Martin Gester - organ
„Liberation from the Bonds of Numerical Rules"
C. P. E. Bach: Sonata for organ in g minor
W. F. Bach: Fugue in f minor
J. C. Bach: Sonata op.17, 5 in A major
J. Hayden: Aus Die sieben letzten Worte unseres Erlösers am Kreuze
W. A. Mozart: Fantasia für ein Flötenwerk in einer Uhr k. 594
J. G. Rheinberger: Pastoral-Sonate Nr. 3 in G for solo organ op. 88 I
ticket price: 200 CZK
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In art, the shortest route to one’s destination is often not the best. Martin Gester’s artistic personality was forged through exposure to a large number of neglected masterpieces, a source of questions and investigations. Today that personality imbues his approach to mainstream repertoire, whether at the head of his ensemble, as guest conductor, or as soloist in chamber music. With his double training – literary and musical, instrumental (organ and harpsichord) and vocal – his passion for history and his attentiveness to oral traditions, his taste for dance and theatre and his special interest in restoring the links between cultures and disciplines which it is common practice to separate, he looks back, in his own way, to the Baroque ideal of the artist: open-minded, multifaceted, humanistic.
In 1990, when he founded in Strasbourg Le Parlement de Musique, a flexibly sized ensemble fashioned to suit his tastes, at once a place for experimentation and an instrument of diffusion, Martin Gester already had years of literary and musical studies behind him. By turns singer in polyphonic groups, interpreter and improviser (after the organ, he studied the piano and the harpsichord), choirmaster, musicologist and teacher (of both Classics and music), he has practised many repertoires ranging over four centuries. His early passion for Renaissance polyphony certainly played its part in reorienting his activity towards the art of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but he also admits to a marked penchant for Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Weber, and bel canto opera from Paisiello to Donizetti.
He had his first experience of the art of instrumental conducting at the head of Le Parlement de Musique, then as a guest conductor with groups of increasing size. Nowadays he is as likely to be found directing the Monteverdi Vespers as the vocal music of Scarlatti, Handel, Gluck or Mozart, the Passions of J. S. Bach or the symphonies of Haydn or Mendelssohn, enthusiastically crossing the traditional barriers between the so-called ‘ancient’ and ‘modern’ schools: at a time when it is all too fashionable to exaggerate their divergences, Martin Gester prefers to emphasise affinities and similarities, to restore the connections lost behind differences of styles and cultures.
At the head of Le Parlement de Musique, he has made around forty recordings (for Opus 111, Naïve, Accord-Universal, Assai, Calliope and Tempéraments-Radio France), most of them revelations of little-known music festooned with awards from the international press, in a variety of repertoires. These embrace motets by Charpentier, Brossard, de Lalande, François Couperin, Jacques-Antoine Denoyé, and Samuel Capricornus; oratorios including the anonymous ‘Uppsala Passion’ (one of the most highly awarded CDs of all time) and works by Keiser, J. S. Bach, Giovanni Battista Bassani, Alessandro Scarlatti, Carissimi, and Caldara; and organ concertos by J. S. and J. C. Bach, Giuseppe Sammartini, Vivaldi, and Haydn. He has conducted on four continents, in such prestigious venues as the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and Théâtre du Châtelet, the Royal Opera at Versailles Palace, Jordan Hall in Boston, the Toruń and Poznań Philharmonic Halls, and the Ambronay, Saint-Michel-en-Thiérache, La Chaise-Dieu, Strasbourg, Sans-Souci (Potsdam), Schleswig-Holstein, Halle and Wrocław festivals. He has also appeared as a guest conductor of other ensembles, including the New York Collegium, Collegium Vocale Gent, La Chapelle Royale, Les Chantres de la Chapelle de Versailles, the Nederlandse Bachvereniging, Musica Aeterna Bratislava, the Toruń Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre Symphonique du Rhin-Mulhouse, the Orchestra du Pays de Savoie, the Orquesta Sinfónica de Málaga, and the Camerata Antiqua de Curitiba. Alongside this he pursues a solo performing career as organ recitalist and chamber musician on the harpsichord and the fortepiano, notably as an accompanist of lieder.
In 1998 he began a particularly fruitful collaboration with the Polish orchestra Baroque Arte dei Suonatori. Their regular work on the Baroque concerto over a period of several years led, in 2007, to the recording of Handel’s twelve Concerti Grossi op.6 for the Swedish label BIS. This release, which attracted great attention from international specialist critics (BBC Music Magazine, Classic FM, Fono Forum, Alte Musik Aktuell, Tokkata, Diapason, Le Monde de la Musique, Orfeo, etc.), is the prelude to other projects, including Handel organ concertos, overtures by Telemann, and symphonies by C. P. E. Bach and Haydn.
Martin Gester teaches performance practice at the Conservatoire de Musique de Strasbourg and gives frequent masterclasses. Following his natural inclination for combining research, interpretation and pedagogy, he founded as a complement to Le Parlement de Musique the vocal studio Génération Baroque, a structure aiming to train young musicians, diffuse their performances, and ease their path into the profession. Its annual sessions are devoted to Baroque and Classical oratorio and opera (Haydn: L’Infedeltà delusa –‘Les Imbroglios de l’Amour: a journey through the operas of Mozart’ with the Académie d’Ambronay - Handel: Alcina at Suscinio Castle in the Morbihan département of France).
Martin Gester has been appointed Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French Minister of Culture for his direction of Le Parlement de Musique, and awarded the Order of Merit by the Polish Minister of Culture for his work with Arte dei Suonatori.