The Monteverdi Choir is one of Britain's most prestigious choirs, and has been recognised as such through the presentation of numerous awards. Most recently the choir was presented the Edison Award from Philips for its recording of Jubilate Deo. It also won the 1997 Gramophone Award for best choral work for its recording of Haydn's Creation (Die Schöpfung) under Sir John Eliot Gardiner. In the 1996 Gramophone Awards the Monteverdi Choir along with John Eliot Gardiner again won Best Choral Award for their recording of Percy Grainger songs and dancing ballads, Londonderry Air. Previous honours have included the Chorus of the Year Award in the 1992, International Classical Music Awards and Best Choral Award and Record of the Year Award in the 1991 Gramophone Awards for the choir's recording of L.v. Beethoven's Missa Solemnis with the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique under John Eliot Gardiner. In 1994 Berlioz's Messe Solennelle received the Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.
The Monteverdi Choir was founded at Cambridge in March 1964 by John Eliot Gardiner, then an undergraduate, for a performance of the Monteverdi Vespers (1610) in King's College Chapel, with the aim of introducing the colours and passion of Italian music to audiences reared on the English choral tradition. From its Wigmore Hall debut in London in 1966, the Monteverdi Choir grew into a virtuoso ensemble committed to exploring a wide repertoire fanning out from the Baroque. It soon became famous for its passionate, committed and virtuosic singing, underpinned by a strong rhythmic vitality. Over the past forty five years it has been consistently acclaimed as one of the best choirs in the world, noted for its ability to switch composer, language and idiom with complete stylistic conviction. The Choir is also a fertile training ground for future generations of choral and solo singers: Choir members often step out to sing solo parts and many former choristers have gone on to spectacular solo careers (see list of choir members below). Since 2007, the Monteverdi Apprentice Scheme has added an exciting new dimension to its profile.
At the forefront of the Early Music revival in Europe, the Monteverdi Choir has brought life and public awareness to a whole range of magnificent but forgotten music, by composers such as Gabrieli, Gesualdo, Carissimi, Heinrich Schütz, Dietrich Buxtehude, Campra and Leclair. Equally, it has also brought new insights to the performances of accepted masterpieces by George Frideric Handel, J.S. Bach and Mozart, and most recently to the work of the great 19th-century composers including L.v. Beethoven, Berlioz, Johannes Brahms and Verdi.
The Choir has undertaken a number of trail-blazing foreign tours. These have featured the return to the country, and often the city, from where the music of its most famous sons originated - Monteverdi in Cremona, Mantua and Venice; G.F. Handel in Halle in the composers tercentenary year, 1985; Rameau in Dijon and Versailles; J.S. Bach in Ansbach; Berlioz in the Dauphine; and Bruckner in St Florian, Austria. For ten years the Choir was resident at the International Händel Festival in Göttingen and at the Internationale Bachakademie, Stuttgart, in 1988 and 1991.
The Monteverdi Choir celebrated its Silver Jubilee in 1989 with a World Tour, accompanied by the English Baroque Soloists. The celebrations continued with performances of the Monteverdi Vespers (1610) in Brompton Oratory, London; Wells Cathedral and the magnificent setting of St Mark's Basilica in Venice. The thirtieth anniversary in 1994 was marked with two concerts at The Guildhall, London, with the repertoire revealing the many different styles that the choir has performed over the last three decades. The concert was recorded live and the resulting, Jubilate Deo, is a tribute to the choir's versatility.
As an opera chorus, the Monteverdi Choir has performed in the theatres of La Scala, Milan; Zürich, Paris, Lyons and Strasbourg, drawing new audiences to the operas of Rameau and Gluck, the masques of Purcell and to the dramatic oratorios of G.F. Handel. January 1994 saw the choir's first collaboration with the Wiener Philharmoniker for a DG recording of Lehár's operetta The Merry Widow, a recording that has proved to be one of DG Yellow Label's best-selling releases.
A European tour of Die Zauberflöte in 1995 saw the completion of John Eliot Gardiner's six-year project to perform and record the seven great Mozart operas for which the choir formed the chorus. In the 1995 Holland Festival the Monteverdi Choir gave the world première of Songs of Despair and Sorrow by György Kurtág at the Concertgebouw. This performance received much critical acclaim and was broadcast live on Dutch Radio. In the summer of 1996 the Monteverdi Choir joined the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique under John Eliot Gardiner in performances of L.v. Beethoven's Leonore, Missa Solemnis and the Choral Symphony throughout Europe (including the Proms and Salzburg Festival) and at the inaugural Lincoln Center Festival in New York.
The Monteverdi Choir now has more than one hundred recordings to its name, (for DG Archiv, Philips, Erato, Decca, EMI, and Soli Deo Gloria). These include all the major choral works of J.S. Bach, several G.F. Handel oratorios and odes, most of Purcell's 'semi-operas', Mozart's Requiem and C Minor Mass, Haydn's Die Jahreszeiten, L.v. Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and Johannes Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem. The choir has also recorded Mozart's Thamos, König in Ägypten with the English Baroque Soloists for DG Archiv, the Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem for Philips and Verdi's Messa da Requiem with the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique where the choir's performance is described by Gramophone magazine as "beyond praise". The Monteverdi Choir's recent releases include Haydn's Die Schöpfung, Händel's Agrippina, Benjamin Britten's Spring Symphony, Schubert's Choral Works and Berlioz' Roméo et Juliet.
In March and September 1997, the Choir joined the ORR as part of 2 weekends of concerts at the Barbican Centre dedicated to the works of Robert Schumann. Das Paradies und die Peri, Nachtlied and Requiem für Mignon were subsequently recorded for DG Archiv. In June 1997, the Choir took part in a performance of Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress with the London Symphony Orchestra under John Eliot Gardiner as part of the City of London Festival. They also performed in the 1997 Henry Wood Promenade Concerts and at the Salzburg Festival.
Two of Haydn's late masses, namely the Nelson and Theresien Masses were performed at the Barbican Centre and at European venues and were recorded for DG Archiv by the Monteverdi Choir under John Eliot Gardiner in December 1997. The choir recorded Haydn's Creation Mass in January 1998 for Philips Classics following performances at the Barbican Centre, in Vienna and at the Salzburg Festival.
In 1998 the Monteverdi Choir gave a critically acclaimed performance of Verdi's Falstaff at the Royal Albert Hall Proms following a tour of Germany, Italy and a recording for Philips Classics. Recent engagements included a European tour with G.F. Handel's Dixit Dominus and Antonio Vivaldi's Gloria, followed by recording sessions for Philips Classics. In December the Monteverdi Choir gave concert performances of Bach Cantatas, recorded live for Deutsche Gramophon.
Earlier in 1999, the Monteverdi Choir joined the ORR in Vienna and Los Angeles, performing L.v. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to critical acclaim, and will also perform Robert Schumann's Scenes from Goethe's Faust in New York, Lucerne and at a Royal Albert Hall Prom in August. Staged performances of Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice and Alceste took place over a month's residency at Théatre du Chatalet in Paris during September, followed by live recordings of Alceste at the Barbican Hall in October.
The Choir has undertaken a number of trail-blazing tours. The most ambitious was the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage in 2000 during which they performed all 198 of J.S. Bach’s sacred cantatas in more than 60 churches throughout Europe, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death. The entire tour was recorded and released by the company’s record label, Soli Deo Gloria. The Choir has won numerous prizes. It regularly participates in staged opera productions, and is currently involved in a five-year residency at the Opéra Comique in Paris, through which they appeared in Le Freyschütz (Weber), L’Etoile (Chabrier) and Carmen (Georges Bizet).
In 2012, the Choir took part in a variety of projects across varied repertoires. In the spring they recorded and toured a cappella English Renaissance music, as well as J.S. Bach’s Ascension Cantatas along with the English Baroque Soloists (released in 2013). Most recently, it joined the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique in performances of L.v. Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. 2012 and 2013 also saw a number of new collaborations, with the Orchestre National de France/Choeur de Radio France in Berlioz' Grande Messe des Morts, and with the Berlin-based Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig in Robert Schumann's Manfred, all under the direction of Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
Engagements in 2013 included the “Bach Marathon”, an entire day of J.S. Bach at the Royal Albert Hall in London, followed by a series of J.S. Bach concerts (St John Passion (BWV 245), B Minor Mass (BWV 232), Easter Oratorio (BWV 249) and Ascension Oratorio (BWV 11) and more) in Lucerne, Barcelona, Cologne, Paris, Aldeburgh, Braunschweig and Versailles. The Choir also continues its collaboration with the London Symphony Orchestra (Igor Stravinsky's Oedipux Rex). They finish the season with a Mozart Matinee at the Salzburg Summer Festival, with a performance of the G.F. Handell/ Mozart oratorio Alexander’s Feast.
The Monteverdi Choir is under the patronage of HRH the Prince of Wales.