Monday, April 30, 2012

Reissiger's oratorio "David" performed at the Redeemer Church in Jerusalem

Carl Gottlieb Reissiger

Carl Gottlieb Reissiger (1798-1859) was a successful German composer, conductor and teacher of the first half of the 19th century. His father – composer, organist and cantor of Belzig – was his first teacher; he taught the boy piano and violin. By age ten, Carl Gottlieb was performing publicly, giving piano recitals and accompanying hymn-singing at the organ. He began theological studies at Leipzig University, but left for Vienna to study music theory with Salieri, moving to Munich to study composition and singing with Peter von Winter. From the height of his career to his death, he was, as Weber’s successor, Hofkapellmeister (court conductor) of theatre and opera in Dresden and director of music for the Catholic Hofkirche. He was also busy as a coach and pianist at Dresden’s society soirées. His output numbers more than 200 works of various genres – some eighty piano solos, eighty collections of songs or duets, nine masses and smaller sacred works, five works for clarinet, 27 piano trios, seven piano quartets and three piano quintets. Today, he seems best known as an opera composer, although he wrote only eight. Well-known during his lifetime, much of his oeuvre, in particular his sacred music, has fallen into oblivion.

The aim of the Reissiger Society, founded in Belzig in 2003 by church musician Thea Labes and other admirers of Reissiger’s music, is to enable the study and performance of the composer’s works. In her quest to find more of the composer’s church pieces, Thea Labes, who happened to live in the house in Bad Belzig where Reissiger was born, unexpectedly came across the score of Reissiger’s only oratorio “David”. She and colleagues spent four years copying out the 400 pages of the original manuscript by hand, this eventually leading to the first performance of the work 150 years after its composition. Thea Labes dreamed of having the work performed in Jerusalem, but, unfortunately, did not live to see her dream fulfilled. It was she who established the David Choir in 1995, taking its name from Reissiger’s oratorio. The choir’s 50-or-so members are amateur singers from the Belzig region of Germany. Winfried Kuntz took over direction of the choir following Labes’ death. Maestro Kuntz performs widely as an organist and takes a special interest in the teaching of young organists in order to be sure that the many historical organs in Brandenburg will continue to be played.

Carl Gottlieb Reissiger’s oratorio “David” had its first performance outside of Germany April 28th 2012 at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem’s Old City. Under the baton of Winfried Kuntz, the David Choir and soloists from Germany were joined by players of the Israel Camerata Jerusalem. The text tells the story of David, the young shepherd, who, on becoming a great king, abuses his power, eventually finding forgiveness in repentance. The oratorio’s prophecy is that the Messiah will emerge from David’s lineage. A textual analysis of the oratorio has revealed that Bible texts were altered to form a tribute to the king of Saxony. The work is composed in a lush Romantic style, its hearmonically rich choral- and orchestral textures,sweeping melodies and forthright sound making for satisfying listening. The David Choir produced a harmonious and full choral sound, set off by well-rounded (and occasionally too loud) playing of the Israel Camerata Jerusalem’s instrumentalists. The soloists – soprano Friederike Holzhausen, contralto Andrea Pitt, tenors Georg Führer and Patrick Grahl and bass baritone Stefan Puppe - were especially competent, their musicality adding much pleasure to the performance. Under Kuntz’ direction, the pace of the music never lagged. The event drew a large audience, curious to hear Reissiger’s recently rediscovered oratorio “David”. Will Carl Gottlieb Reissiger’s “David” become a standard work of oratorio repertoire to be performed by other choirs? This remains to be seen.

1 comment:

Helena Maes said...

Hello, Do you know of any recording of this concert? I am desperately looking for it.. Thank you.. Kind regards, Helena (from Belgium)