In 2017 the world of music marks the 450th anniversary of the birth of Claudio Monteverdi, an apt occasion for the Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado to tackle the anthology Selva morale e spirituale with the Balthasar Neumann Choir and Ensemble. Two tours of Spain and a CD are planned. “I have been dreaming of the Selva morale since I was a teenager,” says the conductor. “It was only recently that I was able to fulfil my wish to go on a pilgrimage to St Mark’s in Venice. And now this dream, too, is about to come true.”


Bach’s works have provided the Balthasar Neumann Choir and Ensemble with a priceless artistic basis ever since they were formed in the 1990s. From the very outset the Thomaskantor’s works have kept the musicians company, enriching their lives and challenging them anew. The B minor Mass in particular has an important place in their concert calendar. Most recently the Choir and Ensemble performed Bach’s Christmas Oratorio at the Leipzig Bach Festival, where they also performed a series of cantatas over the course of a single day under the direction of Olof Boman. In 2017 the Balthasar Neumann Choir and Ensemble under their founder and artistic director, Thomas Hengelbrock, will be devoting their attention to the St John Passion in the rarely performed later version of 1725, a version that challenges listeners’ expectations and grants us an insight into Bach’s whole approach to revisiting his own works.


In a poll of leading critics that appeared in Gramophone magazine in 2008, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra topped the list of “celebrated ensembles” that “represent the triumph of ‘character’”. “Too many bands these days have a uniform, slick but generalized sound,” the magazine’s editor went on to explain. This orchestra is now joined by an equally distinctive-sounding vocal ensemble, the Balthasar Neumann Choir, which Gramophone has numbered among the world’s “20 greatest choirs”. Their combined forces are conducted by Thomas Hengelbrock, who has already enjoyed a number of triumphs with the Concertgebouw Orchestra and who now plans to build on those successes with his choir. On the programme are Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony and Mozart’s Requiem, a work around which many a legend has grown up. In the case of neither piece was its composer granted an opportunity to complete it.