Post Date: 04/21/2020

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Times London picks Apollo’s Fire as #1

for Bach St. John Passion Recordings

&

Music for the Soul Video Series

reaches audiences far and wide 

Jeannette Sorrell, Conductor & Artistic Director

“Perhaps most remarkable of all is the “chamber” version by the US group Apollo’s Fire, directed by Jeannette Sorrell as a gripping, intimate drama… For me, this performance brings Bach’s Passion to life as well as any by more famous interpreters.”

On April 12, The Sunday Times (London) published a survey of over a dozen recordings of J.S Bach’s St. John Passion by prominent music critic Hugh Canning. Canning named his top 5:

  1. Apollo’s Fire, Jeannette Sorrell, conductor
  2. Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, conducted by René Jacobs
  3. English Baroque Soloists, conducted by John Elliot Gardiner
  4. Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, conducted by Stephen Layton
  5. Bach Collegium Japan, conducted by Masaaki Suzuki

JEANNETTE SORRELL

Nicholas Phan, Evangelist | Jesse Blumberg, Jesus | Jeffrey Strauss, Pilate

Amanda Forsythe | Terry Wey | Christian Immler

The same production that The Times praised as a CD recording was also released last week on Video.

An acclaimed touring production from 2016, Jeannette Sorrell’s “dramatic presentation” of the St. John Passion brings Bach’s most theatrical oratorio to life with contemporary immediacy. The program was performed in four cities and filmed at the stunning Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland.

Bursting out of the starting gates from the agitated opening chorus, the dramatic events of Jesus’ final days unfold with compelling storytelling. An international cast of singer-actors brings the characters to life, while the renowned chorus Apollo’s Singers evoke the wild mob with fierce intensity.

“A resplendent performance… The production belonged entirely to Ms. Sorrell, who devised the concept, which she called ‘a dramatic presentation’…. exquisite moments. The magnificent chorus [sang] to breathtaking effect… Nicholas Phan sang the Evangelist beautifully, with animation and dramatic vehemence. Jeffrey Strauss turned Pilate into a living, breathing figure.”

– NEW YORK TIMES [read more]

“This admirable St John Passion has dramatic tautness tempered by musical finesse nurtured by Sorrell. Instrumental playing of elegant refinement, polished choral singing, and communicative delivery of the text…. Chorales convey textural clarity and poeticism… sculpted with deft harmonic shapeliness. Nicholas Phan’s ardent Evangelist paints with a breadth of vocal colours his descriptions of Peter’s bitter weeping and mortification. Terry Wey’s… ‘Es ist vollbracht’ has beguiling intimacy. Amanda Forsythe is technically sure and vocally charming in both of her arias. Sorrell’s keen attention to detail ensures that this recording hits the sweet spot time and again.”

–GRAMOPHONE [read the full review]

“Sorrell’s direction produces a lively account… the singing is the chief glory. Nicholas Phan is a personable Evangelist who also negotiates the jagged perils of ‘Ach, mein Sinn’ with no nonsense, while Jesse Blumberg’s Jesus is quietly authoritative. Soprano Amanda Forsythe and baritone Christian Immler acquit themselves with distinction in the arias, and the 20-plus chorus is impeccably disciplined and incisive.”

– BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE [read the full review]

Video Production of Apollo’s Fire performance of Bach’s St. John Passion

was made possible by the generous support by

ROBERT CONRAD

CD Production has been made possible by additional project support by

Tom & Marilyn McLaughlin

Music for the Soul

Video Series for Homebound Music Lovers

In response to the coronavirus shutdown, Apollo’s Fire has launched “Music for the Soul”, a series of online programs featuring concert videos, interviews, and related reading, for an international audience to enjoy at home.

Artistic Director Jeannette Sorrell said, “Throughout history, music, art, and literature have always nourished us during hardship. You recall Boccaccio’s delightful Decameron, penned during a 14th-century plague. Later, Handel composed his masterpiece, Messiah, during a personal financial crisis. The human spirit has triumphed through the arts. I hope that this video series will provide a little inspiration for our audiences in Cleveland and around the world.”

Below are links to the first nine episodes, and the schedule for upcoming episodes.

Episode #1: St. Patrick’s Day Edition – Apollo’s Fire goes Irish

Video selections and program notes from 3 favorite Celtic programs – a cozy St. Patrick’s Day celebration!

Episode #2: Apollo’s Fire at the Tanglewood Festival

Video selections from Apollo’s Fire’s 2015 Tanglewood debut (“A Night at Bach’s Coffeehouse”) and the 2017 return (an all-Vivaldi program including The Four Seasons). This episode also includes a live, public interview with Jeannette Sorrell, hosted by Boston Symphony Orchestra Artistic Administrator Anthony Fogg and Assistant Artistic Administrator Eric Vallière. Don’t miss the program notes and especially the wild encore, guaranteed to cheer you up!

Episode #3: Apollo’s Fire on the Road

An eclectic mix of videos and photos from the Aldeburgh Festival in England, the Tanglewood Festival, the Library of Congress in Washington, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and more. This episode includes a couple of videos from the recent tour of our “O Jerusalem!” program as a TEASER and another uplifting encore to raise your spirits! 

Episode #4: Living the Classical Life (with Mozart)

For your cozy Sunday at home, Apollo’s Fire goes Classical! We are pairing some gorgeous Mozart videos with an interview of Jeannette Sorrell from the wonderful online series, Living the Classical Life, with host Zsolt Bognar.

Episodes #5 & 6: Passover Edition, Parts I & II

This filmed performance of “O Jerusalem!” is from March 11, 2020, when we had the bittersweet honor of performing the last public concert that was permitted in Cleveland.

Episodes #7 & 8: Good Friday/Easter Edition – Bach St. John Passion

Apollo’s Fire is thrilled to release this beautifully filmed video of J.S. Bach’s first oratorio masterpiece, the St. John Passion (1724).

Episode #9: Beethoven the Revolutionary

Symphony no. 5, Violin Concerto with Noah Bendix-Balgley, Egmont Overture

COMING UP in the Music for the Soul Series

Episode #10: Monday, April 27
“Getting a Handel on Bach” (Brandenburgs 4 & 5 with Handel Arias from Oberlin/Amanda Forsythe)

Episode #11: Wednesday, May 6
Monteverdi Vespers, Part 1

Episode #12: Friday, May 8
Monteverdi Vespers, Part 2

Episode #13: Wednesday, May 20
Love & Jazz from 1603

SELECT ARTIST BIOGRAPHIES

 Jesse Blumberg, baritone, enjoys a busy schedule of opera, concerts, and recitals, performing repertoire from the Renaissance and Baroque to the 20th and 21st Centuries. His performances have included the world premiere of The Grapes of Wrath at Minnesota Opera, Bernstein’s MASS at London’s Royal Festival Hall, numerous productions with Boston Early Music Festival, and featured roles with Atlanta Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Utah Opera, and Boston Lyric Opera. Recital highlights include appearances with the Marilyn Horne Foundation, New York Festival of Song, and Mirror Visions Ensemble. He has performed major concert works with American Bach Soloists, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Boston Baroque, Oratorio Society of New York, Apollo’s Fire, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and on Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series.

He has been featured on over twenty commercial recordings, including Winterreise with pianist Martin Katz, Rosenmüller Cantatas with ACRONYM, St. John Passion with Apollo’s Fire, and various operas with Boston Early Music Festival. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and is also the founding artistic director of Five Boroughs Music Festival in New York City.

The American soprano Amanda Forsythe sings Euridice on the recording of Charpentier’s La descente d’Orphée aux enfers with Boston Early Music Festival which won the 2015 GRAMMY AWARD for Best Opera Recording. She has been praised by Opera News for her “light and luster”, “wonderful agility and silvery top notes”. She was a winner of the George London Foundation Awards and was sponsored by them in her New York recital début. She also received prizes from the Liederkranz Foundation and the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation.

Amanda Forsythe made her European operatic début in the role of Corinna Il viaggio a Reims at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro which led to an immediate invitation to make her début at the Grand Théâtre de Genève as Dalinda Ariodante where she was proclaimed “the discovery of the evening” (Financial Times). She returned to the Rossini Opera Festival to perform the role of Rosalia L’equivoco stravagante and Bellini duets in the ‘Malibran’ recital at the invitation of Joyce di Donato, and, most recently, Jemmy in the new production of Guillaume Tell for which she received considerable critical acclaim.

Amanda Forsythe made her USA stage début with Boston Early Music Festival, where her roles have included Niobe and Manto (recording) in Niobe, regina di Tebe, Aglaure in Lully’s Psyché, Venus Venus and Adonis (John Blow), Drusilla L’incoronazione di Poppea, Pallas in Eccles’ The Judgment of Paris and Edilia in Handel’s Almira, for which she received rave reviews. Amanda Forsythe’s concert engagements in North America have included her recent débuts at the Tanglewood Festival and Lincoln Center in the title role of Teseo with Philharmonia Baroque, and her début with Seattle Symphony in Handel’s Messiah.

Amanda Forsythe is a regular soloist with the highly acclaimed baroque ensembles Philharmonia Baroque, Apollo’s Fire, Boston Baroque and Pacific Musicworks. Her concert repertoire also includes Handel’s Israel in Egypt, Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate, Vivaldi’s Nulla in mundo pax sincera, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, Orff’s Carmina Burana, and Bach’s St. John Passion.

Amanda Forsythe’s recordings include the 2015 Grammy-winning CD of Charpentier’s La déscente d’Orphée aux enfers, as well as Venus Venus and Adonis, Aglaure Lully’s Psyché, and La Grande Pretresse in Lully’s Thésée with Boston Early Music Festival (all for CPO), Manto Steffani’s Niobe with BEMF (Erato), the title role in Handel’s Teseo with Philharmonia Baroque (PBO’s own label) , Mozart’s Lucio Silla: In un istante Parto, m’affretto and Messiah with Apollo’s Fire (Avie), Minerve Dorinda Handel’s Orlando with Early Music Vancouver (ATMA) and Haydn’s Creation with Boston Baroque (Linn). She also sings on the DVD recordings of the Pesaro productions of L’equivoco stravagante and Guillaume Tell as well as Manto in the Royal Opera production of Steffani’s Niobe (Opus Arte).

In Autumn 2015 her début solo recording of Handel arias with Apollo’s Fire was released on the Avie label to critical acclaim.

Nick Phan, Evangelist American tenor Nicholas Phan performs regularly with the world’s leading orchestras and opera companies. An avid recitalist, he is also the artistic director of the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago (CAIC), which he co-founded in 2010 to promote art song and vocal chamber music. Phan launches his new season in Chicago, curating CAIC’s eighth annual Collaborative Works Festival.

Highlights of his 2019-20 season include returns to the New York Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony, as well debuts with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra. He made his role debut in the title role of Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus with Philharmonia Baroque and Nicholas McGegan, and gave the world premiere of Antoine Plante’s arrangement Schubert’s Winterreise for full orchestra, with Houston-based orchestra, Mercury. In January 2020, Phan curated and performed with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society in “Emerging Voices,” a series of concerts celebrating Paris and art song’s role as a medium for understanding identity and forging connections during times of social, political and cultural change. Also in January 2020, Phan released his sixth solo album, Clairières, a recording of songs by Lili and Nadia Boulanger.

Phan’s solo album, Gods and Monsters, was nominated for the 2017 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Solo Album. In addition to four other critically-acclaimed solo albums, Phan’s growing discography also includes a Grammy-nominated recording of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella with Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony and the world premiere recordings of two orchestral song cycles: The Old Burying Ground by Evan Chambers and Elliott Carter’s A Sunbeam’s Architecture.

 

Jeffrey Strauss, Pilate, an “authoritative artist” (CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER) whose performances have been praised as “captivating” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE) and “serenely beautiful” (NEW YORK TIMES), has appeared with period-instrument ensembles including The Consort of Musicke with Emma Kirkby, the Taverner Consort under Andrew Parrott, Tafelmusik, the Handel & Haydn Society (Boston), the Newberry Consort (Chicago), Seattle Baroque, and Tempesta di Mare (Philadelphia). This season marks his 25th with Apollo’s Fire. He made his professional debut at 17 with the Buffalo Philharmonic and studied voice in Paris with Gérard Souzay. An accomplished stage actor, favorite projects have included the title role in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, Jesus and Pilate in the Bach Passions, Méphistophélès in Berlioz’ Damnation of Faust, and Apollo in Handel’s Apollo e Dafne. His 2014 portrayal of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof was hailed by the BUFFALO NEWS as “masterful.” His longstanding commitment to contemporary music includes numerous appearances with the Contemporary Chamber Players (Contempo) in Chicago and performances of Ned Rorem’s song cycle Aftermath, Lawrence Axelrod’s The Immanence of Angels and Ophélia, Paul Schoenfield’s Camp Songs, a jazz oratorio with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and premieres of works by Bernstein, Babbitt, Shapey, and Cipullo. CD recordings with Apollo’s Fire include the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610; Handel’s Messiah; Sephardic Journey, which debuted in 2016 at #2 on the BILLBOARD World Music chart; Bach’s St. John Passion; and Apollo’s Fire’s most recent CD release, Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain.

Jeannette Sorrell, Conductor & Harpsichordist

GRAMMY®-winning conductor and harpsichordist Jeannette Sorrell is recognized internationally as one of today’s most compelling interpreters of Baroque and Classical repertoire.

She is the founder and artistic director of APOLLO’S FIRE, and has led the renowned period ensemble in sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall, London’s BBC Proms, Madrid’s Royal Theatre, the Tanglewood and Ravinia festivals, Boston’s Early Music Festival, the Library of Congress, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), among others. She and her ensemble have built one of the largest audiences of any baroque orchestra in North America. Sorrell and Apollo’s Fire have released 26 commercial CDs, including 8 bestsellers on the Billboard classical chart and a 2019 GRAMMY®-winner. Her recordings include the complete Brandenburg Concerti and harpsichord concerti of Bach; Bach’s St John Passion; Handel’s Messiah; and the Monteverdi Vespers, among others.

In demand with symphony orchestras and period groups alike, Sorrell has repeatedly conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony, St Paul Chamber Orchestra, Utah Symphony, and New World Symphony, and has also led the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, Opera St Louis with the St Louis Symphony, the Florida Orchestra, North Carolina Symphony, and Handel & Haydn Society, among others.

She studied conducting under Leonard Bernstein and Roger Norrington at the Tanglewood and Aspen music festivals; and studied harpsichord with Gustav Leonhardt in Amsterdam. She won both First Prize and the Audience Choice Award in the Spivey International Harpsichord Competition, competing against over 70 harpsichordists from Europe, Israel, the U.S., and the Soviet Union.

Sorrell has attracted national attention and awards for her creative programming, which has brought many new listeners to early music through the use of contextual and dramatic elements. She received an honorary doctorate from Case Western University and an award from the American Musicological Society.

ABOUT APOLLO’S FIRE

“The U.S.A.’s hottest baroque band”

– Classical Music Magazine, UK

“Led by a brilliant harpsichordist, Jeannette Sorrell, the ensemble exudes stylish energy –

a blend of scholarship and visceral intensity.”  – GRAMOPHONE

GRAMMY award-winning ensemble APOLLO’S FIRE was named for the classical god of music, healing, and the sun.  It was founded by its Artistic Director Jeannette Sorrell, to revive the baroque ideal that music should evoke the various Affekts or passions in the listeners. Apollo’s Fire is a collection of creative artists who share Sorrell’s passion for drama and rhetoric.

Hailed as “one of the pre-eminent period-instrument ensembles” (The Independent, London), Apollo’s Fire made its London debut in 2010 in a sold-out concert at Wigmore Hall, with a BBC broadcast.  Subsequent European tours took place in 2011, 2014, and 2015.  European performances include sold-out concerts at the BBC Proms in London (with live broadcast across Europe), the Aldeburgh Festival (UK), Madrid’s Royal Theatre, Bordeaux’s Grand Théàtre de l’Opéra, and major venues in Lisbon, Metz (France), and Bregenz (Austria), as well as concerts on the Birmingham International Series (UK) and the Tuscan Landscapes Festival (Italy).  AF’s London concert in 2014 was chosen by the DAILY TELEGRAPH as one of the “Best 5 Classical Concerts of The Year.”

North American tour engagements include sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall (2018), the Tanglewood Festival (2015 and 2017), the Ravinia Festival, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY (2013, 2014, and 2015), the Boston Early Music Festival series, and the Library of Congress, as well as concerts at the Aspen Music Festival, and major venues in Toronto, Los Angeles and San Francisco.  The ensemble’s notable U.S. tours include two major tours of the Monteverdi Vespers (2010 and 2014); a 9-concert tour of the Brandenburg Concertos in 2013; and a semi-staged production of Monteverdi’s L’ORFEO in April 2018 (U.S. tour).  Upcoming is an UK/Ireland tour in August 2018, including the Wexford Opera House, the National Concert Hall of Ireland (Dublin), and a return to the Aldeburgh Festival.

At home in Cleveland, Apollo’s Fire frequently enjoys sold-out performances at its subscription series, which has drawn national attention for creative programming.  

Apollo’s Fire has released 26 commercial CDs and recently won a GRAMMY for “Songs of Orpheus,” a vocal album with tenor Karim Sulayman. AF’s most recent release (November 2018) is Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain, Sorrell’s joyful exploration of the Celtic roots of Appalachian music, which was named “Festive Disc of the Year” by Gramophone Magazine (UK) and quickly hit no. 3 on the Classical Billboard Chart. Since the ensemble’s introduction into the European CD market in 2010, the recordings have won rave reviews in the London press: “a swaggering version, brilliantly played” (THE SUNDAY TIMES) and “the Midwest’s best-kept musical secret is finally reaching British ears” (THE INDEPENDENT). Eight of the ensemble’s CD releases have become best-sellers on the classical Billboard chart: the Monteverdi Vespers, Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos & Harpsichord Concertos, a disc of Handel arias with soprano Amanda Forsythe titled “The Power of Love” (Billboard Classical #3, 2015), and Jeannette Sorrell’s four crossover programs – Come to the River – An Early American Gathering (Billboard Classical #9, 2011); Sacrum Mysterium- A Celtic Christmas Vespers (Billboard Classical #11, 2012); Sugarloaf Mountain – An Appalachian Gathering (Billboard Classical #5, 2015); and Sephardic Journey – Wanderings of the Spanish Jews (Billboard World Music Chart #2 and Billboard Classical #5, Feb. 2016); and Songs of Orpheus (Billboard Classical #5, 2018).

For photos or additional videos, please contact Angela Mortellaro at 216.320.0012, ext. 6,

or amortellaro@apollosfire.org.

 

 

 

 

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