J. S. Bach - B minor Mass, Dona Nobis Pacem English Baroque Soloists & Monteverdi Choir Conducted by John Eliot Gardiner
Bach's B Minor Mass has always held a special place in my heart. It is the work that brought my father together with Helmuth Rilling and which ultimately led to the founding of the Oregon Bach Festival fifty years ago. It is music which I studied and sang under the baton of my mentor and teacher, Helmuth Rilling. It is a staple of the Oregon Bach Festival and the opening concert of the 2020 Festival. Most recently, it is music that I prepared just three weeks ago with the 2020 JSB Ensemble (Young Stuttgart Bach Ensemble) of the International Bach Academy of Stuttgart.
We were 80+ musicians from 30 countries, who came together on March 6th in a beautiful German monastery to study and prepare Bach's B Minor Mass and Köthener Trauermusik under the baton of Hans-Christoph Rademann. It was a week of intense rehearsals, joyous music making, shared meals, new friendships, and global exchange. The final performance was to have been in Stuttgart on March 21st – Bach's 335th birthday. With the impending threat of the coronavirus, we had to suspend all workshop, masterclass, and concert activity in Stuttgart so that everyone could safely return home to their respective countries. On the evening of Thursday, March 12th, we came together one last time to perform the B Minor Mass for ourselves. There were no trumpets or timpani, so the oboe professor played the first trumpet part from his pocket score. There were no vocal soloists so members of the chorus and vocal masterclasses stepped out to sing the arias. Teachers and students sang and played side-by-side with incredible focus and passion. It was not a perfect performance but one of great emotion and celebration, reflecting our collective love of music and the time we had shared together. I will never forget that evening nor the final Dona nobis pacem (Grant us peace), which slowly unfolded and grew in intensity and fervor – an international prayer for global health and cooperation, and a musical exaltation of faith, love, hope, charity, and peace.