Neuberger Kulturtage: Oratorio by Joseph Haydn for the Opening in the Cathedral
The Vienna Chamber Orchestra and the Singakademie opened the Neuberger Kulturtage to the appreciative ear of Heinz Fischer – the federal presidents traditionally spend their summer holidays in Mürzsteg which has now been incorporated into Neuberg. Festival Director Stefan Vladar conducted Haydn’s „Die sieben letzten Worte unseres Erlösers am Kreuze“ (The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross) – a classic among oratorios.
With the exception of the earthquake at the end, which is to be played „Presto, e con tutta la forza,” Joseph Haydn set the “Seven Words” only to slow tempi – according to its original purpose as ritual passion music. Because he declined in the oratorio version, as he did in the earlier purely instrumental setting of the work, to employ virtuoso folderol, the piece lends itself well to the vast echoing space of the Neuberg Cathedral, much more so than a Verdi Requiem, say, or a Beethoven’s “Ninth”.
Stefan Vladar organized the ceremonial orchestral introduction with tranquility and outline, arranged Haydn’s lean structures into harmonically gripping, cleanly tuned and always carefully balanced fullness. He allowed the rests to breathe, without stretching the classical proportions.
With its first entry: „Vater, vergib ihnen, denn sie wissen nicht, was sie tun“ (“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”) the Choir of the Vienna Konzerthaus, under the ideal direction of Heinz Ferlesch, dove into the homophonic setting magnificently and articulately. The solo voices Seri Baek (soprano), Sonja Brühling (alto), Sascha Zarrabi (tenor) and Daniel Weiler (bass) were able to hold their own with expressive vibrato for the most part. Only the constantly sharpened forte of suffering of the soprano stuck out monolithically at times.
Vladar brought vivid motion into the first modulation to the tragic f minor of „Mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen?“ (My God, why have you abandoned me?). The choir broke drastically into the hesitant „Ach, mich dürstet“ (“I thirst)” of the tenor and the dynamic reserves for the hard rattling staccato of the finale „Il Terremoto“ (The Earthquake) were considerable.
Translation by John Allan Moffatt