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The Fisher Center Presents J.S. Bach's St. John Passion on March 1 and 2

Performance of Beloved Sacred Oratorio with Orchestra and Full Chorus
on the Stage of the Acoustically Superb Sosnoff Theater

Image Credit: Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington
Eleanor Davis

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.— The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College presents J. S. Bach’s sacred oratorio St. John Passion, featuring members of the Bard College Conservatory Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, with singers from the Bard College Chamber Singers and the Graduate Vocal Arts Program, with James Bagwell, choral director. Tenor Rufus Müller, whom the New York Times has called “a sensational Evangelist,” will perform the title role of the Evangelist, with Jesse Blumberg, baritone —“one of America’s great young baritones” (Opera Today)—performing the role of Jesus Christus. The performance takes place in the Sosnoff Theater on Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, at 8 p.m., with a preconcert talk at 7 p.m. by Alexander Bonus. Proceeds from the concert benefit the Scholarship Fund of The Bard College Conservatory of Music. Suggested donations are $20 (orchestra seating) and $15 (parterre/first balcony).  Free to the Bard community with ID. For ticket information contact the Fisher Center box office at or call 845-758-7900.

Bach completed St. John Passion in 1724, and while the identity of the librettist is unknown, the text leans heavily on a famous Passion poem by Barthold Heinrich Brockes. It narrates the events of the last days of Jesus’s life, from his betrayal by Judas through the Crucifixion, as found in chapters 18 and 19 of John’s gospel. Bard College visiting associate professor Peter Laki says, “One of St. John Passion’s most striking characteristics, which became particularly important in Lutheranism, is the view that Christ’s death on the cross was truly a spiritual victory. Accordingly, the general mood of mourning … is tempered in St. John by repeated affirmations of Christ’s glory and eternal life.” The emphasis on triumph and glorification is driven home by the final chorale, which ends with a resounding praise of the victorious ‘Lord Jesus Christ'."

Singers from the Bard College Conservatory Graduate Vocal Arts Program include Logan Walsh ’13, Pilate; August Bair ’16, Peter; Brendan Beecher ’13, Servant; Emily Donato ’15, Maid
; Marie Marquis ’13 and Xiaobo Su ’14, sopranos; Sara Lemesh ’14 and Abigail Levis ’13, altos; Vincent Festa ’14 and Barrett Radziun ’13, tenors; and Yohan Yi ’08, bass.

Leon Botstein Conductor

This season, Leon Botstein celebrates his 20th anniversary as music director and principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra. He is artistic codirector of the acclaimed SummerScape and Bard Music festivals, which take place at Bard College’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry. Botstein is also conductor laureate of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, where he served as music director from 2003–11. He has been president of Bard College in New York since 1975.

He has an active schedule as a guest conductor all over the world, and can be heard on numerous recordings, including operas by Strauss, Dukas, and Chausson, as well as works of Shostakovich, Dohnányi, Liszt, Bruckner, Bartók, Hartmann, Reger, Glière, Szymanowski, Brahms, Copland, Sessions, Perle, and Rands. Many of his live performances with the American Symphony Orchestra are now available for download on the Internet.

Leon Botstein is highly regarded as a music historian. He is the editor of The Musical Quarterly and the author of numerous articles and books. In 2011 he gave the prestigious Tanner Lectures in Berkeley, California. For his contributions to music he has received the award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Harvard University’s prestigious Centennial Award, as well as the Cross of Honor, First Class, from the government of Austria. In 2009 he received Carnegie Foundation’s Academic Leadership Award, and in 2011 was inducted into the American Philosophical Society. He is also the 2012 recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award for the Elevation of Music in Society. 

James Bagwell Choral Master

James Bagwell maintains an active international schedule as a conductor of choral, operatic, and orchestral music. In 2009 he was appointed music director of The Collegiate Chorale and principal guest conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra, leading the ASO in concerts at Carnegie Hall during the 2012–12 season. Some highlights of this past season included Bellini’s rarely performed opera Beatrice di Tenda at Carnegie Hall, and his conducting of Kurt Weill’s Knickerbocker Holiday at Alice Tully Hall, which was recorded live for Gaslight Records. In July 2011 he prepared The Collegiate Chorale for three concerts at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland, and in 2012 they traveled to Israel and the Salzburg Festival for performances with The Israel Philharmonic.

Bagwell has prepared The Concert Chorale of New York for numerous performances with the American Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Mostly Mozart Festival (broadcast nationally in 2006 on Live from Lincoln Center)—all in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. Since 2003 he has been director of choruses for the Bard Music Festival, conducting and preparing choral works during the summer festival at The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College. In June he conducted the Amici New York Orchestra at the OK Mozart Festival, and he continues a collaborative project with singer Natalie Merchant that pairs her with major orchestras across the country. In December 2011 he made his debut with Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Bagwell is professor of music at Bard College and codirector of the Graduate Program in Conducting.

Rufus Müller Evangelist

British-German tenor Rufus Müller was acclaimed by the New York Times following a performance in Carnegie Hall as “easily the best tenor I have heard in a live Messiah.” He is celebrated as the Evangelist in Bach’s Passions, and his unique dramatic interpretation of this role has confirmed his status as one of the world's most sought-after performers. He gave the world premiere of Jonathan Miller’s production of the St. Matthew Passion, which he also recorded for United and broadcast on BBC TV; he repeated the role in three revivals of the production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  Müller is also a leading recitalist, performing worldwide with pianist Maria João Pires.

His 2012­–13 season includes recitals with fortepianist Christoph Hammer in Germany, New York, and Baltimore; Britten’s Serenade in Toronto; Hans Zender’s version of Winterreise in Montreal; Bach’s Passions in Oxford, Stockholm, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., and Handel’s Messiah in Montreal and Washington, Mendelssohn’s Paulus in Madrid, Haydn’s Creation in Norway and Washington, among other appearances. Born in Kent, England, UK, Müller was a choral scholar at New College, Oxford. He studied in New York with Thomas LoMonaco and is assistant professor of music at Bard College, New York.

Jesse Blumberg Jesus Christus

Baritone Jesse Blumberg is equally at home on opera, concert, and recital stages. Some of his recent engagements include Niobe, Regina di Tebe at Boston Early Music Festival, Bernstein’s Mass at London’s Royal Festival Hall, and performances with the New York Festival of Song. He has performed roles at Minnesota Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Utah Opera, and Boston Lyric Opera, and made concert appearances with American Bach Soloists, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Charlotte Symphony, Apollo’s Fire, and the Vail Valley Music Festival. He toured with Mark Morris Dance Group and the Waverly Consort, and has given recitals for the Marilyn Horne Foundation. A very active performer of new music, he is a member of Mirror Visions Ensemble.

Blumberg’s 2012­–13 season includes debuts with New York City Opera, Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, Oratorio Society of New York, and Pacific Musicworks, among others. In addition, he returns to American Bach Soloists, Apollo’s Fire, Mark Morris Dance Group, TENET/Green Mountain Project, and Boston Early Music Festival. He received a master of music degree from the University of Cincinnati College­–Conservatory of Music and undergraduate degrees in history and music from the University of Michigan. He is the founder and artistic director of Five Boroughs Music Festival, which brings chamber music of many genres to every corner of New York City.

About The Bard College Conservatory of Music

Now in its seventh year, the Conservatory’s five-year undergraduate program is guided by the principle that musicians should be broadly educated in the liberal arts and sciences to achieve their greatest potential. While training and studying for the bachelor of music degree with world class musicians and teachers and performing in state-of-the-art facilities, such as the Frank Gehry–designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Conservatory students also pursue a bachelor of arts degree at Bard, one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges. Robert Martin serves as director of the Conservatory.

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This event was last updated on 02-27-2013