Sir John Eliot Gardiner dislikes being branded a “Baroque specialist” and with a discography exceeding 250 recordings and embracing a bewildering diversity of repertoire one can understand why. From Monteverdi to The Merry Widow he is and always has been a great stylist in every period and in every genre. In this exclusive audio podcast for Sinfini Music he talks to Edward Seckerson about the challenges of making music “speak” whatever its period and origins. He talks about the advance of period performance into the 19th and 20th century – something we all used to jest about – and reflects on how that brings us closer to the ethos of the music. His great uncle Henry Balfour Gardiner was a huge influence on him as a boy and his legacy as a forester – gloriously preserved in Sir John’s Dorset farm – and as a champion of British composers and indeed honorary Brits like Percy Grainger is something he has proudly carried forward. He met Grainger as a boy and an image of him swathed in towels (don’t ask) is wrily recalled.
2013 sees Gardiner’s 70th birthday and the musical celebrations will include the publication of his long-gestating book on Bach and an extraordinary Bach marathon at the Royal Albert Hall which will culminate, after a whole raft of events and performers, with the B Minor Mass.