boulez, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Claudio Abbado, Kurt Masur or Sir Charles Mackeras.
His engagements led him to orchestras as the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras, the Symphony Orchestras of Chicago, Boston and Shanghai, the Philharmonic Orchestras of New York and London, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Concertgebow Orchestra of Amsterdam, the State Orchestras of Berlin and Dresden as well as to the most Radio Orchestras of Europe.
Grown up in South Baden he began his vocal education with the Knabenkantorei Basel. He studied Educational Theory in Music Teaching under Ingeborg Most in Freiburg i.Br., attended the voice class of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in Berlin and took his concert exam after his postgraduate studies under Rudolf Piernay in Mannheim. Winner of the National Voice Championship Berlin in 1992 (junior) & 1994 (concert) and the Meistersinger Championship Nürnberg in 1995 as well as achievements at the international Championships “ARD” in Munich and “New Voices” in Gütersloh in 1996 mark the beginning of his professional career.
In 1992 he gave his debut at the theatre of Freiburg where Donald Runnicles worked as GMD. In 1996 the debut at the Berlin States opera “Unter den Linden” under Réne Jacobs followed.
In 1998 Daniel Barenboim integrated Hanno Müller-Brachmann during his studies in the ensemble of the Berlin State Opera where he was singing the big Mozart parts but also Orest (Elektra), Kaspar (Freischütz), Amfortas (Parsifal) and Wotan (Rheingold) until 2011. As Amfortas he also performed in Sevilla under Barenboim, in Hamburg under Simone Young and in Budapest under Adam Fischer.
His debut in the New York Carnegie Hall he celebrated in 2000 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim in the American premiere of Elliott Carter's opera "What next" which he already performed at the Berlin States Opera. He also premiered Pascal Dusapin’s opera “Faustus – the last night” in Berlin as “Mephisto”.
Under Michael Gielen and Sir Simon Rattle he vocalized Golaud (Pelleas et Melisande)
Guest contracts followed, among others, in San Francisco, at the State Operas in Munich, Hamburg, Vienna and at the Milan Scala. A performance of the “Magic Flute” with Hanno Müller-Brachmann in Modena singing “Papageno” under Claudio Abbado as musical director, which has been recorded by the German Gramophone Society, achieved the “Gramophone Award” for the best opera performance of the year.
Another focus in the artist’s work is the song.
His first CD at harmonia mundi france and his vocal debut in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra was accompanied by Malcolm Martineau. At his song debuts in the London Wigmore Hall, in the Great Hall of the Concert House in Vienna and at the Summer Music Days in Hitzacker András Schiff was his partner. On the occasion of the Berlin Festival a song evening at the Berlin Philharmonics with works of Antal Doráti and Modest Mussorgsky and Sir András Schiff at the piano has been burned on CD.
Daniel Barenboim, Philippe Jordan and Burkhard Kehring were his co-pianists at the Berlin States Opera where he performed a recital each season. His farewell evening Hendrik Heilmann was performing who also accompanied Hanno Müller-Brachmann at the Easter Festival of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in Baden-Baden or in the Wigmore Hall.
Together with his long-time voice partner Guido Heinke he attended the voice class of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in Berlin. Hanno Müller-Brachmann is currently closely associated with his pianist Hartmut Höll, regarding the educational domain as well as on stage.
Graham Johnson, Denés Varjon, Matthias Alteheld, Marcus Creed, Eric Schneider and Axel Bauni are further co-pianists of the bass baritone.
As a vocalist he performed beyond the already stated houses amongst others in the Concert Hall in Berln, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Music Hall in Hamburg, the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, the Philharmonic Orchestra in Essen, in Madrid, Graz, Tokio and at the festival in Schwarzenberg, Edinburgh, Ittingen, Saintes, Schleswig-Holstein or Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Hanno Müller-Brachmann was honored in 1995 with the “Brahms Prize” by the international Brahms Society Schleswig-Holstein.
The third pillar of his artistic work is the great oratorios and the symphonic works from the baroque era to the modern which is illustrated by the impressive discography of the artist. Johann Sebastian Bach is a fixed reference since the days in the boys’ choir. The character roles “Elias” and “Paulus” in Mendelssohn but also even unusual or contemporary music enrich the calendar of the artist.
In March 2017, for example, he launched Wolfgang Rihm’s “Requiem-Strophen” with the Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio under Mariss Jansons in Munich and at the Easter festival in Lucerne.
As of the beginning of his studies Hanno Müller-Brachmann was highly interested in educational tasks and took over guest lectureships during his activity for the Berlin States Opera, first at the UdK in Berlin, then at the HfM “Hanns Eisler”. He gave master classes in the Opera Studio of the Berlin States Opera, the Opera in Frankfurt, the Music School in Basel or in Tokio and he was mentor of the German Music Council and the Liz Mohn Culture and Music Foundation. At the “Bundeswettbewerb Gesang Berlin e.V.“ he served as chairman of the board.
As a young student the bass baritone was sponsored by scholarships of the Walter-Kaminsky-Foundation, the German National Academic Foundation and the former Federal President Dr. Richard von Weizsäcker.
Today, as a professor for Vocal Arts at the Hochschule for Music in Karlsruhe, he shares his international experience with the next generation of vocalists. He was chairman of the Vocal Arts department and member of the senate, and since 2017 he belongs to the university council.
Hanno Müller-Brachmann is a regular juror for international contests as the “Bach Contest Leipzig” or the “Schubert and the Music of Modern Graz”.
He lives in Karlsruhe with his five-member family.
The May Festival Chorus has earned acclaim locally, nationally and internationally for its musicality, vast range of repertoire and sheer power of sound. The Chorus of 130 professionally trained singers is the core artistic element of the Cincinnati May Festival as well as the official chorus of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and the Cincinnati Pops. Throughout each season the Chorus Members collectively devote more than 40,000 hours in rehearsals and performances.
Founded in 1873, the annual May Festival is the oldest, and one of the most prestigious, choral festivals in the Western Hemisphere and is under the leadership of Principal Conductor Juanjo Mena, Director of Choruses Robert Porco and rotating creative partner that changes from year to year. The annual Festival hosts an international array of guest artists and presents two spectacular weekends of dynamic programming. Highlights of the 2018 May Festival included a fully staged performance of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS led by Robert Porco, the Verdi Requiem with guest conductor Eun Sun Kim, as well as Juanjo Mena leading Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, the U.S. premiere of James MacMillan’s Credo and a celebrated performance of Handel’s Messiah.
In addition to the yet-to-be announced 2019 May Festival, the Chorus will perform the world premiere of Jonathan Bailey Holland’s Ode with Louis Langrée and the CSO, as well as Beethoven’s iconic Symphony No. 9 in November. In January, the Chorus performs Mozart’s Requiem with the CSO and guest conductor David Robertson.
Many important choral works have received their World and American premieres at the May Festival, including Johann Sebastian Bach’s Magnificat, Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana, Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Death of the Bishop of Brindisi, and Robert Nathaniel Dett’s The Ordering of Moses.
The May Festival Chorus has strengthened its national and international presence through numerous PBS broadcasts of live concerts and several award-winning recordings, many in collaboration with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops. Most recently, a live recording of Robert Nathaniel Dett’s The Ordering of Moses featuring Music Director Laureate James Conlon conducting the Chorus and the CSO at Carnegie Hall was released to critical acclaim in 2016 on Bridge Records. In 2001 the Chorus recorded Christmas with the May Festival Chorus, a popular a cappella holiday recording which was re-released on the Fanfare Cincinnati label in 2017, and a 2004 May Festival recording featuring the world premiere recording of Franz Liszt’s St. Stanislaus was awarded the 30th International F. Liszt Record Grand Prix by the Liszt Society of Budapest. The Chorus is also featured on the 2012 Cincinnati Pops release, Home for the Holidays, and several other Pops albums.
The May Festival Chorus has garnered two awards in recognition of its continuing artistic excellence and performances throughout the state. In 2011 the Chorus received the Spirit of Cincinnati USA Erich Kunzel Queen City Advocate Award from Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau. In 1998 the Chorus earned the Irma Lazarus Award from the Ohio Arts Council’s annual Governor’s Awards for the Arts.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which also performs as the Cincinnati Pops, is one of America’s finest and most versatile ensembles. With a determination for greatness and a rich tradition that dates back over 120 years, the internationally acclaimed CSO attracts the best musicians, artists and conductors from around the world to Cincinnati. With new commissions and groundbreaking initiatives like LUMENOCITY®, One City, One Symphony, and the MusicNOW Festival collaboration, the Orchestra is committed to being a place of experimentation.
Louis Langrée began his tenure as the CSO's 13th Music Director in the 2013-2014 season with a celebrated program The New York Times said “deftly combined nods to the orchestra's history, the city's musical life and new music.” Over the Orchestra's 120-year history, it has also been led by Leopold Stokowski, Eugène Ysaÿe, Fritz Reiner, Eugene Goossens, Max Rudolf, Thomas Schippers, Jesús López-Cobos, and Paavo Järvi, among others.
A champion of new music, the Orchestra has given American premieres of works by such composers as Debussy, Ravel, Mahler and Bartók and has commissioned works that have since become mainstays of the classical repertoire, including Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. The CSO was the first orchestra to be broadcast to a national radio audience (1921) and the third to record (1917). The Orchestra continues to commission new works and to program an impressive array of music. In recent years, the CSO has performed the world premieres of Nico Muhly's Pleasure Ground, David Lang's mountain, Caroline Shaw's Lo and Daniel Bjarnason's Collider as part of the groundbreaking collaboration with the MusicNOW Festival, Cincinnati's premier new music festival, as well as the world premiere of André Previn's Double Concerto. More recent commissions include Gunther Schuller’s Symphonic Triptych, three works set to the poetry of Dr. Maya Angelou by T. J. Cole, Jonathan Bailey Holland and Kristin Kuster, as well three new concertos for orchestra by composers Sebastian Currier, Thierry Escaich and Zhou Tian, which will be released on a commercial recording in November of 2016.
The CSO was the first American orchestra to make a world tour sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and continues to tour domestically and internationally, most recently to Europe in 2008 and to Japan in 2009, including two concerts at Tokyo's Suntory Hall and the CSO's first-ever nationally televised concert in Japan. The CSO has performed at New York's Carnegie Hall 48 times since its debut there in 191, most recently to rave reviews in May of 2014. In January of 2016, the Orchestra performed at New York’s Lincoln Center as part of the invitational Great Performers series.
JUANJO MENA conductorBERIT NORBAKKEN SOLSET sopranoCARLOS MENA countertenorWERNER GÜRA tenor (Evangelist)ANDREW STENSON baritoneJAMES NEWBY baritone (Jesus)HANNO MÜLLER-BRACHMANN bass-baritoneMAY FESTIVAL YOUTH CHORUS Matthew Swanson, directorMAY FESTIVAL CHORUS Robert Porco, directorThe May Festival Chorus is endowed by the Betsy & Alex C. Young Chair
The Passion According to St. Matthew, BWV 244
Composed in 1727.Premiered on Good Friday, April 11, 1727 in Leipzig, directed by the composer.
The word “Passion” derives from the Latin patior—“to undergo, to suffer”—and was taken over into the Medieval vernacular and ecclesiastical languages to indicate the suffering and death of Christ on the cross; the Oxford English Dictionary traces its first known use in our language to the hoary date of 1175. Each of the four Evangelists left an account of Christ’s crucifixion, and the rites of the early Roman Catholic Church provided that all be incorporated into the services during Holy Week. As preface to one of the two principal nodes of the Christian calendar, those pre-Easter observations formed an important focus of worship, and were distinguished by having the plainchants in which their texts were wrapped performed in a way that indicated the drama of the story: the words of Jesus were sung with a low, solemn tone; those of the narrating Evangelist in a medium voice at normal speed; and those of the crowd (known as the “turba”) in a high, agitated manner.
The earliest polyphonic settings of the Passion texts date from 15th-century England, though only the turba sections and the speeches of individuals (John, Peter, Pilate, et al.) were multi-voice movements, the words of Jesus and the Evangelist remaining in plainchant. This type of “responsorial” Passion continued through the end of the 16th century, when it drew examples from Lassus, Victoria and Byrd. As a result of the Reformation, this hybrid plainchant/polyphonic form was taken over into the German vernacular in the middle of the 16th century, and remained a viable genre until the 1670s, when the great Heinrich Schütz composed three Passions in this manner on the words of Matthew, Luke and John, though he replaced the traditional chant melodies with ones of his own invention in a similar style. In a parallel development, composers in Italy and Flanders wrote through-composed “motet” Passions entirely in polyphony, often borrowing an old chant as a cantus firmus upon which to build their new composition. It was a short step from this variety of the form to the “oratorio” Passion that, beginning after the invention of opera in 1600, came to include the idioms of aria, recitative, ensemble and instrumental interlude. When taken over into Germany in the early 18th century, such works became highly operatic in style and abandoned the traditional texts and music in favor of newly devised, sentimental verses tailored to the sometimes maudlin northern taste of the day. The best-known of these German literary retellings of the Passion story was that of Hamburg town councilor Barthold Heinrich Brockes, titled Der für Sünden der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus (“Jesus Tortured and Dying for the Sins of the World”), which was set by Handel, Telemann, Mattheson, Keiser and others. Given the strong secular influences that had encroached upon the German Passion during the first decades of the 18th century, Johann Sebastian Bach’s incomparable Passion settings represent a return to both the scriptural basis and the dignified style of earlier eras.
The fully polyphonic Passion was introduced into the liturgy of Leipzig as late as 1721, when the city’s director of church music, its “Kantor,” Johann Kuhnau, replaced the old plainchant Passion with a more modern specimen of the oratorio variety that he composed himself. The Passion in Leipzig was incorporated into the Vespers of Good Friday, and it marked the musical highpoint of the annual church calendar. This impressive service began at 1:15 p.m. with a congregational hymn on the subject of the crucifixion. The first part of the Passion music followed, then another hymn and the sermon, Part II of the Passion music, the motet Ecce, Quomodo moritur (“Behold How the Righteous Man Dies”) by Jakobus Gallus, a versicle and a prayer, and the concluding hymn, Nun danket alle Gott (“Now Thank We All Our God”). Given the scale of the German Passion and the oratorical abilities of 18th-century Lutheran ministers, the service would rarely finish in less than four hours. The Good Friday worship was given in alternate years at the city’s two main churches, St. Thomas and St. Nikolaus.
The necrology issued upon Johann Sebastian Bach’s death in 1750 noted that he had composed five Passions. The St. John (1724) and St. Matthew (1727) survive complete, while the St. Mark exists only in the fragments Bach excerpted from it for his 1727 Trauer-Ode (“Mourning Ode,” a memorial for Queen Christiane Eberhardine, who renounced her claim to the throne of Poland rather than deny her Protestant beliefs); the St. Luke that has come down to us is apparently spurious, and the fifth Passion, perhaps composed when Bach was organist and music director at the court of Weimar from 1708 to 1717, has disappeared without trace. The St. John Passion, first presented at Leipzig’s St. Nicolaus Church on Good Friday, April 7, 1724, occupies a significant place in Bach’s life and work. He had assumed the duties of the city’s Kantor the preceding May, after two more illustrious candidates, Georg Philipp Telemann and Gottlieb Graupner, had refused to accept the post, and he composed music with staggering prolificacy in the months following his appointment—a new cantata every week for two years, a Magnificat, a motet, a Sanctus, numerous organ works. The St. John Passion was his first contribution to the venerated Holy Week services. Though no contemporary reports survive concerning the reception of this musical epic at its first performance, it must have found favor—Bach remained Leipzig’s Kantor until his death 26 years later.
Bach returned to the form of the Passion in 1727, when he collaborated with a local post office employee and sometime poet, Christian Friedrich Henrici (who adopted the pen name Picander), on a version based on the gospel of St. Matthew. The words of the Evangelist, Jesus, the crowd and the individual characters were taken directly from the Bible, but Picander provided poetic meditations to serve as texts for the arias and choruses. The premiere of the St. Matthew Passion was given at St. Thomas Church, Leipzig on Good Friday, April 11, 1727. Bach had some 60 musicians for that first performance, divided about equally between singers and instrumentalists. Such a large aggregation of performers was unusual for Leipzig during Bach’s time, and required the pooling of his students from the St. Thomas School, the town’s seven salaried musicians and their apprentices and helpers, some recruits from the University, one or two paid assistants, and a few alumni who returned for the solemn occasion. Bach valued this work highly, and performed it again (with slight revisions) in 1736, 1739 and 1745. For this last presentation, he prepared an excellent reference copy of the score in his own handwriting in which the Biblical verses were written in red ink. The St. Matthew Passion fell into neglect when the elaborate Good Friday services were discontinued in Leipzig in 1766, and not performed again until Felix Mendelssohn revived it in Berlin in 1829, a century after it was first revealed to the world. The score was published by Schlesinger the following year, and the work has ever since been regarded as one of the monuments of Western culture, “the deepest and most moving expression of devotional feeling in the whole of musical literature,” according to Charles Sanford Terry.
The text of the St. Matthew Passion is woven from three strands: Biblical, Lutheran chorale hymns, and Picander’s poetry. The Biblical quotations, taken from chapters 26 and 27 of the Book of Matthew, are allotted to the Evangelist, who threads together the incidents of the drama with his secco recitatives (“dry,” i.e., accompanied only by “continuo,” keyboard and a bass instrument); to the turba, or crowd, whose brief interjections are assigned to the chorus to portray variously the High Priests, Disciples or Jews; and to the individual characters—Judas, Peter, the High Priest, two Witnesses, two Handmaidens, two Priests, Pilate, Pilate’s Wife—who deliver them as secco recitatives. The words of Jesus are surrounded with a “halo” of shimmering string sonorities. Bach himself chose the chorales for the Passion from the existing repertory of Lutheran hymns, making special use of the melody known as Herzlich tut mich verlangen (“I Long Most Ardently”), the so-called “Passion chorale,” which appears five times in different harmonizations throughout the work. Picander’s texts, with their prefatory recitatives, are contemplations for the soloists and chorus on the events unfolding before them, and serve as the emotional link between the individual listener and the words of the Scripture.
The St. Matthew Passion is divided into two large parts, the first tender and introspective, the second dramatic and tragic, each preceded by an introductory chorus, or exordium. Each part comprises several “scenes”:
ExordiumThe Anointing in BethanyJudas’ BetrayalThe Last SupperJesus’ Despair on the Mount of OlivesThe Prayer on the Mount of OlivesThe Seizure of Jesus
ExordiumJesus’ Interrogation by the High PriestsPeter’s DenialJudas in the TempleJesus before PilateThe Scourging of JesusSimon of CyreneThe CrucifixionThe Descent from the CrossThe Burial
The final chorus, the quintessential manifestation of tragedy in music, leaves the dramatic tension of the crucifixion unresolved: Christ has died, mankind mourns. The sun must rise twice again before the story finds its triumphant conclusion in the glory of Easter, the rebirth of the spirit and the church for which the St. Matthew Passion stands as incomparable preparation.