Friday, April 3, 2020

Christus am Ölberge

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from April 3, 2015. It can be found in our archives at


In recent months, our Friday visits into the Podcast Vault are complementary to Project 366, as we post daily from our musical calendar and take advantage of planned shares. This week, however, Project 366 is contemplating Beethoven’s Fidelio, which gives us a nice segue into Beethoven’s choral output.

Past montages/listener guides have considered Beethoven’s Choral symphony (which we will be featuring on the Project in May), and his late choral works – all secular in nature. Beethoven did contribute three sacred works to his choral repertoire, two are featured as part of our Lenten programming – today and this coming Tuesday – and the third, his Mass in C Major, is our “bonus” track.

Christus am Ölberge (Christ at the Mount of Olives) is Beethoven's only sacred oratorio. Unlike Bach and other composers before him, Beethoven does not consider a complete setting of the Passion rather focusing on one specific episode. In doing so, Beethoven creates a work of human proportions (rather than a two-hour magnum opus), allowing for a focus on the human aspects rather than a continuous narrative of the biblical story. The libretto for this oratorio is from poet Franz Xaver Huber, and the work was likely created in the lenten season of 1803 (April 5th) in a concert that also premiered his second symphony. The work is later revised in 1811, explaining its later Hess number (op. 85) compared to that of its contemporary symphony (op. 36). The work was published near the time of the MasS in C (op. 86).

The filler material in the montage is film music by Jacques Ibert for the 1935 French film Golgotha by Julien Duvivier.

The bonus selection, as teased earlier, is a complete performance of the Beethoven Mass in C, featuring the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner and played on period instruments.

I think you will (still) love this music too.

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