Daring key changes and catchy melodies

The motto "Chorfanstasie" (Choral Fantasy), which precedes this year's concert, refers to a very special work that probably has a singular status in the entire history of music: Fantasy for piano, vocal soloists, chorus, and orchestra, Op. 80 by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Choir and Orchestra of the Passion Play 2010 (Photo: Brigitte Maria Mayer)

For a benefit concert on November 22, 1808, Beethoven had composed an effective final piece at lightning speed and rehearsed it at the last minute. Contemporaries report that Beethoven, who himself sat at the piano, freely improvised the opening bars until the orchestra's first cue. In the middle part of the work a lively dialogue develops between the pianist and the orchestra over several variations, until the musical ductus is lifted to another level by the use of the solo voices and finally the whole choir. Beethoven had the text for this written according to his own ideas by Christoph Kuffner, a poet who is completely unknown today. Even if Beethoven was allegedly not satisfied with the result, his very own message manifests itself in these lines: to express the hope that art - and especially musical art - is capable of breaking ideological barriers, tearing down political boundaries and building bridges, and thus making the world a better place to live. Pianist Julian Riem and the Passion Orchestra dedicate the first part of the concert to this rarely performed work.

On 22 December 1808, the Choral Fantasy was premiered in the Theater an der Wien. Parts of Beethoven's Mass in C major op. 86 could also be heard that evening. The commissioned composition for Prince Nikolaus II. Esterházy fort he name day celebration of his wife Maria Josepha, however, did not meet with the approval of the commissioner: "Beethoven's Mass is unbearably ridiculous and ugly, I am not convinced that it can be taken seriously.". Even today the work is still a challenge for the listener - and of course for the performers - because of its strong dynamic contrasts, its bold changes of key and radical interpretation of the text.

Choir of the Passion Play 2010 (Photo: Brigitte Maria Mayer)

In addition to Beethoven's works, contemporary a cappella choral works by Scandinavian and Baltic composers will also be performed. In accordance with the future task of the Passion Choir - to build a bridge between the Old and the New Testaments - two of the selected works are settings of biblical texts: The "Magnificat" by the Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds is a sensual choral piece based on the praises of Mary from the first book of the Gospel of Luke. From the book Genesis comes the enumeration of the 12 sons of Jacob, which the Finn Pekka Kostiainen set to music in his short work "Jaakobin isot pojat" in a thoroughly humorous and unconventional way. From the pen of another Finn, Jaakko Mäntyjervi, comes the "Pseudo-Yoik", a winking persiflage on the yoik, a distant relative of our yodel, which is still cultivated today in the far north of Scandinavia by the Sami people living there. The concert opens with a Homage March from the music to "Sigurd Jorsalfar" ("Sigurd the Crusader"), a legendary Viking king, written by Norway's national composer Edvard Grieg.

Concert with Soloists, Choir and Orchestra of the Passion Play Oberammergau and Julian Riem (piano)
Sunday, 07. July 2019, 8 p.m.
Passion Theatre

Tickets via +49 8822 945 88 88 or www.passionstheater.de/spielplan/chor-fantasie

Text: Markus Zwink