When it comes to choral music, Stephen Layton is something of a legend.
He’s highly regarded for his interpretations of Bach and Handel, but equally as a champion of contemporary composers such as Arvo Pärt and Morten Lauridsen.
Stephen Layton will conduct Bach’s St Matthew Passion tonight with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, soloists and the University of Auckland Chamber Choir, a work he says he would “go anywhere in the world for”.
He’s been involved with choirs since he was a child, first as a choir boy singing in cathedrals, then as a conductor, leading other choir boys.
Although singing comes from the individual, it’s when voices are combined that gets Stephen animated about music.
“I had a sense music wasn’t a solitary pursuit,” he says. “It’s more exciting to be involved with others making music.
“It was exciting to bring other people together.”
Stephen Layton is also a prolific recording artist: his various ensembles have won numerous Gramophone Awards and received other critical recognition.
In a recent Gramophone critics’ poll of the world’s “20 greatest choirs”, Layton had two choirs in the top five: his professional choir Polyphony was ranked second in the world, and the predominantly amateur undergraduate Choir of Trinity College Cambridge was ranked fifth.
He says technology has helped make the Choir of Trinity College excellent.
“Everything that we do is broadcast live… every single second of music made in Trinity College Chapel is there to be heard as it’s done. That in itself raises the bar,” he says. “It’s a great way to celebrate this ancient music…and to make sure it continues to be celebrated.”