ORFEO 2 CD C 438 982 H
Songs of praise
Although Max Bruch first saw the light of day in Cologne on the Feast of the Epiphany 170 years ago, he remains less familiar to today’s audiences as a “religious” composer than for his Violin Concerto in G minor, a piece that is in the repertory of all the great violinists.
C 438 982 HAnd yet it is worth remembering that in his own day Bruch was known throughout Europe for his great choral works and oratorios and that he picked up the tradition of Bach, Handel and Mendelssohn, all of whom had been closely associated with these genres. This is certainly true of Bruch’s four-part oratorio Moses op. 67 of 1895. Lasting a good two hours, the work starts with an account of Moses climbing Mount Sinai and continues with a description of the Israelite people dancing round the golden calf, before ending with Moses’ death. Bruch pulls out all the stops, notably in the impressive final choral recitative for the choral basses, three trombones and organ. In general, the composer emerges as a master of the art of transition, able to move effortlessly between recitative and arioso, while in his handling of his large-scale orchestral forces he offers an original alternative to the musico-dramatic style of Wagner, who was one of Bruch’s declared enemies in this respect.
This magnificent piece is available on the Orfeo label in our world-première recording from 1998.
Foto: PrivateThe Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are conducted by Claus Peter Flor, while the solo parts, too, are cast from strength, with Elizabeth Whitehouse as the Angel of the Lord and Robert Gambill as Aaron. The title role, which is entirely comparable to that of Mendelssohn’s Elijah, is taken by the authoritative and charismatic German baritone Michael Volle, who last year appeared as Beckmesser at the 2007 Bayreuth Festival and as Onegin at the Bavarian State Opera, the house to which he is now under permanent contract. In both these roles he was acclaimed by public and press alike. In February 2008 he will be heard in a further “Biblical” role, that of Jochanaan in a new production of Richard Strauss’s Salome at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, where he made his début in 1997.