John Eliot Gardiner: ‘I hate Brexit as a musician and a farmer’ | Culture

A John Eliot Gardiner, Brexit changed his life. This made things more difficult: “I hate it, as a musician and as a farmer”, says the conductor from San Sebastián, who opened the Santander International Festival last Monday and Tuesday the San Sebastian Musical Fortnight with the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists orchestra. Permits and waits in Dover between queues and paperwork lengthen and produce this tension of the last stamp at the border for the truck transporting the instruments of its musicians. But Gardiner, in addition to getting closer to Bach, Beethoven or Monteverdi like few others, is also a farmer. He inherited the family business from Dorset (United Kingdom) and raises between 200 head of cattle and 900 sheep for an organic and sustainable culture that this continental pit struck by, he says, “the idiot Boris Johnson, between others”, was not used. more than stepping back. “It is paradoxical that they wanted to sell us a message against the bureaucrats of the European Union and that, after Brexit, multiplied. It was a fiction, a lie whose consequences we have already suffered”.

Like a few more blunders in the world. Gardiner wonders, for example, that in the 21st century the number of flat terrors has multiplied. For this reason, in addition to his work as a musician, he wishes to offer scientific proof of progress through the new book he is preparing. With his enormous erudition and multidisciplinary ―he has a doctorate in Arabic studies from the University of Cambridge―, the work he writes deals with a series of links between science, art, literature, astronomy and the music of the baroque era and the modern era European history which will explain a lot. “I consider it a moral duty in these times, when I see that we are backsliding in several aspects.”

will be titled Monteverdi Constellation and in Spain it will be published Cliff, as you did with Music in the Sky Castle (translation by Luis Gago), his monumental and brilliant work on Bach. “I wanted to dive into this generation which, at the beginning of the 17th century, converged in Europe with different disciplines. The one that unites Galileo, Rubens, Shakespeare, Caravaggio, Kepler or Monteverdi, among others, and that has established links over time in all the disciplines they have dealt with”.

Galileo in astronomy and in fields like physics, Rubens and Caravaggio in art, “with that sensual and sexual physical force which they reflected in their figures”, Shakespeare in his concocted literature to keep abreast of what was going on in his time and Monteverdi, creator of the opera, as the basis for the music that would come later. He approaches it by giving pride of place to the discipline that Gardiner dominates the most, after nearly 60 years of career. “As it is another language, studies of this nature tend to discount it as a field for understanding the world around them. But it has the same weight and when we analyze the contexts together we discover many keys with it”.

John Eliot Gardiner, during his Monday concert at the Santander Festival Palace.
John Eliot Gardiner, during his Monday concert at the Santander Festival Palace.
Pedro Puente Hoyos (EFE)

In this case, in the first two decades of the XVII, from the discovery of the Milky Way to the various literary, aesthetic and harmonic revolutions. He’s working slowly, he’s been at it for three years and he doesn’t know when it will end. He’s in the good rush that his lush 79 years give him, but he’s hoping not to take the decade the Bach book took from him. In this, Gardiner disarmed several clichés. From its revolt to its enigmas. From his sensitivity to his relationship to death. “For him, she was an assiduous traveling companion. He was orphaned as a child, his wife died young and many of his 20 children too. That’s why it offers us so much comfort. When someone suffers this blow and asks me for advice, I recommend several of his pieces”.

Gardiner identifies faith there, but also his crises of belief: “That he had them. And a lot, as we can deduce from various passages of his music,” he says. Even so, although he does not declare himself to be excessively devout, although he is not an atheist either, the director assures: “I believe in God when I play him. Above all, I share your faith, your values, your decency, your compassion. Also his doubts, his inner torments, I identify with this fragile human being and on the verge of collapse that he has sometimes been”.

There is, however, no trace of Bach in the program he offers these days in Spain. He fled the banal and chose passages from the oratorio Story of Jephthahby Giacomo Carissimi, the Stabat Materby Domenico Scarlatti, or weary musical funeral by Heinrich Schutz. The concert is a masterclass in vocal music, with a choir of 20 singers and no more than five instrumentalists. Everything sublime. Proof that with few elements, extraordinary results can be obtained. The irresistible equation of living mathematical harmony. “The first, even if it is an oratorio, represents for me a piece of incredible theatricality. In 22 minutes, the author demonstrates a pathetic impressive when it comes to sacrifice. It is, to my taste, among his three best works”, he assures.

John Eliot Gardiner, center, with the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloist, moments before his Tuesday concert at the San Sebastian Music Fortnight.
John Eliot Gardiner, center, with the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloist, moments before his Tuesday concert at the San Sebastian Music Fortnight. Javier Etxezarreta (EFE)

Of Scarlatti’s work, Gardiner states that it was most certainly composed in Madrid or Lisbon. “The theme of Stabat Mater, As you know, it is a little more than the Virgin weeping under the cross, but the author gives it a chromatic variety and contrasts that are not easy to achieve for this musical genre”. As for Schütz, he considers him the essential bridge between Claudio Monteverdi, Giovanni Gabrieli and Bach for the Baroque. A north-south connection that gave birth to the best of Western music. “In terms of counterpoint and continuo, it was like that. Moreover, this music distills this Lutheran attitude towards death, as inspiration, joy, not as an end point, but as a continuous point, a feeling that Bach also transmits afterwards”.

The journey to transcendence is something that Gardiner has addressed in many aspects in his life. Not only Christian sacred music, but also Islam, as an expert in the field. His aspiration was to develop through art the mentality which, from this zero point of civilization that is the Mediterranean, takes us to other worlds. “We are too Eurocentric,” he says. Without that meaning denying one iota as a Briton of his rejection of Brexit, he underlines. “But we have rejected, for example, and now that I study it, a multitude of contributions to astronomy that come from the Muslim world and challenge Aristotelian and Ptolemaic principles with proven validity in these areas. Not everything is not end in the Mediterranean, but rather a starting point that should take us from Europe to Asia and beyond”.

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