All posts by Liz Watts

St Matthew Passion CD is a hit!

Along with being Radio 3’s disc of the week, Elizabeth’s recent recording of JS Bach’s St Matthew Passion with the Academy of Ancient Music has attracted a clutch of rave reviews…

Gramophone

“What essentially transpires is the billowing theatricality of a 17th century oratorio, encouraged by the use of Bach’s initial and rather more austere version of 1727, a text still to be given its final polish and yet exploited fully by Richard Egarr to encourage his singers to ‘enact’ emotions freely from within the heart of the imagery . . .

“If some of the numbers alight a touch breathlessly on a conceit of disquieting urgency, then the considered placement of the narrative falls to the unassuming and unforced Evangelist of James Gilchrist; his is a supremely courageous and intelligent reading whose interaction with the human volatility of Matthew Rose’s Jesus is profoundly affecting . . .

“The outstanding Elizabeth Watts and Sarah Connolly have their bigger moments (the latter’s ‘Erbarme dich’ is simply unmissable) but this [‘So ist mein Jesus nun gefangen’] is a Gordian knot as yet untied for mankind and its effect is as breathtaking as Fritz Lehmann’s revelatory reading . . . Bach’s later appoggiaturas may not have been a good idea on this evidence . . .

“Egarr’s compellingly original vision of this greatest of all musical tombeaus, with its fresh anticipation founded on collective adrenaline and uniformly outstanding lyrical Bach-singing . . . is a triumph.”

BBC Music Magazine

“Richard Egarr has boldly chosen to record Bach’s first, 1727, version of the Passion, far less familiar than the 1736 revision – and not, he asserts, “work in progress. It is different.” The differences alone would make it a “must hear” recording, even if it were less admirably performed . . . Singing and playing are highly polished and assured throughout, with James Gilchrist superb as the Evangelist.”

★ ★ ★ ★

The Mail on Sunday

“For many serious music-lovers, listening to the St Matthew Passion at Easter is as vital as hearing Handel’s Messiah at Christmas.

“There were two packed performances in London last weekend, at the Royal Festival Hall and at the Barbican, the latter featuring the Academy of Ancient Music under Richard Egarr, whose new own-label recording really hits the spot for me. This is also an opportunity to wave the flag, because every one of a distinguished roster of soloists is British, led by James Gilchrist’s eloquent Evangelist.

“Matthew Rose is an imposing Jesus, and the arias at the heart of the work, which offer a deeply moving commentary on the Gospel, are exceptionally well sung by soprano Elizabeth Watts, alto Sarah Connolly, tenor Thomas Hobbs and bass Christopher Maltman. Egarr, both as harpsichordist and conductor, is the presiding genius here, presenting Bach’s original thoughts, as given in Leipzig on Good Friday 1727, rather than the 1736 revision normally performed. The 1736 version is more imposing, but the 1727 score has a touching simplicity. Its smaller scale brings spiritual benefits, for instance in the final bass aria, about Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross. Here Christopher Maltman is accompanied by a gentle lute rather than, as in the 1736 edition, a gruff viola da gamba.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Sunday Times

“This is a far more vital and dramatic account of Bach’s ‘Great Passion’ than the penitential one Egarr conducted a few years ago at Glyndebourne. Using his own period-instrument orchestra and chorus (of 20), it is a fine mainstream reading that makes no pious claims to ‘authenticity’. Even though none of the soloists is a native German-speaker, their diction is clear, and, in the cases of James Gilchrist’s Evangelist and Sarah Connolly’s mezzo-soprano, the handling of the text is both viscerally emotional and eloquent. Properly, the sequence of Peter’s denial and the succeeding aria, ‘Erbarme Dich’, with its consoling violin obbligato, becomes the spiritual and dramatic crux of the Passion story in these outstanding singers’ hands. Elizabeth Watts’s gleaming soprano, Thomas Hobbs clear tenor and Christopher Maltman’s bass shine, too, and Matthew Rose’s Jesus sounds earthier than usual.” Album of the week

See more at: http://www.aam.co.uk/#/recordings/discography/js-bach/bach-matthew-passion.aspx

Mahler 4 and Mozart Arias discs soon to be released

Following hot on the heels on the release of Elizabeth’s St Matthew Passion with the Academy of Ancient Music, two further CDs featuring Elizabeth will shortly be released.

Mahler’s 4th Symphony with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and will be released in May and a  disc of Mozart arias with the Scottish Chamber orchestra in June.

This will be a bumper year for recordings of Elizabeth with her disc of arias by Alessandro Scarlatti scheduled for release in October.

Critical acclaim for Hercules

Elizabeth recently completed a European tour of Handel’s Hercules with The English Concert and Harry Bicket, delighting the critics:

“Elizabeth Watts confirmed her place as one of Britain’s leading sopranos as the traduced Iole, desolate in her lament for her lost home, but a match for Dejanira when accused of being Hercules’ lover. Like a cornered lioness, eyes flashing, claws out, we felt her bitter scorn in “Ah think what ills the jealous prove”. And yet, when Dejanira’s downfall was complete, her honeyed sweetness in “My breast with tender pity swells” was deeply moving.”

Stephen Pritchard, The Observer

 

“Elizabeth Watts… singing with appropriate and moving purity but unveiling fierce temperament – and pinpoint coloratura – when it was called for”

Hugo Shirley, The Telegraph

 

“As the innocent Iole, Elizabeth Watts’s fresh and lucid soprano moved around Handel’s notes with graceful expressiveness”

George Hall, The Guardian

 

Elizabeth recently recorded a disc of arias by Alessandro Scarlatti with The English Concert for release late 2015.

Bach St Matthew Passion CD release 31st March

Elizabeth’s recent recording of Bach’s St Matthew Passion in its original 1727 version is due for release on 31st March.

Recorded with the Academy of Ancient Music and released on their own label, the disc is conducted by Richard Egarr and also features James Gilchrist (as the Evangelist), Sarah Connolly, Thomas Hobbs, Christopher Maltman, Ashley Riches and Matthew Rose.

Elizabeth previously recorded the St John Passion with the AAM, which was nominated for a Gramophone Award.

Elizabeth named as one of the Top 1000 most influential Londoners

Elizabeth has been placed on the Evening Standard’s list of the Top 1000 most influential Londoners. 2014 has seen her perform in London’s most prestigious venues including the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; the Festival Hall and at the Last Night of the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall.

Elizabeth will give a concert of virtuoso Scarlatti arias with The English Concert at London’s newest hall, Milton Court at the Barbican on Sunday 9th November.

CPE Bach Magnificat wins Gramophone Award

Elizabeth’s recording of CPE Bach’s Magnificat with the RIAS Kammerchor and Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin conducted by Hans-Christoph Rademann has won the Gramophone Award for Best Baroque Vocal recording. The disc also contains the splendid motet “Heilig ist Gott”, Richard Wigmore of Gramophone describing it as “The finest recording of CPE’s choral masterpiece I have heard”.

Elizabeth’s recording of JS Bach’s  St John Passion with the Academy of Ancient Music was also shortlisted for the award.

Dress going for a song!

Want a couture Vivienne Westwood gown? Well Elizabeth is wearing one for the Last Night of the Proms on Saturday and having been donated by Dame Vivienne, it is being auctioned off to raise money for the brilliant charity Streetwise Opera. Bidding is already open so go to http://www.ebay.co.uk/usr/streetwiseoperauk to make an offer!

UPDATE: The dress is now sold! Thanks to all who made the auction possible.

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Pictures by Asa Westerlund