Of the major Beethoven works with opus numbers, Christus am Ölberge, Op. 85 (Christ on the Mount of Olives), is one of the least often performed. Despite its high opus number, it's an early work from the first years of the 19th century; Beethoven fussed with it several times before agreeing to have it published. The libretto, focusing on Christ's reflections and dialogues with an angel and St. Peter before his arrest, doesn't quite stand up to the big musical structure Beethoven hangs on it. But the oratorio is rife with fresh ideas that would turn up in a variety of later works. Principal among these is the opera Fidelio, Op 72, which matches Christus am Ölberge in mood, with big, idealistic but not especially tuneful arias and hefty choruses. Conductor Leif Segerstam, conducting the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus Cathedralis Aboensis, avoids the ponderousness of some of his other Beethoven readings and delivers a performance that recognizes the work's place in the procession of events leading to Beethoven's only opera, and the tensions between Italian operatic language and the German philosophical orientation of Beethoven's music. Sample the duet between Jesus and the Seraph, "So ruhe denn mit ganzer Schwere," where you can hear not only Segerstam's overall approach, but also his strong Finnish soloists, led by a powerfully dramatic Jussi Myllys as Jesus. The addition of a rapt version of the late Elegischer Gesang, Op. 118, itself a dry run for the Missa Solemnis, Op. 123, is an added attraction, as is the favorable acoustic of the Turku Philharmonic Hall. Recommended.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Christus am Ölberge, Op. 85 (Christ on the Mount of Olives)|