In the lead-up to Gloriana’s twentieth-anniversary performance of JS Bach’s Mass in B Minor we take some time out to profile our soloists who, alongside the chamber choir and orchestra, will help bring Bach’s original vision to fruition.
We’ll be meeting with every soloist and asking them the same three questions.
Profile: Matthew Thomson
Matthew Thomson is a Melbourne-based tenor currently completing his Masters of Music (Performance Teaching) at the Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne under the tutelage of Stephen Grant.
Thomson is particularly interested in Baroque music and is currently a senior choral scholar of Newman College, Thomson also performs with the choirs of St Peter’s Eastern Hill and Canterbury Fellowship, as well as regular performances with the likes of Ensemble Gombert, Gloriana Chamber Choir and Consort of Melbourne.
Thomson’s solo performances have included the Monteverdi 1610 Vespers (Advent Festival, Newman College; Ballarat Organs of the Goldfields Festival), Bach’s Mass in B Minor (Woodend Winter Arts Festival), Handel’s Messiah (St Peter’s Eastern Hill), Ugis Praulinš’ Missa Rigensis (Gloriana Chamber Choir), and the role of the Evangelist in Bach’s St John Passion (Vox, Ballarat).
In June 2014, Thomson will also be performing in the baroque opera Euridice by Jacopo Peri as part of the Woodend Winter Arts Festival.
The Three Questions
1. What does Bach’s music mean to you personally?
The first piece of music by Johann Sebastian Bach that I can remember hearing was Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140, and I found it truly inspiring.
The soaring chorales, exciting recitative and conversational yet highly expressive duet all made me want to get up and sing. There is something to be said about the way Bach writes for the voice – particularly in the arias.
Bach’s arias can be fiendishly difficult which is exactly why I enjoy them so much. I am drawn to the challenge and the beauty that can be found in each piece.
2. What do you think makes Bach’s music so universal in its appeal?
There sheer scale of some of his works – any of the passions for example. Seeing a Bach Passion performed live is an experience that everyone should have at least once in their lives.
3. What can you tell us about the solos you are singing in the B minor Mass?
In the Mass in B Minor the tenor is given one solo aria (Benedictus) and one duet with the soprano (Domine Deus). Both sit fairly high in the Tenor’s range, a part of the range which I enjoy using!
I see the Domine Deus as a joyful conversation between Soprano and Tenor, featuring a solo transverse flute and the violins.
Interestingly, the Soprano and Tenor are singing different words from the Domine Deus until they come together for the more reflective ‘B’ section, singing “Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father”.
In some of the original parts written by Bach he has indicated the use of a “Lombard rhythm” which adds to the joyfulness of the piece.
Like the Domine Deus, the Benedictus is also a conversation although this time it is with a solo instrumental part. Bach did not clearly indicate which solo instrument he wanted in this aria, however, today’s scholars believe that it was written for the transverse flute based on its range and style.
Gloriana will be performing Bach’s Mass in B Minor at St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, on Friday 13 June at 8 pm.
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