6 March 1820 was a momentous day, not only for the city of Leipzig, but also for composer Friedrich Schneider (1786-1853). Indeed, today this German composer has long fallen by the wayside, and hardly anyone knows he ever existed. So what was all the fuss about on that March day?
Well, firstly Schneider was, back then, one of the most revered musicians of the day. His fame as composer, teacher and performer was almost unrivalled, and his every new piece created great excitement. During his lifetime he was the recipient of many prestigious positions, and he also had the unique privilege of giving the world premiere of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto (Piano Concerto No 5) in the Gewandhaus on 28 November 1811.
By the time he began work on Das Weltgericht (The Last Judgement), Schneider was one of the most influential and significant figures on Leipzig's musical scene. Indeed, the piece would go on to win him nationwide and even international recognition. But in music, not every composer is able to keep his name alive after death, and most tragically, Schneider's fame dissipated into thin air almost immediately after his demise in 1853.
But back to 6 March 1820 ... It was the day many had been waiting for, to hear the premiere of Das Weltgericht. And what a premiere. The oratorio was rehearsed to perfection with the utmost conviction, so that the evening was a glorious occasion to be remembered for posterity. The multitude of listeners could not be accommodated in the Great Gewandhaus Auditorium, and had to seek alternative space in antechambers and adjoining rooms. A gigantic ensemble had been assembled, so that the number of participating musicians, choristers and soloists ran into the hundreds. Does Mahler's Eighth ring a bell? The premiere was a staggering success, and the oratorio was the most performed piece of its genre until Mendelssohn's Paulus came along. No mean feat for a composer who has been silent for the last 165 years. The libretto, in three parts: Death, The Resurrection and The Judgement, is the work of Johann August Apel, and thrives on the juxtaposition of Heaven and Hell, of Good and Evil, with Man standing at the centre of this eternal struggle. The final Redemption is brought about by an unshakeable faith in God and His Love manifested in Christ's Death and Resurrection.
Listen — Friedrich Schneider: Halleluja!
(Das Weltgericht Part I)
(CD1 track 10, 0:00-0:54) © 2019 Deutschlandradio :
The score is absolutely exhilarating, full of stirring choruses, arias and duets and the orchestration is a marvel of melodic invention that adds an almost eternal sense of beauty to a work that hovers between the mystic and mundane with unerring ease.
Listen — Friedrich Schneider: Leicht ist das Grab dem Frommen
(Das Weltgericht Part II)
(CD1 track 16, 0:09-1:08) © 2019 Deutschlandradio :
Gregor Meyer keeps the drama moving briskly, and his forces respond brilliantly to the kaleidoscopic sequence of emotions coursing through the three sections.
Listen — Friedrich Schneider: Dein Blut, mein Sohn, mein Gott!
(Das Weltgericht Part III)
(CD2 track 14, 1:38-2:36) © 2019 Deutschlandradio :
This is indeed heartfelt and poignant singing. Sound, presentation and booklet notes are first-rate.
Copyright © 1 September 2019