On 30 July, Peter Eötvös’ Halleluja – Oratorium balbulum will receive its world premiere at the Salzburg Festival as part of the ‘Ouverture Spirtiuelle’ series, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic and Hungarian Radio Choir under Daniel Harding.
Halleluja is Eötvös’ first symphonic vocal work, scored for vocal soloists, choir and orchestra, and will be dedicated to his close friend, the late author Péter Esterházy, who collaborated with Eötvös on the oratorio’s libretto.
Choir, angels, narrator and a stuttering prophet
Esterházy and Eötvös devised Halleluja as a ‘meta-oratorio’, in which the characters demonstrate self-awareness of their parts, recognising their roles are constructed and exist within an artistic performance. Throughout, Eötvös includes fragments of existing hallelujahs from a variety of musical periods ranging from baroque cantatas to gospel music. Examples include Bach’s Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis, Handel’s Messiah, and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. For his prophet protagonist, Esterházy drew upon the figure of Notker Babulus, a monk also known as Notker the Stammerer. The oratorio explores themes of personal identity intended to resonate with contemporary political environments. Eötvös renders Notker, a figure from the dark ages, into a symbol of our time:
Nowadays, it is almost impossible to be a prophet because everything is unpredictable, and so the oratorio is not really a portrait of Notker, but rather a reflection of our time. As the work unfolds, the chorus as representative of the masses becomes increasingly assertive and critical. – Peter Eötvös
Harding will conduct two more performances of Halleluja on 23 November in Vienna and 24 November in Budapest. Next year, Eötvös will preside as ‘Creative Chair’ at Tonhalle Zürich and on 22 March, he will conduct the Tonhalle Orchestra in the Swiss premiere of Halleluja alongside his percussion concerto Speaking drums. On 1 August, he will conduct his chamber work Sonata per sei with Klangforum Wien at the Salzburg Festival.