Principal Conductor and Artistic Director Kazuki Yamada leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra in a rousing opening to the 2021-22 season with music by Beethoven – his Overture to Leonore No 2, Opus 72a, and his Symphony No 9 (Choral) Opus 125.

The soloists in the final movement – the Ode to Joy – are soprano Genia Kühmeier, mezzo-soprano Sophie Rennert, tenor Werner Güra and baritone Johannes Weisser. They are accompanied by the London Symphony Chorus – Director Simon Halsey.

The programme opens with Beethoven’s Overture to Leonore No 2, one of at least four overtures which he wrote for an opera originally entitled Leonore. The opera premiered in Vienna in November 1805, but the following year became known as Fidelio, a name given it by the administration at Theatre an der Wien.

Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 – part symphony and part oratorio – is widely regarded as his greatest composition. In 1812, he was apparently determined to include in a grand symphony his setting of Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy which the German poet, playwright, and historian wrote in the summer of 1785. It took Beethoven 10 years to complete the work, and it wasn’t premiered until May 7, 1824, in Vienna, by which time Beethoven was completely deaf. He apparently appeared onstage as the general director or the performance, but the kapellmeister Michael Umlauf, baton in hand, led the orchestra, taking tempo cues from the composer – who never heard his Ode to Joy other than in his head.

Alongside his role at the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic, Kazuki Yamada has also just been appointed Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, a position he takes up as of April 2023. He is also Permanent Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic, Principal Guest Conductor of Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, Music Director and Chairman of The Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo and Music Director of Yokohama Sinfonietta, an ensemble he founded whilst still a student. Maestro Yamada has led many of the world’s finest orchestras, including the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, MDR-Sinfonieorchester Leipzig, Orchestre de Paris, St Petersburg Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic and, of course, the CBSO.

Also renowned for his operatic work, Maestro Yamada led a production of The Damnation of Faust in Monte-Carlo last season, Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila during the 2018-19 season, and in 2012 a semi-staged production of Arthur Honneger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake with the Saito-Kinen Orchestra. In 2015 he led performances of this work with both the Orchestre de Paris and the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic.

Soprano Genia Kühmeier is a frequent guest on the stages of some of the world’s finest opera houses – the Vienna State Opera, La Scala Milan, the Theater an der Wien, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Ms Kühmeier recently appeared in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig, in his Mass in C Minor with the symphony orchestra of the Bayerischer Rundfunk, and his Missa Solemnis at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. Other recent performances include appearances in Mozart’s Requiem at La Scala, at Salzburg’s Mozarteum and with the Bayerischer Rundfunk in Munich, in Bach’s St John Passion at the Konzerthaus in Vienna, and Brahms’ A German Requiem at the Salzburg Pentecost Festival.

Austrian Mezzo-soprano Sophie Rennert – described by The Arts Desk as “A mezzo of many colours, subtlety, dramatic intelligence and a crucially brilliant top” – has appeared in a number of engagements which include Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in Gothenburg, Mozart’s Requiem with the Orquesta Nacional de España in Madrid, and the Missa Solemnis in Birmingham. Ms Rennert’s operatic performances include the role of Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo at the Salzburg Landestheater, Giacinta in Mozart’s La Finta Semplice at the Classical Opera in London, Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola at the Nationaltheater Mannheim, the Flower Maiden in Wagner’s Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival, and that of Harper Pitt in Angels in America by Peter Eötvös at the Neue Oper Wien.

In addition to appearances at Semperoper Dresden and Staatsoper Berlin, tenor Werner Güra received high praise for his roles as Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Ferrando in Così fan tutte and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, at Teatro Carlo Felice in Genova, Opéra de Lille, La Monnaie in Brussels, and the Opéra National de Paris. In the vocal-symphonic and oratorio repertoire, he has appeared in some of the world’s most prestigious opera houses such as the Konzerthaus and Musikverein Wien, Royal Festival Hall, Covent Garden, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Philharmonie Berlin, Philharmonie Paris, and has worked with orchestras such as the Royal Concertgebouworkest, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Wiener Symphoniker, BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Gulbenkian Orchestra Lisbon.

Concert and oratorio singer, baritone Johannes Weisser has a repertoire which ranges from the early 17th century music of Monteverdi to more contemporary works such of those by Kurt Weill and Benjamin Britten. Mr Weisser’s recent operatic engagements include the title role in Eugene Onegin, Germont in La Traviata, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Don Pizarro in Fidelio and Schaunard in La bohème. Recent engagements have been fulfilled at the Salzburg and Edinburgh festivals, and in opera houses such as Staatsoper Berlin, Teatro Real Madrid, Théâtre de La Monnaie, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, and companies such as Canadian Opera, Komische Oper Berlin, Norwegian National Opera and Royal Danish Opera.

One of the world’s foremost concert choirs and one of classical music’s leading recording ensembles, the London Symphony Chorus is internationally renowned, with several of its 140 critically acclaimed recordings having received honours such as Grammy Awards, the Edison Preis and the Grande Prix du Disque, as well as recognition by the BBC Music and Gramaphone magazines. Chorus Director Simon Halsey, an advisor on choral singing to some of the world’s greatest conductors, orchestras and choruses, also holds positions across the UK and Europe such as Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Artistic Director of Orfeó Català Choirs, Artistic Adviser of Palau de la Música Barcelona, Artistic Director of Berliner Philharmoniker Youth Choral Programme, Director of the BBC Proms Youth Choir, Artistic Advisor of Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Choir and Conductor Laureate of Rundfunkchor Berlin.

Kazuki Yamada leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, soloists and the London Symphony Chorus in the Opening Concert of the Grande Saison 21/22 on Sunday 26th September at 18h00. Tickets may be reserved online.

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Lead image courtesy OPMC (edited – cropped)

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