Peter Benoit's oratorio "De oorlog" - "The war"

Started by pjme, November 30, 2022, 07:28:05 AM

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Last weekend saw the first performance of Benoit's oratorium in nearly 30 years, both in Antwerpe and Utrecht. In 1993 the (then) BRT (now VRT) managed to find the 200-300 odd performers necessary for this work written in 1873.
That performance can be seen and heard on YT.
The recent performance can still be listened to via Radio4.
click "Speel uitzending af"

De oorlog is quite possibly Benoit's magnum opus. The libretto (lots of imagery) feels dated in 2022 (as do many libretti from the mid 19th century...). still, I was carried away.
Benoit, an internationally oriented musician, makes good use of the dramatic setup with allegorical characters (Earth Spirits, Warriors, Workers, but also individuals like the Mother, the Wounded). He combines his romantic sense for grandiose melodies (strong in the lyrical first movement in which spring and beauty are evoked) with quite daring expressive harmonies.

Who's interested here? Any thoughts?


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Possibly (while waiting for the cd of the 2022 "The oorlog) Benoit's stringquartet may please more listeners. patient. The cd hasn't been issued yet.
here's a fragment:


Don't roll your eyes at me, mister. You got a reaction, what more do you want?


 ???  ::)  ???

... what more do you want?

Maybe a friendly word, a funny or clever reaction? Definitely not a sneer.



The poem by the Belgian poet Jan Van Beers has all the characteristics of the (19th century) Flemish language and sometimes seems curious to our ears. There is a good amount of lofty, elevated language, combined with a tendency towards realism. In the first movement, the vocal quartet sings about spring as the Earth Spirits, the symbol of the youth of mankind. One hears the brooks, the moors, the wind, the bees, and a warm-hearted pleasure speaks from the chorus. De "Mensch"/ "Man" steps forward to declare that all that is on the earth is his. The Dutch baritone Bastiaan Everink sings "Pride" heroically, even in the difficult low moments of the part.
In the second part, the idyllic situation is disturbed by the "Spirit of darkness". With his concise and clear voice, the Flemish bass-baritone Charles Dekeyser incites people to fight each other for power. The music becomes more harsh, poignant, shrill and cutting. The "Spirit of Darkness" is assisted by "Violence" sung by Everink, who sings in a beautiful solo "Men! you slept enough. Combative warriors, wailing women and cursing workers then describe the turmoil of the approaching war. Finally, the "Mocking Spirit" – the lyrical Flemish bass-baritone Ivan Thirion – celebrates the destructions of war with "Heisa! Exult! Ghosts of Hell!".
War explodes and Earth Spirits and the Spirits of Darkness outline what is happening on the battlefield in musical exclamations of disorder. Cannons and battle cries are heard, while spirits cheer and mock the destruction of mankind. The opening of the second act of 'Die Walküre' comes into play here. This section ends with the moving "You, Jehovah Sebaoth" for children's choir and organ.
The last part represents the scene after the battle. The language becomes nobler, more elevating and softer, breathing both gloom and tranquility. The horrors of war are fully expressed in the visions of the "First Wounded". The Dutch tenor Frank van Aken turns his lamentations into an extremely poignant moment. The duet of a desperate "Mother" – the beautiful contralto of (Dutch) Cécile van de Sant – and the "Second Wounded" – the clear baritone of Norwegian Lars Terray – makes us feel the horrors intensely. De "Menschheid"/"Humanity" finally asks why the curse of the Gods so cruelly clings to the world and concludes "every man love his brother as himself". "Spirits of light" close the work with a peaceful hymn "Do not despair, but remember: God, our Supreme Lord watches us!".

(fragments freely translated with Google)

Utrecht - Tivoli Vredenburg