Christmas Oratorio by JS Bach

Posted On January 4, 2007

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On January, 04, 2007 at St John’s Co-Cathedral Vocalise and St Monica Choir present Bach’s Christmas Oratorio Parts I, II and III as well as Telemann’s Concerto for Three Trumpets in D.

The concert will be held under the Distinguished Patronage of HE Dr Edward Fenech Adami, President of Malta in aid of the Augustinian Mission in Tagatay in the Philippines. The evening also marks the beginning of celebrations surrounding Germany’s Presidency of the European Union.

The Weihnachtsoratorium was written around 1734. Conceived as a set of six cantatas, it was written to be performed on separate days to celebrate the whole period of the Christmas festivities of 1734-5. The Oratorio was to start on Christmas Day, continuing on the 26th and 27th, New Year’s Day and on first Sunday after the New Year with Part VI ending on the Epiphany.

The instrumental requirements for each cantata differ quite considerably thereby indicating that Bach never intended them to be performed as one work. For this reason it is quite usual to hear performances of the Christmas Oratorio comprising only a part or parts of the whole sequence. The performances were originally divided between Bach’s two churches: Parts I, II, IV and VI were performed at the Thomaskirche and Parts III and V at the Nicolaikirche.

The first three parts of the Christmas Oratorio recount the Birth of Christ and the arrival of the shepherds, and are based on the gospels St Matthew and St Luke. It is not sure who actually wrote the text of the oratorio itself, but keeping in mind the close affinity between Picander and Bach, it is generally assumed that Picander wrote the libretto himself, possibly assisted by Bach.

In recent years St Monica Choir, with the support and sponsorships from APS Bank, worked to raise funds for the Augustinian Mission in Tagatay. This mission consists of a small convent which was transformed into an orphanage as the two Maltese sisters and Philippine nuns who live there were faced with an ever growing number of abandoned children. Their small convent became a home to many young children and a centre of education and even a clinic for many people in the area.

The nuns depend entirely on charity and on the providence of God. A couple of years back, they embarked on a project i.e. to build an extension to their home in order to be able to house more children and families in their care. Expenses to build this orphanage are very high and the sisters are making a plea towards the generosity of the Maltese people to help them in their mission.

Participating in the concert are soprano Rosabelle Bianchi, mezzo soprano Claire Massa, tenor Charles Vincenti and bass Peter Kubik, Vocalise Chamber Orchestra, leader Marcelline Agius and St Monica Choir.

Also participating in the concert are German trumpet players Udo Koene, Alfred Spliesjar and Heinz Clemens, as well as Volker Kriegsmann and Sybille Hahn who will play the Oboe D’Amore. The concert is directed by international music director Hans Jurgen Nagel.

The concert starts at 7.30pm and is open to the public. Patrons are reminded that stiletto heels are not to be worn inside St John’s Co Cathedral, Malta.