Farewell concert for Gerhard Ertl

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Gerhard Ertl playing piano, 2014
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Members and friends of the Cluster of Excellence UniCat have fond memories of the wonderful concert with and for Gerhard Ertl on the occasion of his 78th birthday, celebrated in the Audimax at TU Berlin in 2014. Gerhard Ertl is now retiring as répétiteur of the Berlin Oratory Choir.

On Sunday, December 4, 2016, the choir is giving a farewell concert for its long-standing répétiteur in the chamber music hall of the Berlin Philharmonie.

The oratory “Alexander’s Feast” by Georg Friedrich Handel will be performed.

Soloists are soprano Christine Wolff, tenor Vernon Kirk, baritone Michael Adair, Jakub Sawicki on organ, and Gerhard Ertl on harpsichord. The Prussian chamber orchestra is conducted by Thomas Hennig.

Su 04.12.2016, 20:00
Herbert-von-Karajan-Str. 1
10785 Berlin

Reduced tickets are available for 8 to 20 euros at the box office if guests present an appropriate ID card for students, pupils, apprentices, or disabled persons.

Saint Cecilia as patron saint of music

Since the late middle ages, Saint Cecilia has been honored as patron saint of music, and since Henry Purcell’s life time (1659-1695), the day of Saint Cecilia has been celebrated with a feast, to which Purcell himself contributed two works.

Georg Friedrich Handel followed this tradition with his “Alexander’s Feast”, which also bears the subtitle “The Power of Music”. In this piece, Handel uses the depiction of the victory celebration on the occasion of the conquest of Persepolis by Alexander the Great to show how music can produce and portray emotions: homage, celebration, and grief, to name a few examples.

Georg Friedrich Handel: Alexander’s Feast

Handel composed his oratory “Alexander’s Feast” with the subtitle “The Power of Music” in 1736 in London, and first performed it on February 19th of that year. At the time he had turned away from the production of operas, especially as a result of financial difficulties. This musical genre constitutes a musical drama, separated from the stage and without theatrical play and costumes etc. The choir thus is given an essential role: On the one hand, it is part of the story; on the other hand, it also takes on the role of commentator as it was in ancient times.

The original inspiration for Handel’s “Alexander’s Feast” is the ode “Alexander’s Feast, or, The Power of Music” published in 1697 by the poet John Dryden, which demonstrates the power of music through the celebration of a feast put on by Alexander the Great on the occasion of the conquest of the city of Persepolis, capital of the Persian Empire in 330 BC. During the feast, the singer Timotheus praises the victor, who is cheered by the people. The recitative that follows characterizes the singer: “…with flying fingers touch’d the lyre”. Handel originally composed a harp concerto to illustrate this part, which was later published in a collection of organ concertos and will also be performed in this version here.

Thereafter, the people are deeply moved by listening to the singer, who first praises the joy facilitated by Bacchus, but then also bewails the death of the Persian king Dareios, until he sings of the divine power of love, and finally the people are moved to great applause for the power of music.

The (shorter) second part begins with a call to waken the sleeping victor, which is then carried out through the beating of timpani and the sounding of trumpets. Now there is a demand to revenge the fallen soldiers, and the city is released for plunder. Contrary to former opinions, the plundering does not take place. More recent research has shown that only some buildings were destroyed. Similarly, Dareios did not die in battle, but was murdered two years later by a relative to whom he had fled. The oratory that follows depicts a sharp break, in which Timotheus is made harbinger of Saint Cecilia, both are awarded the crown, and from now on the power of music is extolled.

The Feast of Alexander is considered to be one of the most popular works of Handel, was edited over many times and translated into German. In 1793, a revision by Mozart with modernized instruments was first performed. Our performance, however, will use Handel’s original version from 1736.