Today’s Music for Easter selection, performed by the Chancel Choir of the Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, is the magnificent concluding “Hallelujah” from Beethoven’s Christ on the Mount of Olives. As the title suggests, the work as a whole is a musical dramatization of Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. While that sounds like a composition more suited for the Triduum or Lent, we tend not to associate the word “hallelujah” with those penitential seasons. In Christ on the Mount of Olives it signifies the climactic moment when Christ says “Not my will, but ours, be done” (Luke 22:42), committing himself to the passion and death that will lead to the triumph of Easter. This is the part of the composition that points to the Resurrection.

Christ on the Mount of Olives is Beethoven’s only oratorio. The composer himself never really liked it, and was particularly dissatified witht the libretto by Franz Xaver Huber. Posterity seems to have agreed with Beethoven, for the most part: the oratorio itself is rarely performed, except for the majestice “Hallelujah” passage. On the other hand, Christ on the Mount of Olives was Beethoven’s first popular success in the United States when it premiered here in 1809.

The featured image above is “Christ on the Mount of Olives” (1819) by Goya. An interesting connection between Goya and Beethoven: both went deaf later in life.

March 27, 2016,
Easter Sunday Chancel Choir,
Glenna Metcalfe, Organ;
Jim Rago, Timpani;
Trey Sims and Martin Sauer, Trumpets,
Robert Gammon, Director

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