The Handel and Haydn Society has announced the renewal of Harry Christophers’s contract as artistic director. This extension of four years will take his leadership beyond the organisation’s forthcoming bicentennial celebrations.
Founded in 1815, the Handel and Haydn Society is Boston’s oldest musical institution. The Boston Symphony Orchestra was a spin-off from the Society, an endeavour to elevate the city’s orchestral playing to the heights of its choral tradition. Its name was not a case of specialisation, but symbolised the Society’s marriage of musical historicism with modernity.
Christophers, who is also founder and conductor of the choral group The Sixteen, took over as artistic director of the Handel and Haydn Society in 2009, having first appeared with them in 2006. His leadership has been considered a successful one. ‘The Handel and Haydn Society has continued to flourish under Harry Christophers’s leadership,’ says CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard. ‘Harry has cultivated a new level of excellence.’
As the Handel and Haydn Society prepare for its bicentennial celebrations, each season features works that are significant to the Society’s history. The Mozart in Vienna concert in a few days time features Mozart’s mighty Symphony No 40, as well as lesser-known works such as Dittersdorf’s Overture to Esther.
A particular highlight of this season is the ‘Classical Salon’ in March 2012. Recreating the salon atmosphere of 1820s Boston, the Society stirs audiences not through grand oratorios, but chamber music gems such as Beethoven’s “Ghost” Piano Trio and Mozart’s Flute Quartet No 1. In some ways, these small intimate occasions exemplify Christophers’s mission to create ‘truly intimate and gratifying musical experiences’. The season also contains the choral masterpieces, such as Handel's Messiah and Bach's St Matthew Passion, for which the Society is best known.
Planned for the bicentennial celebrations are free concerts and outreach activities for the Boston community, extended recording projects, and a new commission.