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 Max Bruch - Oratorio Moses


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Created by Andreas Otto Grimminger and Josef-Stefan Kindler

Max Bruch (1838-1920)
Oratorio in four episodes
(sung in German)

Peter Lika
Bass ~ Moses
Birgitte Christensen
Soprano ~ Angel of the Lord
Stefan Vinke
Tenor ~ Aaron

Kantorei Maulbronn
Russian Chamber Philharmonic St. Petersburg
Conductor: Jürgen Budday

A concert recording from the minster
at abbey Maulbronn, June 19th & 20th 2004

2-CD-Box, DDD, c. 120 minutes
KuK 96, ISBN 3-930643-96-0, EAN 42 6000591 032 2
Copyright by K&K Verlagsanstalt anno 2005


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Photo by Josef-Stefan Kindler

The concert performance at the church of Maulbronn Monastery
(Copyright: Josef-Stefan Kindler, K&K Verlagsanstalt)

The oratorio Moses holds special meaning in composer Max Bruch's body of work. He originally viewed it presumptuous to continue in the tradition of the major works by Händel and Mendelssohn. In a letter to the music writer Hermann Deiters he wrote in 1873: "Biblical subject matter is foreign to my nature; the old masters have made such formidable contributions in this area so that it is only possible for us to make independent and new accomplishments in conjunction with other subjects. It is no coincidence that every oratorio since Mendelssohn has been a failure." Whatever it was that ultimately triggered Bruch's change of mind remains a mystery, but in 1893, he wrote to the Bach researcher Philipp Spitta, the brother of his future librettist Ludwig: "You are the first, and will, for the time being, be the only person I trust to disclose a plan that so vividly occupies me. Do you wish to read intently the composition, the poetic foundation of a large-scale oratorical work: ‘Moses at Sinai' (or Israel in the Desert)... long have I sought and groped, momentarily pondering this, and then that. Because I am bound and determined to not further enhance the drama of the worldly dramatic cantata... which is why I have returned to the enclosed, truly oratorical plan, with which I was already seriously occupied in 1889, and again in 1890. It begins where Händel's ‘Israel in Egypt' ended. As far as I can conclude, no other musician of relevance has ever addressed this part of Moses' history…"

Conducted by Bruch, the debut performance was finally held on the 8th of January 1895 in Barmen. It is a piece of early oratorical art that Bruch has created here, yet one that is cloaked in the era of the Late Romantic. The choir is the decisive mediator of events in the piece of work. In addition to delicate poetic expression, the dramatic impact also demands particularly creative agility and adaptation from the singers. Even Bruch's contemporaries were suspicious of the opus.

In June 1895, Johannes Brahms wrote to Clara Schumann: "Bruch has now published a Moses... If only one could feel a hint of joy in the stuff! They are weaker and worse than his own early works in every respect. The only good sentiment is when one feels inclined, as I do, to thank the Lord that he spared us of the sin, the vice, or the bad habit of mere score-writing." Bruch, on the other hand, saw himself affirmed in his work and wrote to his publisher Franz Simrock in February of 1895: „I want to tell you a secret: noble and ample effects on thousands are not to be attained by common means; something higher, which cannot be defined, is working from within the productive artiste... I could have not have written ‘Moses' had not a strong and deep feeling of divinity been alive in my soul, and every deeply insightful artiste will have experienced that once in his life, so that through the medium of his art, he can proclaim to the people the best and innermost emotions of his soul... And in such, Moses proved to the world that I did not stand still – as that is the most potent danger in older age."

The oratorio so powerful and atmospheric in its choruses and arias consists of two parts and presents four episodes from the life of the prophet Moses. Part one of the opus begins with a short, dramatic introduction.

The scene At Sinai depicts Moses as the leader of the Israelites. He is called to the mountain by an angel to receive the Ten Commandments from Jehovah. During his absence, his brother Aaron is designated as keeper of the people. The Sanctus beginning with Psalm 90 of both solo parts of Moses and Aaron in alternation with the people was a core part of the opus for Bruch.

In the second scene, The Golden Calf, the plot makes a wide bend, heading towards the oratorio's tragic conflict, the Israelites' digression from Jehovah. Three impulsively scored chorus scenes portray the chosen people's restlessness and doubt caused by the prophet's long absence. The crude demand made of Aaron to produce a golden calf as a visible idol culminates in the anger of Moses, who has returned and calls to order the Israelites who are dancing around the false god Baal.

Part two (episode three), The Return of the Scouts from Canaan, begins in the middle of the conflict between Moses and the Israelites. The scouts Moses has sent to the Promised Land bring back hymnic reports of the "land of dreams", but the prophet deems the people of Israel unworthy of the Promised Land. Aaron and the Israelites arrive at deeper insight: "oh Lord, help us find mercy". A depiction of the fight with the Amalekites then follows.

In the last episode, The Promised Land, the Lord's angel proclaims to Moses his approaching end. The prophet leads his people to the Nebo Mountain where a view of Canaan is granted. Moses blesses the Israelites here before he passes away.

The libretto of Max Bruch's oratorio Moses:
~ as website ~
as pdf-file (13 pages) for printing ~




Photo by Josef-Stefan KindlerPeter Lika (Moses)
Peter Lika began his singing career as a soloist in the boys' choir Regensburger Domspatzen and is considered one of the leading bassists in the concert and opera circuit. Paired with a finely balanced, dramatic expressiveness, his unmistakable timbre makes him a predestined soloist for roles such as that of the prophet Moses. Conductors like Masur, Schreier, Rilling, Gardiner, Marriner, Norrington, Celibidache or Herreweghe appreciate working together with Lika, as do renowned international orchestras, not least due to his extensive repertoire and also his longstanding experience with early music. Performances with the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, the Bamberger Symphonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and nearly all German broadcast orchestras have led Lika to the major musical centres of Europe, Asia, and USA. Finally, song programmes are also part of Lika's repertoire; with Sawallisch, he has recorded Schubert's vocal epos among other things.

Birgitte Christensen (Soprano ~ Angel of the Lord)
Christensen was born in 1972 in Norway. She concluded her vocal training in 1997 at the state conservatory in Oslo. In November 1998 she made her extremely successful debut at the Norwegian National Opera as the Queen of the Night and was distinguished with the prestigious Esso award for outstanding opera performances. Since December 1999 she has been engaged by the Innsbruck Theatre where she has sung the main role in Händel's Partenope, Liu in Turandot and the Queen of the Night. In June 2000, she received a grant for her part in Partenope and was awarded the Eberhard Wächter medal.

Photo by Josef-Stefan Kindler

Stefan Vinke (Tenor ~ Aaron)
Vinke is from Osnabrück and studied song with the court singer Edda Moser in Cologne, and with Eugene Kohn. The accomplished church musician received his first engagement at the Karlsruhe State Theatre of Baden in 1993. He sang for two seasons here before switching to the Krefeld-Mönchengladbach Theatre. Jun Märkl engaged Stefan Vinke for the 1999/2000 season as the 1st youth heroic tenor at Mannheim's National Theatre. In the new Ring, Stefan Vinke sings the role of Siegmund, followed by Lohengrin, Parsifal, Florestan and Tristan.

Photo by Josef-Stefan Kindler

Russian Chamber Philharmonic St. Petersburg
The Russian Chamber Philharmonic St. Petersburg was founded in 1990 by graduates of the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakoff Conservatory. The tours with Mstislav Rostropovitch, Igor Oistrakh, Mikis Theodorakis, Nina Corti and Giora Feidman as well as with opera and ballet soloists of the Moscow Bolschoi Theatre and the St. Petersburg Mariinski Opera attracted international interest. Performances in the cities of Paris, Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam, London, Frankfurt, Munich and Leipzig as well as at various festivals testify of the orchestra's exceptional status.

The Kantorei Maulbronn
is the large oratorio choir of the monastery in Maulbronn, founded in 1948. In addition to regular participation in the services at the monastery, the performance of great oratorios is the focus of its choral work. Their concert activity with renowned orchestras and soloists in Germany and abroad demonstrates the high quality of this ambitious amateur choir. The German television station ZDF has done a portrait of the Kantorei, and the choir has participated in live radio recordings for the SDR and Deutschlandfunk.

Photo by Josef-Stefan Kindler Jürgen Budday (conductor)
Jürgen Budday is director of church music and artistic director of the concert series at the monastery of Maulbronn, of the cantor choir and of the Maulbronn Chamber Choir. He studied music education, church music and musicology at the Academy of Music in Stuttgart and, since 1979, has taught at the Evangelic Theology Seminar in Maulbronn. For his teaching and artistic activity, he has received many awards, including the Bundesverdienstkreuz am Bande (German Cross of Merit) and the Bruno-Frey Prize from the State Academy, Ochsenhausen. Since 2002, Jürgen Budday has also held the chair of the choral committee of the German Music Council. Several concert recordings have been made under his artistic direction. They have often received international recognition and high praise from critics. These have included the Handel oratorios Jephtha, Samson, Judas Maccabaeus and Saul with Emma Kirkby, Michael Chance, Nancy Argenta and Stephen Varcoe.


Kantorei Maulbronn

Uta Albrecht, Clara Buss, Ines Darilek, Hannelore Demuth, Ulrike Egler,
Gertrud Fahnenbruck, Claudia Fischer, Gretel Flasshoff, Erika Frasch, Christel Gebicke,
Dörthe Glogner, Mirjam Grauli, Eva Günthner, Ute Günthner, Birgit Gutekunst, Frauke Harms,
Hanna Hitziger, Andrea Klein, Gabriele Königs, Amrei Kriener, Annette Krtscha, Ursula Lang,
Erika Langer, Irmgard Leins, Gerda Lemberg, Helga Leppek, Liane Matheis, Silke Mürdter,
Gisela Pöthe, Lena Renkenberger, Christina Riek, Gerlinde Roos, Anna Schlimm,
Nelly Schlimm, Christa Schmetzer, Amelie Spätgens, Beate Speck, Lore Stalter,
Ute Troyke-Immel, Edda Ullrich, Bettina Wagner, Inge Wanner

Verena Balcarek, Ulrike Bickel-Lang, Rosemarie Bohn, Eva-Maria Brückner,
Helge Bührer, Dorothee Combe, Ulrike Egerer, Gertrud Erhardt-Raum, Doris Frank-Dietz,
Barbara Fritsch, Ann-Katrin Fuierer, Dorothea Haiges-Obenland, Eva-Maria Herrmann,
Dorothea Irion-Küenzlen, Christina Jungfer, Ursula Kaufmann, Stefanie Knappe-Retsch,
Elisabeth Kümmerle, Angelika Kuveke, Maria Matzen-Mauch, Irmgard Miehlich,
Margit Rapp, Dorothea Reininghaus, Anette Rösler, Beate Roth, Maria Smejkal,
Sophie Sterzer, Ruth Weida, Helga Weber, Daniela Rosenberger

Wolfgang Altenmüller, Ernst-Dietrich Egerer, Jürgen Huttenlocher, Christoph Irion,
Hartmut Leins, Thomas Müller, Dr.Bernhard Olt, Helmut Schmid, Harald Schroeder,
Walter Toepfer, Michael Wagner, Manfred Wanner, Hans-Peter Weber

Alfred Ankele, Dr. Reinhard Demuth, Bernhard Fräulin, Friedemann Frasch, Norbert Ganser,
Kurt Glogner, Uwe Hage, Elmar Herkommer, Tobias Hitziger, Johannes Hruby,
Stephan Irion, Christian Kloss, Ulrich Köhler, Jürgen Krug, Hans Kuveke, Hans Metzger,
Wolfgang Miehlich, Hans-Martin Müller, Dr. Malte Neurath, Dr. Günther Rapp,
Gottfried Retsch, Manuel Roller, Marcus Roller, Dieter Rudolf, Hans Schmid,
Jan Smejkal, Jonathan Wahl