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It’s easier to wait for Christmas with Bach’s music! – interview with conductor Marcus Creed

Dresdner Kammerchor and Le Concert Lorrain, Müpa, 19.12.2019, 7.30 pm

Another Englishman who found his way to Germany! After James Wood, now it is conductor Marcus Creed who is coming to Budapest, and he is also bringing a German ensemble: the renowned Dresden Kammerchor that has been a well applauded guest at festivals all around Europe since 1985. Also, French Le Concert Lorrain and five soloists take their part of a wonderful concert that features festive and Christmas-related works by Bach. Marcus Creed talked to me about his career and early music, and he even reveals his own favourite Bach piece… (But hey, read the whole article first! 😛 ) 

After finishing your studies at Britain’s renowned musical institutions, what motivated you to move to Berlin and be part of the German music scene?

I went to Germany in 1976 for two reasons. Firstly there were relatively few musical opportunities for 25 year-olds in England, secondly, because I was interested in working in the opera. The German opera scene is enormous, and many of my countrymen started their careers as repetiteurs there as indeed I did in West Berlin.

How did your career evolve then? With which composers of early music do you work the most?

My musical life has involved many different eras. The work with the RIAS Kammerchor coincided with the emergence of baroque orchestras (Freiburger Barockorchester, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Concerto Köln), and our focus was thus concentrated to a large part on Bach and Händel. Since 2002, however, my main musical activity with the SWR Vokalensemble, for example, has been contemporary music. I work regularly with Baroque ensembles, but only as a guest conductor.

The Dresdner Kammerchor

What about the Dresden Kammerchor, have you worked with them before?

No, this will be my first collaboration with them. The Dresden Kammerchor has an excellent reputation, so I’m looking forward to this project with them.

In the anglican choir tradition, there is no Evensong without Magnificat. Is the Bach version any special to you? If yes, why?

The Anglican settings of the Magnificat, composed for daily use in the English cathedrals, are relatively short and usually with organ accompaniment (especially those written in the late 19th and 20th centuries). Bach’s setting was composed at the beginning of his time in Leipzig. It was customary for an elaborate work to be performed at Easter, Whitsun and Christmas. So this Magnificat is very special, large and innovative orchestral scoring, dramatic choral writing, and very varied and imaginative text-orientated settings of the the different verses.

What is your favourite piece of this concert’s repertoire? And from Bach in general?

It’s almost impossible to choose a ‚favourite‘ work by Bach – in this concert, however, I have a special affection for ‚Christen, ätzet diesen Tag‘ for it’s thrilling choruses with huge orchestra, it’s unique use of the instruments (especially in the last movement), the dance-like duet between alto and tenor. And all this, with a complete absence of traditional Christmas texts. Bach never ceases to surprise, and each new look at the music brings new joys.

As a conductor, the Mass in B minor has always been my no.1!