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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-Bach's St John Passion...
-..was performed in its entirety
-for the first time ever.
-No fanfare, no premiere
-in a grand theatre, no applause...
-..just the serenity
-of a church service.
-But this was one of the world's most
-important pieces of classical music.
-# Lord, Lord, Lord #
-In this programme,
-I reveal the piece's history...
-..and meet experts to discover
-what makes this work so remarkable.
-We revere this music, we love it.
-We think it must have had
-an incredible impact.
-And we look back on two years' work
-that realized a dream for me.
-It's been a fascinating process.
-It's a challenging work.
-The hardest part
-is telling the story.
-and being a part of it.
-It culminates with the first
-Welsh language performance...
-..of the St John Passion
-at Llandaff Cathedral.
-Easter never passes nowadays without
-my singing the St John Passion.
-Performances to mark the festival
-can be heard across the country.
-But Bach didn't compose the work
-for a concert.
-# Jesus, Jesus #
-He composed it
-for a Good Friday service...
-..at his own church,
-for his regular musicians.
-People have long discussed how many
-singers Bach would have had.
-About 50 boys
-at the school where he taught...
-..sang soprano, alto,
-tenor and bass.
-Every Sunday, regularly,
-he'd have four choirs.
-The first two choirs
-would sing the harmonies...
-..and the other two,
-what my father called growlers...
-..would sing the tune.
-It was very much an everybody
-has to do everything outfit.
-You might find one day
-that the second bassoon was missing.
-He'd take one of his basses
-and say, "You play bassoon."
-In 2000, I toured with Sir John
-Eliot Gardiner's Monteverdi choir...
-..singing every one
-of Bach's 200-plus cantatas...
-..across Europe and the USA.
-This was how I first came across
-Before long, Bach's works
-became my abiding interest.
-I wanted to convey its passion
-to my friends and family.
-My favourite music
-in my mother tongue.
-# Dissolve, my heart
-# In floods of tears
-# To honour the Most High #
-The St John Passion is a bit like
-the central jewel of a necklace.
-The pearls are there, the cantatas,
-each week a new piece...
-..then the climax
-being the St John Passion.
-It's much longer,
-nearly 100 minutes....
-..compared to the cantatas,
-about half an hour.
-Bach was master of music
-at Leipzig's Thomaskirche.
-He was appointed in 1723.
-He would fill the role
-for the next 27 years...
-..uuntil his death in 1750.
-He was struggling all the time.
-He didn't have the quality
-he was looking for.
-The headmaster wanted good
-academics. He wanted musicians.
-One of his duties every week...
-..was to compose religious pieces
-for the church's services.
-there was no music in the church.
-They all rehearsed
-the St John Passion...
-..Bach's Good Friday composition.
-Bach intended to perform the work
-at the Thomaskirche.
-But at the last minute,
-the board of music decided...
-..to perform it
-at St Nicholas' Church.
-Bach agreed, provided the church's
-harpsichord would be mended first.
-One of the only descriptions
-we have of Bach performing...
-..a brilliant description.
-If anything was missing, he would
-lean over the keyboard player...
-..and start playing furiously.
-He had rhythm in every muscle
-of his body when he was conducting.
-Bach always composed
-for musicians he already had.
-So, the orchestra required
-is fairly small.
-It calls for strings,
-flutes and oboes...
-..and basso continuo, an organ
-or harpsichord with a cello.
-Bach also added some instruments
-that were old-fashioned even then.
-A lute, and an early version
-of the modern cello, viola da gamba.
-And, of course, the singers.
-The Thomaskirche choir
-was a small one.
-It was important to keep the balance
-between the voices and instruments.
-But the chorus did more
-than stand and watch.
-They played the crowd
-in the story's drama and tragedy...
-..and stepped out
-to consider the events.
-Bach drew his soloists
-from his local church singers.
-The Passion's drama is enlivened
-by characters out of the story.
-There are traditional soloists too.
-The soprano and alto, myself
-and Eirlys Myfanwy Davies...
-..tenor Gwilym Bowen...
-..bass-baritone Jeremy Huw Williams,
-who plays Christ...
-# Whom seek ye? #
-..and baritone Robert Davies
-as Pontius Pilate.
-Another tenor plays the Evangelist,
-who tells the whole story.
-He's a new young voice,
-Rhodri Prys Jones...
-..a student at the Royal Welsh
-College of Music and Drama.
-I've been learning the part
-over a period of almost four months.
-It's the biggest part
-I've had to learn in my career.
-The Evangelist's role
-has no even lines and arias.
-It's all in a narrative form,
-and it has been a difficult process.
-It's such a huge part, especially
-when combined with college work.
-But I've drawn so much confidence.
-from playing such a great part.
-It'll be a big career boost.
-# For Jesus oftimes resorted thither
-with his disciples #
-We have 28 singers.
-The work requires a smaller choir,
-and they've all sung for me before.
-Eight sopranos, eight altos,
-six tenors and six basses.
-All those who sing for me
-are good readers of music.
-But I would say
-that Bach and this work...
-..has been a major test
-of just how good they are.
-I'm sure the singers would agree,
-it has been a challenge for us.
-With Osian, we came in
-and started working on the piece.
-The notes and the words,
-in the correct places.
-Then Huw came in, and he's superb
-at contextualizing the work.
-Look at page five...
-the Bath Abbey music director...
-..is an expert at performing
-in the baroque style.
-It's a technical challenge
-because the music is difficult.
-Some chorus parts are very hard.
-Hardest of all is telling the story,
-Being part of the story.
-Classically, it's easy
-to perform pieces correctly.
-But understanding the story
-is the next step.
-The rehearsals are very interesting.
-The context and the story
-he conveys to us in rehearsals...
-..helps us to appreciate
-Bach's composing, perhaps.
-Nothing's there by mistake.
-Why is that chord there?
-Because the cross appears.
-When that happens, it's more tender.
-There are no mistakes.
-When you perform Bach,
-you'll always find nice parts.
-# Lord, Lord, Lord
-# Our Master #
-Who knows what the ideal choir is.
-For Bach, some say
-that it's one singer per voice.
-But I think that this choir,
-of about 30, is ideal for me.
-Not so hard.
-# Lord, Lord #
-Of the choir members,
-some are native Welsh speakers...
-..some have learnt Welsh
-and a few aren't from Wales.
-In their case, the language may be
-a greater challenge than the notes.
-It's so difficult sometimes
-to sing a lot of notes...
-..and to hear the tune.
-The notes, the instruments playing
-and the words all go together.
-Everything in the piece
-has a purpose.
-If you sang an opera or acted
-in a theatre, you'd be a part of it.
-But we tend to stand away
-in the classical world.
-If we fulfil that aim,
-we'll have succeeded.
-My first experience of singing Bach
-was with the Swansea Bach Choir...
-..conducted by John Hugh Thomas.
-Hello. Come in.
-Hello. Come in.
-Hello. Are you alright?
-It's nice to see you.
-It seems that performing the Passion
-of St John on Good Friday...
-..was traditional by Bach's day.
-Even in the 5th century,
-Pope Leo I insisted...
-..on an interpretation
-of the Passion during Easter week.
-When Bach composed his version...
-..he was stepping
-into a tradition of drama...
-..and an established form.
-These are some early arrangements.
-Arrangements of the Passion,
-but before Bach.
-Long before Bach.
-At least a century.
-As was the tradition then,
-there were no instruments at all.
-Even the organ
-wasn't played at Easter.
-Wasn't it really?
-No, there was no accompaniment.
-of singing the St John Passion...
-..in the original German
-and in English, I had an idea.
-Why not translate this masterpiece
-About February 2016...
-..I got a note from Elin,
-who does email me from time to time.
-This time, she asked me
-to take a glance at it.
-Of course, the script came.
-I soon saw that this wasn't going
-to be a quick job, or an easy one.
-The job expanded
-beyond a couple of weeks' work.
-It lasted from February
-through to September.
-Six or seven months' work!
-# Release unto you
-the King of the Jews? #
-# Then cried they all again,
-# Not this man, but Barabbas!
-# Not this man, but Barabbas!
-# Barabbas! #
-Bach based his work on chapters 18
-and 19 of St John's Gospel...
-..following the Lutheran Bible.
-The Evangelist follows the words
-of the Bible throughout the work.
-Bach also used familiar hymns
-for his chorales...
-..and poetry from various sources
-for the solos and the chorus.
-# The grave
-that is prepared for you
-# And holds no further distress
-# Opens heaven for me
-# And shuts the gates of hell #
-It's the play that has the greatest
-impact in the St John Passion.
-The way that Bach
-set out the words is remarkable...
-..when you think
-it's a religious work...
-..a work meant for the church
-and for services.
-It isn't an anthem.
-It's not a soothing report
-of Christ's final days...
-..with the odd tuneful hymn.
-This is an opera oratorio
-that grips your emotions...
-..with its drama, its tension
-and its eternal message.
-Bach apparently revamped his work
-numerous times during his lifetime.
-But he ultimately returned
-to the original 1724 version.
-Great to see you.
-A true authority on Bach
-is my old friend and co-worker...
-..the world-famous conductor,
-Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
-He believed in that first version...
-..which I believe
-is the one you're performing.
-Then it was dropped.
-Nobody performed it
-until Mendelssohn in 1833.
-He'd just done
-the St Matthew Passion in 1829.
-People said at the time that
-it wasn't as good as St Matthew.
-Then along comes Robert Schumann
-and performs the St John in 1851.
-"This is the piece
-it's so much better, more concise.
-"It packs a stronger punch,
-it's the one I love."
-He's not writing an opera.
-What he does
-is something much, much harder...
-..but also much more brilliant,
-in my view.
-He combines a work
-which is to edify and encourage...
-..the religious response
-of his listeners...
-..with an incredibly good
-storytelling element to it.
-The narrative is the key.
-The St John account of the Passion
-story is incredibly gripping.
-# Whither will you fly now?
-# Where shall I find comfort?
-# Where shall I find comfort? #
-He became interested in the original
-style of performing the music.
-This meant playing instruments
-from the 18th century...
-..using gut strings and woodwind
-instruments specific to the time.
-created by these instruments...
-..combined with a lighter,
-livelier orchestral style...
-..gives us an insight...
-..into how similar pieces of music
-would have sounded in Bach's time.
-It was fairly straightforward...
-..to get a violin to sound
-as it did at that time.
-Getting rid of the modern strings.
-But the woodwind instruments...
-..had to be recreated.
-They had to go
-into a museum in Vienna, say...
-..borrowing a few exhibits...
-..measuring them in great detail...
-..and creating new instruments
-based totally on the originals.
-What's the effect of performing
-with a baroque pitch...
-..and with original instruments?
-I think it's very similar...
-..to cleaning old oil paintings.
-When they have lost
-their colour completely.
-They're more or less
-When they are cleaned,
-the effect is exactly like that.
-The instruments are much clearer.
-The balance is better.
-They're more distinct.
-And the way of playing them changes.
-People read old books
-and bring back the original style.
-That gives a wonderful effect.
-What you gain
-by using historical instruments...
-..is a much more equal balance
-A modern trumpet
-is much louder than an oboe...
-..and an oboe
-is louder than a violin.
-But in the baroque style,
-the balance is better.
-That can hear the sound
-that Bach himself would have heard.
-# I too follow thee
-with joyful steps
-# I too follow thee
-with joyful steps #
-is full of old programmes.
-They go back a bit.
-They go back a bit.
-What's so important here?
-A bit of everything, from the start.
-"A moving account
-of St John Passion."
-The first baroque-style performance
-in Wales of Johannes-Passion.
-At St Mary's Church, Swansea.
-At St Mary's Church, Swansea.
-"A memorable Passion." Great.
-Almost two years ago, I set about
-translating the St John Passion.
-After setting the framework...
-..I worked with an expert
-in German-Welsh bilingualism...
-Fortunately, I sang this piece...
-..with the Swansea Philharmonic
-Choir a few years ago.
-I was familiar with it,
-But, going forward, I realized...
-..with regard to the recitatives...
-..it would help if they were
-as similar as possible...
-..to the Welsh Bible.
-The next problem was deciding
-which Welsh translation.
-The latest beibl.net version...
-..was a far cry from what would be
-familiar to any congregation.
-I eventually opted
-for a 1980s translation.
-That's widely used these days.
-The difficulty was
-that the German version...
-..followed the Bible
-very, very closely.
-As a result, I felt
-that we had to try to do the same.
-That meant the rhythms
-were slightly different...
-..so we had to adapt
-..to fit the rhythm of the music
-as closely as possible.
-Aria 30, if you have a copy.
-I've got it here.
-The German goes,
-"Es ist vollbracht."
-It's in verse 30.
-"Cyflawnwyd" is perfectly correct,
-but in the Welsh Bible...
-..and what people
-would be familiar with...
-Hearing that would tell them where
-they are as regards the Bible text.
-But the problem is, the emphasis
-is at the end in the German...
-..and on the penultimate syllable
-I'd suggest "Gorffennwyd hyn."
-Then the emphasis is the same.
-Mull over that
-and I'll send you a copy.
-If you want to change anything,
-that won't be a problem.
-Thank you. Take care. Ta-ra, Heini.
-# It is finished!
-# It is finished! #
-At the end of the process,
-two years down the line...
-..I hope that we can all appreciate
-this extraordinary work.
-By understanding every word...
-..we can experience
-the story's drama and message...
-..with the most emotional music
-The small baroque orchestra
-produces a different sound.
-It affects the balance
-and the acoustics.
-It's quite an experience.
-There's so much variety in the work.
-The chorales are wonderful.
-They might sound easy...
-..but actually singing them
-with feeling and with meaning...
-..is harder than it might
-come across to the audience.
-Some of the choruses
-are fairly challenging.
-One in particular
-needs more homework by me!
-Yes, we have to count a lot.
-The variety is a challenge,
-but it's great to sing.
-It's fairly modern for Bach.
-The rhythms are jazzy.
-You have to count off the beat,
-which is hard.
-# Hasten, hasten, hasten
-to Golgotha! #
-The story is really clear.
-The way that Elin and Heini
-have written the translation...
-..fits the music and vowels,
-which is a challenge in itself.
-that we have created a text...
-..which is fairly familiar
-to the audience...
-..but which is also fairly singable.
-Well, dear me.
-It looks substantial.
-Well, well, well.
-It's great to see the fruits
-of months of hard work.
-I'm really looking forward...
-..to hearing the choir
-and Elin performing it.
-At long last,
-after all the hard work...
-..Johann Sebastian Bach's
-St John Passion...
-..can be seen and heard in Welsh.
-We can follow Christ's story...
-..in an interpretation that will be
-a feast of inspirational music.
-S4C Subtitles by Testun Cyf.
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.