Stori'r Dioddefaint: Gwaith Mawr Bach Y Dioddefaint yn ol Ioan


Stori'r Dioddefaint: Gwaith Mawr Bach

Hanes un o gampweithiau mawr cerddoriaeth gysegredig. A glimpse into the preparations for a televised recording of a Welsh language edition of the St John Passion to be shown to...


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-In 1724,

-Bach's St John Passion...

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-..was performed in its entirety

-for the first time ever.

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-No fanfare, no premiere

-in a grand theatre, no applause...

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-..just the serenity

-of a church service.

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-But this was one of the world's most

-important pieces of classical music.

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-# Lord, Lord, Lord #

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-In this programme,

-I reveal the piece's history...

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-..and meet experts to discover

-what makes this work so remarkable.

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-We revere this music, we love it.

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-We think it must have had

-an incredible impact.

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-And we look back on two years' work

-that realized a dream for me.

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-It's been a fascinating process.

-It's a challenging work.

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-The hardest part

-is telling the story.

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-Understanding it

-and being a part of it.

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-It culminates with the first

-Welsh language performance...

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-..of the St John Passion

-at Llandaff Cathedral.

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-Subtitles

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-Easter never passes nowadays without

-my singing the St John Passion.

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-Performances to mark the festival

-can be heard across the country.

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-But Bach didn't compose the work

-for a concert.

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-# Jesus, Jesus #

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-He composed it

-for a Good Friday service...

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-..at his own church,

-for his regular musicians.

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-People have long discussed how many

-singers Bach would have had.

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-About 50 boys

-at the school where he taught...

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-..sang soprano, alto,

-tenor and bass.

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-Every Sunday, regularly,

-he'd have four choirs.

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-The first two choirs

-would sing the harmonies...

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-..and the other two,

-what my father called growlers...

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-..would sing the tune.

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-It was very much an everybody

-has to do everything outfit.

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-You might find one day

-that the second bassoon was missing.

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-He'd take one of his basses

-and say, "You play bassoon."

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-In 2000, I toured with Sir John

-Eliot Gardiner's Monteverdi choir...

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-..singing every one

-of Bach's 200-plus cantatas...

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-..across Europe and the USA.

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-This was how I first came across

-baroque music.

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-Before long, Bach's works

-became my abiding interest.

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-I wanted to convey its passion

-to my friends and family.

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-My favourite music

-in my mother tongue.

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-# Dissolve, my heart

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-# In floods of tears

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-# To honour the Most High #

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-The St John Passion is a bit like

-the central jewel of a necklace.

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-The pearls are there, the cantatas,

-each week a new piece...

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-..then the climax

-being the St John Passion.

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-It's much longer,

-nearly 100 minutes....

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-..compared to the cantatas,

-about half an hour.

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-Bach was master of music

-at Leipzig's Thomaskirche.

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-He was appointed in 1723.

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-He would fill the role

-for the next 27 years...

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-..uuntil his death in 1750.

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-He was struggling all the time.

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-He didn't have the quality

-he was looking for.

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-The headmaster wanted good

-academics. He wanted musicians.

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-One of his duties every week...

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-..was to compose religious pieces

-for the church's services.

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-During Lent,

-there was no music in the church.

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-They all rehearsed

-the St John Passion...

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-..Bach's Good Friday composition.

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-Bach intended to perform the work

-at the Thomaskirche.

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-But at the last minute,

-the board of music decided...

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-..to perform it

-at St Nicholas' Church.

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-Bach agreed, provided the church's

-harpsichord would be mended first.

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-One of the only descriptions

-we have of Bach performing...

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-..a brilliant description.

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-If anything was missing, he would

-lean over the keyboard player...

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-..and start playing furiously.

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-He had rhythm in every muscle

-of his body when he was conducting.

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-Bach always composed

-for musicians he already had.

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-So, the orchestra required

-is fairly small.

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-It calls for strings,

-flutes and oboes...

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-..and basso continuo, an organ

-or harpsichord with a cello.

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-Bach also added some instruments

-that were old-fashioned even then.

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-A lute, and an early version

-of the modern cello, viola da gamba.

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-And, of course, the singers.

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-The Thomaskirche choir

-was a small one.

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-It was important to keep the balance

-between the voices and instruments.

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-But the chorus did more

-than stand and watch.

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-They played the crowd

-in the story's drama and tragedy...

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-..and stepped out

-to consider the events.

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-Bach drew his soloists

-from his local church singers.

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-The Passion's drama is enlivened

-by characters out of the story.

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-There are traditional soloists too.

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-The soprano and alto, myself

-and Eirlys Myfanwy Davies...

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-..tenor Gwilym Bowen...

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-..bass-baritone Jeremy Huw Williams,

-who plays Christ...

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-# Whom seek ye? #

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-..and baritone Robert Davies

-as Pontius Pilate.

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-Another tenor plays the Evangelist,

-who tells the whole story.

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-He's a new young voice,

-Rhodri Prys Jones...

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-..a student at the Royal Welsh

-College of Music and Drama.

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-I've been learning the part

-over a period of almost four months.

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-It's the biggest part

-I've had to learn in my career.

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-The Evangelist's role

-has no even lines and arias.

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-It's all in a narrative form,

-and it has been a difficult process.

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-It's such a huge part, especially

-when combined with college work.

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-But I've drawn so much confidence.

-from playing such a great part.

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-It'll be a big career boost.

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-# For Jesus oftimes resorted thither

-with his disciples #

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-We have 28 singers.

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-The work requires a smaller choir,

-and they've all sung for me before.

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-Eight sopranos, eight altos,

-six tenors and six basses.

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-All those who sing for me

-are good readers of music.

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-But I would say

-that Bach and this work...

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-..has been a major test

-of just how good they are.

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-I'm sure the singers would agree,

-it has been a challenge for us.

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-With Osian, we came in

-and started working on the piece.

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-The notes and the words,

-in the correct places.

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-Then Huw came in, and he's superb

-at contextualizing the work.

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-Look at page five...

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-Huw Williams,

-the Bath Abbey music director...

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-..is an expert at performing

-in the baroque style.

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-It's a technical challenge

-because the music is difficult.

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-Some chorus parts are very hard.

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-Hardest of all is telling the story,

-understanding it.

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-Being part of the story.

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-Classically, it's easy

-to perform pieces correctly.

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-But understanding the story

-is the next step.

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-The rehearsals are very interesting.

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-The context and the story

-he conveys to us in rehearsals...

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-..helps us to appreciate

-Bach's composing, perhaps.

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-Nothing's there by mistake.

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-Why is that chord there?

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-Because the cross appears.

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-When that happens, it's more tender.

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-There are no mistakes.

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-When you perform Bach,

-you'll always find nice parts.

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-# Lord, Lord, Lord

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-# Our Master #

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-Who knows what the ideal choir is.

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-For Bach, some say

-that it's one singer per voice.

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-But I think that this choir,

-of about 30, is ideal for me.

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-Not so hard.

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-# Lord, Lord #

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-Of the choir members,

-some are native Welsh speakers...

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-..some have learnt Welsh

-and a few aren't from Wales.

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-In their case, the language may be

-a greater challenge than the notes.

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-It's so difficult sometimes

-to sing a lot of notes...

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-..and to hear the tune.

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-The notes, the instruments playing

-and the words all go together.

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-Everything in the piece

-has a purpose.

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-If you sang an opera or acted

-in a theatre, you'd be a part of it.

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-But we tend to stand away

-in the classical world.

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-If we fulfil that aim,

-we'll have succeeded.

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-My first experience of singing Bach

-was with the Swansea Bach Choir...

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-..conducted by John Hugh Thomas.

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-Hello. Come in.

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-Hello. Come in.

-

-Hello. Are you alright?

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-It's nice to see you.

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-It seems that performing the Passion

-of St John on Good Friday...

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-..was traditional by Bach's day.

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-Even in the 5th century,

-Pope Leo I insisted...

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-..on an interpretation

-of the Passion during Easter week.

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-When Bach composed his version...

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-..he was stepping

-into a tradition of drama...

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-..and an established form.

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-These are some early arrangements.

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-Arrangements of the Passion,

-but before Bach.

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-Long before Bach.

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-At least a century.

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-As was the tradition then,

-there were no instruments at all.

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-Even the organ

-wasn't played at Easter.

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-Wasn't it really?

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-No, there was no accompaniment.

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-After years

-of singing the St John Passion...

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-..in the original German

-and in English, I had an idea.

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-Why not translate this masterpiece

-into Welsh?

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-About February 2016...

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-..I got a note from Elin,

-who does email me from time to time.

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-This time, she asked me

-to take a glance at it.

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-Of course, the script came.

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-I soon saw that this wasn't going

-to be a quick job, or an easy one.

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-The job expanded

-beyond a couple of weeks' work.

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-It lasted from February

-through to September.

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-Six or seven months' work!

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-# Release unto you

-the King of the Jews? #

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-# Then cried they all again,

-saying #

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-# Not this man, but Barabbas!

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-# Not this man, but Barabbas!

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-# Barabbas! #

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-Bach based his work on chapters 18

-and 19 of St John's Gospel...

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-..following the Lutheran Bible.

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-The Evangelist follows the words

-of the Bible throughout the work.

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-Bach also used familiar hymns

-for his chorales...

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-..and poetry from various sources

-for the solos and the chorus.

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-# The grave

-that is prepared for you

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-# And holds no further distress

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-# Opens heaven for me

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-# And shuts the gates of hell #

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-It's the play that has the greatest

-impact in the St John Passion.

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-The way that Bach

-set out the words is remarkable...

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-..when you think

-it's a religious work...

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-..a work meant for the church

-and for services.

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-It isn't an anthem.

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-It's not a soothing report

-of Christ's final days...

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-..with the odd tuneful hymn.

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-This is an opera oratorio

-that grips your emotions...

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-..with its drama, its tension

-and its eternal message.

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-.

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-Subtitles

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-Subtitles

-

-Subtitles

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-Bach apparently revamped his work

-numerous times during his lifetime.

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-But he ultimately returned

-to the original 1724 version.

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-Great to see you.

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-A true authority on Bach

-is my old friend and co-worker...

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-..the world-famous conductor,

-Sir John Eliot Gardiner.

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-He believed in that first version...

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-..which I believe

-is the one you're performing.

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-Then it was dropped.

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-Nobody performed it

-until Mendelssohn in 1833.

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-He'd just done

-the St Matthew Passion in 1829.

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-People said at the time that

-it wasn't as good as St Matthew.

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-Then along comes Robert Schumann

-and performs the St John in 1851.

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-"This is the piece

-it's so much better, more concise.

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-"It packs a stronger punch,

-it's the one I love."

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-He's not writing an opera.

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-What he does

-is something much, much harder...

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-..but also much more brilliant,

-in my view.

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-He combines a work

-which is to edify and encourage...

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-..the religious response

-of his listeners...

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-..with an incredibly good

-storytelling element to it.

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-The narrative is the key.

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-The St John account of the Passion

-story is incredibly gripping.

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-# Whither will you fly now?

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-# Where shall I find comfort?

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-# Where shall I find comfort? #

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-He became interested in the original

-style of performing the music.

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-This meant playing instruments

-from the 18th century...

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-..using gut strings and woodwind

-instruments specific to the time.

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-The sound

-created by these instruments...

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-..combined with a lighter,

-livelier orchestral style...

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-..gives us an insight...

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-..into how similar pieces of music

-would have sounded in Bach's time.

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-It was fairly straightforward...

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-..to get a violin to sound

-as it did at that time.

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-Getting rid of the modern strings.

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-But the woodwind instruments...

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-..had to be recreated.

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-They had to go

-into a museum in Vienna, say...

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-..borrowing a few exhibits...

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-..measuring them in great detail...

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-..and creating new instruments

-based totally on the originals.

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-What's the effect of performing

-with a baroque pitch...

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-..and with original instruments?

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-I think it's very similar...

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-..to cleaning old oil paintings.

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-Yes.

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-When they have lost

-their colour completely.

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-They're more or less

-completely black.

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-When they are cleaned,

-the effect is exactly like that.

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-The instruments are much clearer.

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-The balance is better.

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-They're more distinct.

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-And the way of playing them changes.

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-People read old books

-and bring back the original style.

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-That gives a wonderful effect.

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-What you gain

-by using historical instruments...

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-..is a much more equal balance

-between them.

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-A modern trumpet

-is much louder than an oboe...

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-..and an oboe

-is louder than a violin.

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-But in the baroque style,

-the balance is better.

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-That can hear the sound

-that Bach himself would have heard.

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-# I too follow thee

-with joyful steps

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-# I too follow thee

-with joyful steps #

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-This scrapbook

-is full of old programmes.

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-They go back a bit.

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-They go back a bit.

-

-What's so important here?

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-A bit of everything, from the start.

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-"A moving account

-of St John Passion."

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-The first baroque-style performance

-in Wales of Johannes-Passion.

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-At St Mary's Church, Swansea.

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-At St Mary's Church, Swansea.

-

-"A memorable Passion." Great.

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-Almost two years ago, I set about

-translating the St John Passion.

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-After setting the framework...

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-..I worked with an expert

-in German-Welsh bilingualism...

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-..Heini Gruffudd.

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-Fortunately, I sang this piece...

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-..with the Swansea Philharmonic

-Choir a few years ago.

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-I was familiar with it,

-which helped.

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-But, going forward, I realized...

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-..with regard to the recitatives...

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-..it would help if they were

-as similar as possible...

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-..to the Welsh Bible.

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-The next problem was deciding

-which Welsh translation.

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-The latest beibl.net version...

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-..was a far cry from what would be

-familiar to any congregation.

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-I eventually opted

-for a 1980s translation.

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-That's widely used these days.

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-The difficulty was

-that the German version...

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-..followed the Bible

-very, very closely.

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-As a result, I felt

-that we had to try to do the same.

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-That meant the rhythms

-were slightly different...

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-..so we had to adapt

-Biblical verses...

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-..to fit the rhythm of the music

-as closely as possible.

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-Aria 30, if you have a copy.

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-I've got it here.

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-The German goes,

-"Es ist vollbracht."

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-It's in verse 30.

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-Yes. "Cyflawnwyd."

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-"Cyflawnwyd" is perfectly correct,

-but in the Welsh Bible...

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-..and what people

-would be familiar with...

0:19:370:19:41

-..is "Gorffennwyd."

0:19:410:19:43

-Hearing that would tell them where

-they are as regards the Bible text.

0:19:430:19:49

-But the problem is, the emphasis

-is at the end in the German...

0:19:490:19:55

-..and on the penultimate syllable

-in Welsh.

0:19:550:19:59

-I'd suggest "Gorffennwyd hyn."

0:19:590:20:02

-"Gorffennwyd hyn."

0:20:020:20:04

-Then the emphasis is the same.

0:20:040:20:06

-Great.

0:20:070:20:08

-Mull over that

-and I'll send you a copy.

0:20:080:20:12

-If you want to change anything,

-that won't be a problem.

0:20:120:20:16

-Thank you. Take care. Ta-ra, Heini.

0:20:160:20:19

-# It is finished!

0:20:280:20:34

-# It is finished! #

0:20:380:20:44

-At the end of the process,

-two years down the line...

0:20:440:20:48

-..I hope that we can all appreciate

-this extraordinary work.

0:20:480:20:53

-By understanding every word...

0:20:530:20:55

-..we can experience

-the story's drama and message...

0:20:550:20:59

-..with the most emotional music

-ever written.

0:20:590:21:02

-The small baroque orchestra

-produces a different sound.

0:21:040:21:08

-It affects the balance

-and the acoustics.

0:21:080:21:12

-It's quite an experience.

0:21:120:21:14

-There's so much variety in the work.

0:21:140:21:17

-The chorales are wonderful.

0:21:170:21:19

-They might sound easy...

0:21:190:21:21

-..but actually singing them

-with feeling and with meaning...

0:21:210:21:26

-..is harder than it might

-come across to the audience.

0:21:260:21:30

-Some of the choruses

-are fairly challenging.

0:21:300:21:33

-One in particular

-needs more homework by me!

0:21:330:21:37

-Counting.

0:21:370:21:38

-Counting.

-

-Yes, we have to count a lot.

0:21:380:21:41

-The variety is a challenge,

-but it's great to sing.

0:21:410:21:46

-It's fairly modern for Bach.

0:21:470:21:49

-The rhythms are jazzy.

0:21:490:21:50

-You have to count off the beat,

-which is hard.

0:21:500:21:53

-# Hasten, hasten, hasten

-to Golgotha! #

0:21:540:22:02

-The story is really clear.

0:22:020:22:05

-The way that Elin and Heini

-have written the translation...

0:22:050:22:10

-..fits the music and vowels,

-which is a challenge in itself.

0:22:110:22:15

-I hope

-that we have created a text...

0:22:150:22:18

-..which is fairly familiar

-to the audience...

0:22:180:22:21

-..but which is also fairly singable.

0:22:220:22:26

-Well, dear me.

0:22:310:22:32

-It looks substantial.

0:22:330:22:34

-Well, well, well.

0:22:360:22:37

-It's great to see the fruits

-of months of hard work.

0:22:370:22:43

-I'm really looking forward...

0:22:430:22:45

-..to hearing the choir

-and Elin performing it.

0:22:460:22:50

-Absolutely brilliant.

0:22:500:22:51

-Excellent.

0:22:520:22:53

-Excellent.

0:22:540:22:55

-At long last,

-after all the hard work...

0:22:550:22:58

-..Johann Sebastian Bach's

-St John Passion...

0:22:580:23:01

-..can be seen and heard in Welsh.

0:23:010:23:03

-We can follow Christ's story...

0:23:040:23:06

-..in an interpretation that will be

-a feast of inspirational music.

0:23:060:23:11

-S4C Subtitles by Testun Cyf.

0:23:390:23:42

-.

0:23:420:23:43

Hanes un o gampweithiau mawr cerddoriaeth gysegredig. A glimpse into the preparations for a televised recording of a Welsh language edition of the St John Passion to be shown tomorrow night.


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