Notes and Editorial Reviews
Der Sieg des Glaubens
Hermann Max, cond; Christiane Libor (sop); Wiebke Lehmkuhl (alt); Markus Schäfer (ten); Markus Flaig (bs); Rheinische Kantorei; Kleine Konzert
CPO 7777382 (75:11
Text and Translation)
Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838) was a pupil of Beethoven, and his father had been Beethoven’s teacher. Beethoven thought Ries tended to sound a bit too like him, but the sound here in this 1829 oratorio reminds one of no-one so much as of Mendelssohn. The opening chorus
has echoes in the 15-years later
, and indeed Mendelssohn could well have heard Ries’s choral-orchestral music even before they met in 1832.
The oratorio moves steadily, with one number usually coming out of the previous one by means of a simple bridge passage. The text, by Johann Baptiste Rousseau, poses the aspiration of the believers against the rejection of belief, though without going into the nitty-gritty of what one actually has to believe in. There is no real story here, and even less theology. The unbelievers remain empty of belief until the final grand chorus when, overcome by the endless harping of the believers, they just give in. This vague and unspecific text gives Ries the space to write many vigorous choruses, interspersed with a few solo sections to give the chorus time to catch its breath. When all is said and done, this is a choral piece, and Ries demands a lot of those singers. Indeed, my one main criticism of this performance is that the 28 members of the Rheinische Kantorei are just not enough to give weight (not volume, which they can easily muster) to the music Ries gives them, especially in the multiple choruses.
There is no real standout among the soloists, though the bass-baritone, Markus Flaig, the leader of the unbelievers, has a fine
voice. Markus Schäfer is well-known as an oratorio singer and encourages the believers gracefully, if occasionally with a bit of an edge on top. Christiane Libor and Wiebke Lehmkuhl do not have a lot to do, but they do it well. The orchestra makes great noises for Max and is almost the star of the show, and is, in any event, recorded closer than the chorus.
I do have to report one technical glitch, however: there is a bad splice in my copy between tracks 10 and 11. Less serious is that the timing in the brochure is wrong: that shown above and on the cover are correct.
This is a wonderful piece of music, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know it. It makes a great alternative to the usual oratorio fare and I recommend giving it a listen.
FANFARE: Alan Swanson
Works on This Recording
Der Sieg des Glaubens, oratorio, Op. 157 by Ferdinand Ries
Venue: Knechtsteden, Klosterbasilika
Length: 3 Minutes 4 Secs.
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