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Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy




MDR KLASSIK Vol. 3    CD MDR 1201












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  Downloads and Streamings
  Enthusiastic responses
  The cultural magnetism of antiqity
  Course of plot action
  Die Werkgeschichte
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  GALLERY Fotoimpressionen zur “Oedipus”-Aufführung des MDR SINFONIEORCHESTERS
  More CDs with Jun Märkl



Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy  1809-1847
»OEDIPUS AT COLONUS« Incidental music to Sophocles’s Tragedy Op. 93
for speaking roles, bass solo, two men’s choruses and orchestra  (text adapted by Gerhard Löbling)

01  Introduction 0:50
02  Deklamation »Wohin, des blinden Greises Kind« (Oedipus; Antigone) 2:11
03  Nr. 1 (without tempo designation)  »O schau! Er entfloh!« (chorusses, Bass-Solo, Oedipus, Antigone) 10:34
04  Deklamation »Was kann die Meinung frommen« (Oedipus, Antigone) 1:07
05  Nr. 1a (Allegro non troppo) »Was sagst du« (Oedipus, Antigone) 0:18
06  Deklamation »Mein Kind, du kamst?« (Oedipus, Ismene) 3:05
07  Nr. 2 (Allegro moderato) »Grausam ist es, o Freund« (choruses, Oedipus, chorus leader) 3:55
08  Deklamation »Von vielen hört´ ich früher« (Theseus, Oedipus) 2:45
09  Nr. 3 (Allegro tranquillo) »Zur rossprangenden Flur« (choruses) 5:30
10  Deklamation »O Männer, edle Bürger« (Creon, Oedipus) 2:19
11  Nr. 4 (Allegro) »Weh mir!« (Creon, Oedipus, chorus leader | Antigone, choruses) 4:41
12  Deklamation »Welch ein Lärm!« (Theseus, Oedipus, Creon) 3:22
13  Nr. 5 (Allegro vivace) »Ach, wär ich, wo bald die Schar« (choruses) 4:12
14  Deklamation »O gäb’s ein Gott« (Antigone, Oedipus, Theseus) 2:47
15  Nr. 6 »Wer ein längeres Lebensteil« (choruses) 4:22
16  Deklamation »Sprich selbst« (Antigone, Polyneices, Oedipus) 4:26
17  Nr. 7 (Lento) »Auf uns bricht von dem blinden Greis« (choruses, Oedipus, Antigone) 5:25
18  Deklamation »Was tönt vereinigt euer Ruf« (Theseus, Oedipus) 0:57
19  Nr. 8 (Adagio) »Ist es verstattet« (choruses | chorus soloists) 4:06
20  Deklamation »Wohl, edle Bürger« (messenger) 0:24
21  Nr. 9 (Sostenuto assai) »Weh uns! Überall und ewig« (Antigone, choruses, Ismene, Theseus) 6:54   

Total time: 78:34

Waltraut Wächter I Leader

Robert Blank I  Rehearsal director

Dominique Horwitz I Oedipus
Anna Franziska Srna I Antigone
Anne Berg I Ismene
Nikolaus Okonkwo Kreon I Creon
Tilo Prückner I Thesus
Simon Zigah I Polyneices, Citizen of Colonus

Chorus soloists
Andreas Fischer | Kritian Sörensen I tenors
Thomas Ratzak | Gun-Wookl Lee I basses
Reinhardt Decker I bass (Chorus leader)
Torsten Fischer I Dialogue production

Jun Märkl I Concuctor

Booklet: Deutsch & English, 36 S.
Editor: Gerhard Löbling
Producert: Dr. Michael Oehme, MDR FIGARO
Technical recording supervision: Robert Baldowski | Artistic recording supervision: Klaus Mücke
Programme notes: Thomas Frenzel
Executiv Producer: Dr. Steffen Lieberwirth
LC 29357






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Enthusiastic responses

Our recording is based on a text version which impressively elucidates Mendelssohn’s approach to the dramatic genre.
It was derived from Johann Jakob Christian Donner’s translations of Sophocles by Gerhard Löbling, dramatic producer of the MDR Concerts and initiator of the concert.
The Europe-wide transmission of the MDR FIGARO anniversary broadcasts, especially the European Broadcasting Union’s »Mendelssohn Special day« programme from Leipzig on February 1, 2009, offered the MDR orchestras and the famous actors and singers contracted expressly for the project an impressive opportunity for artistic exposure.
The reaction to the broadcasts was phenomenal. The majority of the responses received from around the world expressed gratitude for the opportunity to become acquainted with an almost unknown facet of Mendelssohn’s oeuvre.


The cultural magnetism of antiquity

When early-sixteenth-century Germany responded to the call of ad fontes (»back to the sources«, that is, reverting to the treasures of Greek art and science in their original form), there began a long process of identification and involvement with the ancient world that would be unique among the European nations with long cultural histories. While the involvement with Greek culture began in Italy, in the Florence of the Medicis with their newly formed academy modelled on that of Plato, and in Rome with the spectacular discovery of the Apollo Belvedere and the Laocon group, it was in a Germany pervaded by Renaissance humanism that the study of antiquity established itself most strongly.
In translating the New Testament, Luther returned to the Greek original, while Latin, being the language of the papacy, increasingly declined in status and the »Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation« rapidly became the »guardian of the Greek legacy«, so that many scholars, among them Luther’s collaborator Melanchthon, exchanged their »barbaric« family names for Greek versions.

Classical Greek was increasingly being taught in grammar schools, amid continuing enthusiasm of scholars, artists and students for every aspect of antiquity; it was spurred on anew in the late eighteenth century by the great scholarly achievements of the archaeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann, whose characterization of Graeco-Roman art as »noble simplicity and quiet greatness« became the aesthetic ideal of the emerging Classicism.
As was stated by his admirer Goethe, »everything he has left us was thus written as something living for the living, not for those who are dead in the letter«; together with Schiller and followed by other important poets, Goethe gave the ultimate impetus for finally and comprehensively incorporating the Greek legacy into the German educational canon. Literature and painting, sculpture and architecture were henceforth dedicated to reviving the classical Greek style, and the universities of Leipzig and Berlin nurtured a school of Greek philology which would definitively establish Germany as the leading nation in the field of research into classical antiquity.

At the same time, Friedrich Wilhelms IV was striving to make Prussia and especially Berlin a centre of German education, culture and art – an initiative that ran into the political cross-currents of the now widespread Graecomania, the downright obsessive passion for ancient Greek culture that also held Felix Mendelssohn in thrall for some time.
And what is the position regarding the ancient heritage of Greece today, after the social upheavals of the twentieth century and early twenty-first?

Goethe’s postulate that »everyone is a Greek in his own way« no longer carries any weight, while the middle-class intellectual has disappeared, along with the exalted ideal of Hellenic humanity – be it pursued from personal conviction, confidence in the future or justifiable flight from reality – that formerly inspired the bourgeoisie.
The cultural achievements of antiquity have been subsumed into the general advance of civilization, reduced to mere tokens in an indiscriminate mix of moral standards.
Involvement with the ancient world lives on only in scholarly circles, being present in public awareness only in the form of wellguarded museum treasures or in adaptations, some of them extremely lively, to theatre and opera. What follows deals with that presentation on stage.


Course of plot action


»Oedipus and Theseus«, 1797
The blind Oedipus with Antigone and Ismene befor e Theseus, after Sophocles’s Oedipus at Colonus
Line engraving by Wilhelm Müller after a drawing by Jakob Asmus Carstens (1754 – 1798)
Published in Hermann Riegel, Carstens Werke in ausgewählten Umriss-Stichen, (Alfred Dürr) 1869.

The plot of Oedipus at Colonus concentrates on the earthly end of the aged principal character and his elevation to the gods.
After years of voluntary exile, Oedipus has at last found refuge with his daughter Antigone at Colonus, where King Theseus provides him protection.
In fulfilment of the oracle’s prophesy, he had as a young man unwittingly killed his father Laius and later, just as unwittingly, married his mother Iocaste. She hanged herself when she learned the truth, and Oedipus gouged his eyes out with her brooch-pin.
A new oracle has since determined that Oedipus must be buried in Thebes in order to restore peace there.
Creon therefore attempts to bring him and his daughters Antigone and Ismene back by force – but Oedipus the tragic hero, sadder and wiser, is protected from Creon’s onslaught and becomes a benevolent power in his host country.
The multifaceted story of Oedipus has been used countless times in literature and music. Other than in Mendelssohn’s work, the apotheosis of the figure in Oedipus at Colonus has been portrayed in a cantata by Louis-Théodore Gouvy and in incidental music by Gioachino Rossini and Eduard Lassen.


Die Werkgeschichte

In october 1841, the year following Friedrich Wilhelm IV’s accession to the throne, Sophokles’s Antigone was performed in a new translation and with Felix Mendelssohn’s incidental music before invited guests at the neues palais in Potsdam and was unexpectedly successful. The Prussian king, who had assembled
a number of important artists and scholars around himself and commissioned the production of classical dramas following historical performing practice, initially invited Mendelssohn to take over the music class at the newly reorganized Berlin academy of the arts and to arrange performances of »great oratorios, old and new« and »true liturgical music according to Your Majesty’s desire« – an appointment in the manner
of a general music director to the court and the city, with a commitment to church music.

Mendelssohn responded to the idea with a good deal of scepticism – not unjustifiably, as it turned
out: »here we again see the Berlin tendency towards hybrids; the great plans but tiny realization; great demands but tiny results; perfect reviewers but miserable musicians; liberal ideas but court employees without work; the museum and the academy and the sand! i doubt my stay there will be longer than a year«, he confided to his old friend Carl Klingemann in the summer of 1841.

Mendelssohn’s Berlin intermezzo did indeed last little more than a year, after which he devoted himself with renewed energy to his tasks at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig and to his many other concert activities, none of which he had given up in the meantime. During his stay in Berlin, however, the king had placed another demand on him, this time to deliver incidental music for his ambitious court stage projects, the first of these being the Antigone music MDR KLASSIK vol. 2.
Mendelssohn declined to collaborate on the second project, euripides’s Medea, and Wilhelm Taubert, the »royal director of composition«, had to substitute for him. The same happened for the ensuing production of Aeschylus’s Eumenides. In the end, however, Mendelssohn wrote four incidental works for the Royal Prussian theatrical initiative, the last of them being Oedipus at Colonus, again by Sophocles.
The incidental works he had composed earlier are those for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Jean-Baptiste Racine’s Athalia MDR KLASSIK vol. 1. contrary to Mendelssohn’s prediction, Friedrich Wilhelm IV was far from »finished with Greek culture«, and the premiere of the last incidental music to a tragedy took place in november 1845, again in Potsdam, but this time with considerably less success than the Antigone production, although the press rated the music »still more highly than the compositions of the same master for Antigone«.
In the »drama of reconciliation« Oedipus at Colonus, Mendelssohn had again exploited his extraordinary command of language, culture and ancient history to accurately reflect the classical metres of the Greek drama in the music. In his composition he again adopted sophocles’s structure of strophe and antistrophe by giving the chorus songs to two four-part men’s choirs, which enabled him to employ compositional techniques ranging from unison and polyphonic and sometimes canonic antiphonal singing to powerful eight-part homophony. Compared with Antigone, the later work has a structure of scenes that gives it appreciably more recitativic and melodramatic passages, more variety in its music and greater diversity in its transitions. In the penultimate musical number, the last self-contained choral song which begins with a solo quartet, the delicate instrumentation and unusual harmony create a particularly tenebrous impression that stands out and seems alien to its surroundings. In his efforts to bridge the gap between ancient and modern, the composer had taken a step forward: »what we admire in the composition above all is that although it uses familiar instruments and voices, it sounds as if it comes from a distant, unknown time«, as Mendelssohn’s friend the historian Johann Gustav Droysen later noted. In terms of quality, Mendelssohn’s incidental works stand out in his own oeuvre and from those of his contemporaries, so that the unanimous view of reviewers was:
»German music has been enriched by a new genre.«

  Thomas Frenzel
© Texte from Booklet



Plot “Oedipus at Colonus”

download_pdf_buttonSophocles’s Tragedy

Text adapted by Gerhard Löbling



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 Fotoimpressionen zur “Oedipus”-Aufführung

© Fotos von Christiane Höhne aus dem CD-Booklet

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Die Urkunde der Musikzeitschrift “Pizzicato” für das hauseigene MDR-Label MDR KLASSIK



»Mit einem regelrechten Paukenschlag betritt der MDR den CD-Markt«,
schreibt die in Luxemburg publizierte und international renommierte Musikzeitschrift »Pizzicato” in ihrer Novemberausgabe 2012:
»Jun Märkl und seine MDR-Ensembles sind unbestreitbar hervorragende Sachverwalter des Mendelssohnschen Erbes.«

Kurz nach ihrer Veröffentlichung wurden die CD-Einspielungen unter die zehn besten Neuerscheinungen gesetzt (Pizzicato’s Supersonic Awards).



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