Sir Simon Rattle, Principal Conductor of the LSO, considers Beethoven to be “absolutely inescapable”, and that is especially true in the year of his 250th anniversary. His choral work “Christ on the Mount of Olives” is very rarely heard, and tells the story of Jesus’ prayer and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.
It was, in fact, Beethoven’s only oratorio, and he was quite critical of the piece itself after the first performance, in particular the libretto. Changes to the text were made by Christian Schreiber, but this still did not appease the composer, who continued to remain dissatisfied with the words he had set. The work has somewhat drifted into obscurity, but Simon Rattle’s championing of it is sure to bring focus to its emotive force.
The vocal soloists in this performance are Elsa Dreisig (soprano), Pavol Breslik (tenor) and David Soar (bass). [The first part of the concert is dedicated to a performance the Berg Violin Concerto with Lisa Batisahvili as soloist.]
“Christ on the Mount of Olives” will have been performed earlier in the season in London by the LSO and LSC. As part of the current tour it is also being presented in Paris, Hamburg and Baden-Baden in tandem with performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.