Kölner Akademie (Germany)
Johann Valentin Meder: Matthäus-Passion
DIE KÖLNER AKADEMIE
Die Kölner Akademie is a unique ensemble based in Cologne which performs music of the seventeenth through the twenty first centuries on period instruments with world renowned guest soloists.
The ensemble seeks to bring out the composers’ intentions by using urtext editions, historically informed performance practice,and the proper number of performers for each work.
Die Kölner Akademie has received the highest critical acclaim for its outstanding performances at major festivals and concert halls in Europe, North America, South America, Asia and the Middle East. Many of these performances were broadcast live and several were filmed for television.
In addition, they have recorded more than 40 CDs for the CPO and ARS Produktion labels which feature world premiere performances of music spanning 3 centuries. Several of these recordings have been nominated for prizes; their recording of Johann Mattheson’s Das Größte Kind received an Echo Klassik Prize and their recording of Bernhard Romberg’s symphonies received a SUPERSONIC award.
Die Kölner Akademie is recording a complete set of Mozart piano concertos with fortepianist Ronald Brautigam for BIS records. All of these recordings have received outstanding international praise.
Michael Alexander Willens – music director of Die Kölner Akademie
Michael Alexander Willens, music director of Die Kölner Akademie, studied conducting with John Nelson at the Juilliard School in New York, where he received B.M. and M.M. degrees. He has also studied with Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood, as well as choral conducting with Paul Vorwerk. Willens’ broad experience has given him an unusual depth of background and familiarity with performance practice styles ranging from baroque, classical and romantic through to contemporary as well as jazz and pop music.
Mr. Willens has conducted concerts at major concert halls and festivals in Europe, South
America, Asia, Iceland, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Israel and the United States, receiving the highest
critical praise: “The success of the whole owed in large measure to the uncommonly precise, yet never affected gestures of Michael Alexander Willens”.
In addition to the standard repertoire, Michael Alexander Willens is dedicated to performing works by lesser-known contemporary American composers and has conducted several world premières, many of which have been broadcast live or filmed for television. He is also keenly interested in re-discovering music from the past and has released over 50 CDs featuring this repertoire. Several of these recordings have been nominated and received awards. They have all received outstanding international reviews, : “Willens achieves an impeccably stylish and enjoyable performance.” (Gramophone ) ,,…conductor Michael Alexander Willens exploits every bar of the score to fullest expressive effect. (Fanfare)
Aside from Die Kölner Akademie, he has guest conducted orchestras in Germany, Poland, the
Netherlands, Brazil, Israel and Canada.
Hannah Herfurtner – sopran
For the 2015/16 season, German soprano Hanna Herfurtner will sing the role of Almirena in Handel’sRinaldo at the National Forum of Music in Breslau, Poland. In November she will portray the title role in Grigory Frid’s Anne Frank at the Synagogue in Hechingen, at the Kammeroper Reutlingen and at the Schauburg in Munich. Later this season, she performs Helmwiege in Wagner’s Die Walküre at Oper Frankfurt.
In addition to which, Ms. Herfurtner has many exciting engagements on the concert stage this season. Early in the season she will perform Mozart’s Kronungsmesse/Vespere Solemnes at the Paul-Gebhart-Kirche in Munich as well as various Bach Kantaten with the Wiener Sängerknaben under the direction of Luca Pianca at the Konzerthaus Wien. Other highlights include Mozart’s Requiem at the Johanniskantorei in Rostock, Bach’s Weihnachtsoratorium (all 6) in Christuskirche in Munich and with the Symphonieorchester Wuppertal under the direction of Michael Willens, Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion at the Konzerthaus Wien, and Händel’s Messiah with the Cäcilienchor Alte Oper in Frankfurt and the Augsburger Vokalensemble.
In the summer of 2014 Ms. Herfurtner returned to Bregenz Festival, where she debuted in 2013, to play the First Boy in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. In Bregenz she sang Madame Herz in Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor and Le Rossignol/Procne in Le Rossignol/L’Hirondelle inattendue.
An increasingly sought-after soprano, in 2012 Hanna performed at the Kiel Opera as Fraate in Handel’s Radamisto, Olympia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, and Poussette in Massenet’s Manon. Also this year she performed a French song programme at the Vienna Konzerthaus and gave a recital of Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch at the Rheingau Music Festival.
Hanna made her debut at the Salzburg Festival in 2011 where she performed in Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten under the baton of Christian Thielemann. She then performed the title role of a new production of Wolf-Ferrari’s Aschenputtel at the Berlin State Opera House to critical success. She made her first appearance at the Resonanzen Festival in Vienna performing Bach Cantatas, and the same year she debuted at the Heidelberg Spring Music Festival.
Under the artistic direction of the composer, she created and performed the title role in the world premiere of Hans Werner Henze’s Gisela! or: The Strange and Memorable Ways of Happiness at theRuhr Triennale in 2010. Also that year she toured Germany with Orff’s Carmina Burana and performed in Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher in Konstanz, and the renowned opera journal Opernwelt named Hanna as a young artist to watch.
In 2009 Hanna made her debut in Berlin as Tytania in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as performing in the Ruhr Triennale in Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron as Virgin/Solo Voice. In addition, she performed in Berlin and Bad Hersfeld as Adele in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, La Musica in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, Mme Silberklang in Mozart’s The Impresario, and in the world premiere ofWandern by Baron/Eck/Rühe and the German premiere of Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus: Rituel de la Mort.
With her lithe lyricism and dramatic intensity, Hanna won first prize in the Paula Salomon Lindberg Song Competition “Das Lied” in Berlin in 2009 and was awarded third prize at the 1st International Singing Competition for Baroque Opera Pietro Antonio Cesti in 2010.
Passionate about both baroque and contemporary music, Hanna has performed with the Bochum Symphony Orchestra, the Southwest German Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic. She has worked with directors Pierre Audi, Willy Decker and Christof Loy, and conductors including Michael Boder, Steven Sloane and Christian Thielemann. She has also taken master classes with Krisztina Laki, the Hilliard Ensemble and with Edith Wiens.
Born in Munich, Hanna Herfurtner took her first singing lessons with German bass-baritone Thomas Gropper. She went on to study under Bernhard Jäger-Böhm in Stuttgart and Julie Kaufmann at the University of the Arts in Berlin where she attended classes taught by Axel Bauni and Eric Schneider.
Lothar Blum – tenor, Evangelist
Lothar Blum studied singing at the Robert-Schumann-Hochschule in Düsseldorf with Brigitte Dürrler. He received additional artistic training in master classes with amongst others Peter Schreier, Kurt Equiluz and the Hilliard Ensemble.
His main interest is in vespers, passions and oratorios, spanning musical styles from Monteverdi to Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. His repertoire focusses on virtuous coloratura arias by Händel and Bach and especially the Evangelists’ parts in the passions. Furthermore, he performed in various opera productions spanning several eras from Baroque up to the twentieth century.
Lothar Blum has worked with James Conlon, Kai Johannsen, Hermann Max, Peter Neumann, Andreas Spering, Christoph Spering and Arvo Part amongst others. Several of these colaborations are documented by CD- and radio broadcast recordings.
He often performs as a guest artist at the Schloßtheater Moers and the Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf. He regularly sings with Musica Fiata/La Capella Ducal led by Roland Wilson. He has also sung with the Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam led by Harry van der Kamp and has given performances at festivals such as Tage Alter Musik in Herne, the Thüringer Bachwochen, the Schumann-Fest Zwickau, the Festival Alte Musik Knechtsteden, the Brühler Schlosskonzerte and the Händel-Festspiele in Göttingen.
Raimonds Spogis – bas, Jesus
Raimonds Spogis completed his vocal training with Prof. Uta Spreckelsen (Münster), Prof. Dr. William Workman (Hamburg) and Prof. Klaus-Dieter Kern (Karlsruhe). He continued his studies at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg where he received a diploma in singing (with distinction) and completed his university training at the Institut für Musiktheater of the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe with a diploma in opera-singing.
As a concert-singer and recitalist Raimonds Spogis performs in Germany, other European countries and Israel at various festivals (such as Tage für Alte Musik Herne, MDR-Musiksommer, Rossini in Wildbad, Festival d’Ile de France, Göttinger Händelfestspiele). He works with conductors such as Max Pommer, Sir David Willcocks, Jean-Claude Malgoire, Gérard Lesne, Ivor Bolton and Thomas Hengelbrock. His broad repertoire is documented by various radio broadcasts and CD recordings.
The baritone gives opera performances in German and French venues where he interprets lyrical parts from all eras of musical history (e.g. Rossini’s Figaro at the Theater der Stadt Koblenz, Papageno at Atelier Lyrique de Tourcoing and at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris; Junius in Britten’s „Rape of Lucretia“ the Opera of Rennes ).