Christ on the Mount of Olives
This year we mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), a titan of classical music and one of the most famous composers of all time. This maestro, whose life and work inspired a whole series of future generations of musicians and composers in virtually all artistic disciplines, left behind an impressive 135 completed opuses which reflect both his musical genius and the turbulent age in which he lived.
Date of EventFriday, 15. 5. 2020 from 20.00
Expected end of the concert 22.00
Event placeMunicipal House – Smetana Hall
Price450 - 1 200 CZK
- Richard Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra Op. 30
- Ludwig van Beethoven: Christ on the Mount of Olives Op. 85
- Prague Philharmonic Choir
- Simona Šaturová - soprano
- Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra
- Jozef Chabroň - choirmaster
- Bernhard Berchtold - tenor
- Stephan Genz - baritone
- Alexander Liebreich - conductor
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The composer’s only oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives from 1803, which he revised in 1811, is not performed as frequently as other works by him – in fact, this will be the first ever performance of the oratorio at the Prague Spring! The extensive work, whose central theme is Christ’s Passion, was apparently written within a period of two weeks. The premiere was held at the beginning of April 1803 under somewhat dramatic circumstances.
The setting for the first performance was the Theater an der Wien, a venue involved in a merciless battle with a rival theatre, the Kärntnertortheater, which enjoyed the emperor’s support and was run by a certain Baron von Braun. When he discovered Beethoven’s intentions, he arranged for Haydn’s oratorio The Creation to be staged that same evening and, to this end, he hired Vienna’s best players in order to thwart Beethoven’s plans. In these circumstances it was no surprise that the premiere only enjoyed a lukewarm reception. Beethoven was not disheartened by this initial setback, however. It is clear the oratorio with its biblical theme was fundamental and fulfilling for him, particularly given his oppressive personal situation as he became aware of his irreversible hearing problems and approaching deafness. Within the space of a year he initiated four further performances of the oratorio.
In contrast to the ill-fated premiere, the planned Prague Spring performance will be entrusted to first-class singers – the excellent Slovak soprano Simona Šaturová, the Austrian tenor Bernhard Berchtold and the German baritone Stephan Genz, whose voice was described by The Washington Post as “extraordinary”. This stellar cast will be joined by regular guests of the festival – the Prague Philharmonic Choir.
Richard Strauss’s (1864-1949) Also sprach Zarathustra, on the other hand, is one of the composer’s best known works. The tone poem, for which Strauss found inspiration in Nietzsche’s poetic-philosophical novel of the same name, attempts to convey to listeners the moods of Nietzsche’s poetic texts rather than the intellectual substance of the book. The legendary introductory part is an extremely familiar motif today and has been used in numerous films, primarily the cult movie by Stanley Kubrick 2001: A Space Odyssey. The performance of this work has been assigned to the capable hands of Alexander Liebreich – in 2018 he was appointed Artistic Director of the Richard Strauss Festival hosted by the German town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and set against the monumental backdrop of the Wetterstein mountains.
German conductor Alexander Liebreich graduated from Munich’s Hochschule für Musik und Theater and Universität Mozarteum in Salzburg. He has worked as a guest conductor with numerous leading world orchestras (Concertgebouw Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin) and soloists (Lisa Batiashvili, Gautier Capuçon, Isabelle Faust). From September 2012 until the close of last season he was Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra; at the start of the 2018/2019 season he was appointed to the same position with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Various eminent conductors have acted as mentors for Liebreich – take Nikolaus Harnoncourt or Claudio Abbado. “I met Abbado in 1993; by that time he’d already had his first three years with the Berlin Philharmonic which he’d taken on after Karajan in 1990,” Liebreich tells us in an interview for Harmonie magazine. “Abbado gave a lot more responsibility to the orchestra, more than his great predecessor had given them, and this corresponded much more with my notion of conducting as well. I always found it difficult accepting Karajan’s authoritative approach; it radiated from him – from his undeniably compelling persona; the orchestra was simply an embodiment of his will and his ideas,” he observed.
The Slovak soprano Simona Šaturová is a sought-after performer of Mozart roles and the Italian bel canto repertoire. “Simona Šaturová, a native of Bratislava like Lucia Popp and Edita Gruberová, is nothing short of a small Mozartian miracle,” writes the Viennese website Der neue Merker. “She sings Konstanze with such unwavering coloratura, subtle, sensitive pianos and stylistic perfection, it’s enough to take your breath away.” Key roles in her repertoire include Konstanze (The Abduction from the Seraglio), Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), Rosina (The Barber of Seville), Adina (The Elixir of Love) and many others. Her vocal skill has taken her to Dresden’s Semperoper, Theater an der Wien, New York’s Carnegie Hall and Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, and she has also worked with such conducting names as Charles Dutoit, Fabio Luisi and Manfred Honeck. She is a recipient of the Charlotte and Walter Hamel Foundation Prize (2007) and the Thalia Award (2001).
Bernhard Berchtold studied at the Universität Mozarteum in Salzburg. In the period 2003-2011 he was a member of the Badische Staatstheater company in the German city of Karlsruhe, where he created a broad palette of chiefly Mozartian roles (Così fan tutte, The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, Idomeneo), but also characters from operas by Tchaikovsky (Eugene Onegin), Verdi (La Traviata) and Strauss (Der Rosenkavalier). He has also appeared in opera productions staged by La Scala, the Bavarian State Opera, Theater an der Wien, Teatro Comunale in Bologna and elsewhere. He is highly sought after as a concert artist.
The internationally acclaimed German baritone Stephan Genz is known chiefly as a fine performer of the song repertoire. He studied at the conservatoires in Leipzig and Karlsruhe, and was also coached by the celebrated Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and the German soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. The year 1994 marked a turning point in his career when he won the international Johannes Brahms (Hamburg) and Hugo Wolf (Stuttgart) singing competitions. He has sung in leading European opera venues such as the Berlin Staatsoper, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Dresden’s Semperoper and the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, and has collaborated with the likes of Thomas Hengelbrock, René Jacobs, Kurt Masur and Nikolaus Harnoncourt.