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Leader Matthew Truscott tells us what it’s like to perform Bach’s St Matthew Passion without a conductor, but instead following the breathing of singer and director, Mark Padmore.
“There’s nothing else like the St Matthew as a spiritual statement and a musical statement. It’s possible to appreciate it on so many different levels and from so many different aspects; emotionally and intellectually, in its breadth and in its detail.
We are performing without a conductor and are instead being led by our Evangelist Mark Padmore, which very much sets the tone. Mark is completely in the moment when he engages with the piece. He has a total concept of it. He’s very inclusive, and never rejects any ideas. It’s an extremely participatory way of performing. There’s this sense of being in the room with this extraordinary work of art. There is no one focal point. That allows for the possibility of individual moments of ownership and expression. Everyone contributes and has a sense of equal participation.
Within the piece people’s individual roles change quickly. One moment you are playing an obbligato as part of a very small group, and the next you are part of a huge crowd scene. The division of the group into two choirs and two orchestras also allows for many different characters and textures, and gives a constant sense of dialogue.
As a singer-director, Mark’s approach is strongly text-based. We are all encouraged, vocalists and instrumentalists, to engage with the rhythms, drama and meaning of the words as a way of finding a common approach. And there’s this fascinating aspect of breath. Mark doesn’t conduct at all, he just breathes in, and everyone breathes in together.”
Bach’s St Matthew Passion
Monday 26 March, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre
Saturday 31 March, The Anvil, Basingstoke
Also touring to Weimar, Dortmund, Paris, Amsterdam and Krakow.