Bravo Cura

Celebrating José Cura--Singer, Conductor, Director

 

 

Prague Artist in Residence

 

Ecce Homo

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José Cura Program Notes:
Ecce Homo

I wrote Ecce Homo in 1989 for a tenor colleague of mine from Buenos Aires. The piece never premiered as my colleague and I, both youthful dreamers then, and without any power to turn our projects into reality, didn’t manage to gather the necessary elements that were needed for its making. Years passed and my artistic career headed in different directions. Ecce Homo, just like many other of my pieces, remained relegated to the back of a drawer. In 2016, I rediscovered it and realised, with joy —and pride— that, instead of having spent all these years simply gathering dust, the piece had matured, much like a good wine. Undoubtedly, a lot has to do with how I spent the last 30 years maturing as a man, and as an artist, something which has allowed me to revise the oratorio with an authority which would have been unthinkable in 1989.

Ecce Homo isn’t original; there are many compositions based on the last moments of the life of Jesus Christ, some of them legendary and unreachable; but it is original in its use of certain sections of the Bible, such as the Psalms, or the Stabat Mater —and of the initial poetry, There was once a king, written by myself in 1982— combined with the “theatrical” action of Christ’s Passion. The musical and dramatic layout of Ecce Homo combines the religious introspection of the masses —and their pagan irreverence— with the interventions of a Christ who is earthly tangible, who alternates between a mystical depth, corresponding to his divinity, and the visceral nature of his attacks of desperation, more akin to his human condition. In this sense, the moments which are especially moving for me are those three in which we witness a devastating sincerity: Jesus’ plight for help in Getsemahne reflected in Psalm 6 “Father, where art thou? Save me!”, his desperate cry in Golgotha “O Lord, why hast thou forsaken me?”, and the Antiphon, interspersed in the Stabat Mater, in which the Virgin Mary, watching her son dying, asks: “Tell me, is there a greater pain than this?”

I chose not to fall into the triumphalist rhetoric of writing a great Hosanna in order to express the music of the Resurrection. I preferred reflecting the “Easter of Easters”, the cornerstone of the catholic faith, from the subtle and unexpected change of the darkness of the verses “Quando corpus morietur”, to the luminous and inspiring harmony of the words “Paradisi Gloria”, sung by children’s choir at the end of the piece, before the Amen.

José Cura

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on photo to watch José Cura discuss his Ecce Homo....

 

Review

Note:  This is a machine-based translation.  We offer it only a a general guide but it should not be considered definitive.

Recenze: Curovo oratorium v premiéře zaujalo

 

Novinsky

Vladimír Říha

10 March 2017

[Excerpt]

The Argentine singer, conductor and composer José Cura has selected Prague as the site of the world premiere of his oratorio Ecce Homo.  It’s not so surprising since Cura is this season’s artist in residence with the Symphony Orchestra, plus the Prague audience has adored him since his first singing concerts here years ago.

On Wednesday and Thursday the [audience] in the sold-out Smetana Hall in the Municipal House witnessed two evenings where Cura excelled in all areas of his activity.  Not only in the first half of the program when he conducted the Prague Symphony but also in the second half with his oratorio when he stepped out with the other soloists, two choirs and the recorded voice of a reciter (Alfred Strejček).   The complement was really huge so even the conductor of the oratorio—Mario de Rose, an Argentine colleague of Cura, known in our country from his work in České Budějovice—had to conduct from an attached part of the stage.

Cura has said that he wrote the oratorio as a teenager in 1989 but that it had remained in a drawer because he was focused on his singing career.  Now approaching Easter, when the theme of the Passion of Christ is again being musically illustrated with famous works from the past, the new take by Cura will certainly take a place of honor among them.  Cura focuses on the last moments before the crucifixion of Christ and his death, but instead of the traditional glorification he uses these moments to reveal the human Jesus Christ.  The composer himself masterfully assumed the role of Christ….

Overall, Cura musical language was traditional and understandable, using a knowledge of Gregorian chant, a lot of percussion instruments, some of which were placed in the balcony, so that the idea of crying and pain was perfect.  The lyrics come mainly from the Psalms and the Stabat Mater. 

Cura succeeded to musically realize Ecce Homo within the short time allotted [for rehearsal]and all the participants worked on it as best they could.  The audience response was tremendous and especially for Cura who, as the composer, earned a double standing ovation.

For the first half the evening, Conductor Cura selected two lesser known works—the intimate Gymnopédie by Frenchman Erik Satie with orchestration of Debussy and especially the impressive Church Windows from the Italian Ottorino Respighi.

 

Performance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Press

 

 

 

 

 

Note:  This is a machine-based translation.

José Cura uses language with precision and purpose;  the computer does not.  

We offer it only a a general guide to the conversation and the ideas exchanged but the following should not be considered definitive.

 

 

 

Cura: Kristův příběh vyprávím drsně, byl tehdy považován za zločince

 

iDNES

Vera Drápelová

March 8, 2017

[Excerpts]

 

The Argentinian José Cura, one of the most famous tenors of today, is a frequent guest of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, City of Prague FOK.  He has the status of resident artist and because he is not only a singer but a composer and conductor, he is represented in each of these roles.

Wednesday and Thursday he will perform with this orchestra in the Municipal House his oratorio Ecce Homo, which he composed in 1989 but which is only now having its world premiere.

“In 1985 I was in the chorus of the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and performed in Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion.  I was literally in shock, stunned.  I later conducted this work myself and Bach settled deep in my head.  I decided to pass on a Biblical story of my own but I shifted to a more dramatic composition in a harsher world.  After all, two thousand years ago Christ was considered a criminal.”

The title role of Christ, which he now sings himself, was originally intended for his friend.  But everything is made more complicated by the fact that he prescribed three other solo parts, a large orchestra and both an adult and children’s choir.  “We were excited but young.  That was when I was not yet a professional singer and of course my life then changed and the oratorio remained in a drawer,” he explains.   This piece will be conducted by Mario de Rose, then Cura will seize the baton for the next part of the program, which offers Church Windows by Ottorino Respighi and Gymnopédii by Erik Satie in the orchestration of Claude Debussy.

Writes his First Opera

Cura arrived in Prague shortly after his performances in the French version of Wagner’s Tannhäuser, presented by the Opera Monte Carlo.  “The feedback from Germany was a surprise, the Germans guard their Wagner and his heroic tenors, and this is a different way to do Wagner.  Now they all say let us teach him the role in the original [language] but by the time I master German, I will be sixty,” laughs the performer who refuses to sing in a language which he does not speak.  The exception was for Dvorak’s Love Songs, which he recorded on CD [and which is now available on iTunes]. 

In addition to singing, he still composes.  “Currently I am working on my first opera.  It will be buffa, but again, not so much.  I will reveal more.  So far, I am writing it just for myself but perhaps it will be performed,” he hopes.

 

 

 

 

   

Rehearsal

 

 

 

Click on the image above to watch an amazing short video!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on the above photo to watch a rehearsal snippet from Czech Republic....

 

 

Click on the above photo to watch an interview snippet from Czech Republic....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note:  This is a machine-based translation.

José Cura uses language with precision and purpose;  the computer does not.  

We offer it only a a general guide to the conversation and the ideas exchanged but the following should not be considered definitive.

 

 

José Cura will sing Christ in his own oratorio Ecce Homo in Prague

Harmonie

Editors

28 February 2017

[Excerpts]

The Prague Symphony Orchestra subscription concerts on 8 and 9 March will be building on cooperation with its residential artist José Cura.  On the stage of the Smetana Hall in the Municipal House Cura will perform during the concert as a singer, a conductor, and a composer.  In the world premiere of his oratorio Ecce Homo, he will sing the central role of Christ and then will conduct the rest of the program, which includes Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie and Ottorino Respighi’s Church Windows.

“Ecce Homo is nothing unusual—there are many pieces based on the theme of the last moments of Jesus Christ, some of them are legendary and unattainable.  It is, however, an original composition in how it uses some parts of the Bible, such as the Psalms and Stabat Mater, which I wrote in 1982—in conjunction with a theatrical performance of the passion of Christ.  Musically and dramatically Ecce Homo combines the religious introspection of the crowds with their pagan irreverence with scenes of Christ, who expresses realistically the range between the mystical depth and physical symptoms of hopelessness matching his human existence,” said Cura.   

The baton for the oratorio will be taken by Mario de Rose, an Argentine conductor, who is the musical director of the South Bohemian Theater.  Solo parts (in addition to Cura) include four Czech singers, Lucie Silkenová, Sylva Čmugrová Ales Voráček and Jaromir Nosek.  Following past collaboration the children's choir Jitro Hradec Kralove and Prague Philharmonic Choir will join with Cura.

“Ecce Homo, or Behold the Man, is a famous scene from the life of Jesus Christ and has inspired many painters, such as Hieronymus Bosch, Caravaggio, Albrecht Dürer, Titian and James Ensor.  With each artist, it is a different concept.  In March 2017 we discover the concept chosen by José Cura, who will also assume the role of Christ, in his oratorio Ecce homo,”said the program concert dramaturge Martin Rudovský.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on the article above to listen to the interview (in Spanish)

 

 

 

Note:  This is a machine-based translation.

José Cura uses language with precision and purpose;  the computer does not.  

We offer it only a a general guide to the conversation and the ideas exchanged but the following should not be considered definitive.

 

 

José Cura Premieres in Prague 'Ecce Homo', a Wonderfully Human Oratory

Radio Prague

Freddy Valverde

14 March 2017

[Excerpts]

 The Argentine composer, director and tenor José Cura will offer the world premiere of his oratorio Ecce Homo next Wednesday in Prague.  The multifaceted artist spoke in advance to Radio Prague of the keys to this work, his relationship with the Czech Republic, and the challenges facing humanity.

Cura maintains a close relationship with the country.  From his first concert with the Symphony Orchestra of Prague (FOK) 15 years ago, the link has remained, grown and strengthened.  One example of this, for example, comes next Wednesday in the Municipal House of Prague with the world premiere of his oratorio Ecce Homo.

“The relationship I have as a resident artist of the Orchestra (FOK) implies that among other things in our agreement, an annual debut of one of my works.  Last year, I presented the Magnificat and this year Ecce Homo, which is a bigger, more important work.  Magnificat is 12 or 13 minutes long, while Ecce Homo is an oratorio, not yet debuted but with the estimated duration that will be around 35 or 40 minutes.”

The theme chosen for this oratory has always fascinated Cura, he revealed.

“The work was born from a curiosity of mine.  Sometimes I have these discussions with my group, with my wife, the neighborhood priest…and it is the “human” factor in the relationship with the divine.  One of the things that has always touched me, which has attracted my attention the most, from the life of Christ and his last hours is the human dimension of the Christ who on the Mount of Olives says, “Father, take this away from me.” And that would be completely normal in any neighbor’s son, because any of us would have said the same thing:  I do not want to be beaten.  It is something surprisingly and wonderfully human applied to a being whom we believe to be the son of God.”

Cura’s Ecce Homo oratorio was kept in a drawer for many years.  He was in the process of maturing, as indicated by the composer.  The first version was written in his twenties, revised with a magnifying glass and now premiers in Prague.

“If there is a single novelty in Ecce Homo, it is to have inserted two themes that musically, not theologically, are usually separated.  It is the passion on the one hand and the Stabat Mater on the other.  That is, it is the pain of the child on the one hand and the pain of the mother on the other, putting them together in the same work.”

 José Cura and Antonín Dvorák, a surprise to come

The good chemistry that exists between José Cura and the Czech Republic has manifested itself in many occasions and in different ways.  In addition to the world premiere of his oratorio Ecce Homo, he has a surprise for his Czech fans.

“We have just signed a distribution agreement with iTune and will soon be releasing some songs from Dvořák that I recorded about 15 years ago and that never went out to the public, because they were a private collection, so these songs will come out shortly on iTunes.  And by following my (web) pages people will know [when it happens].  It comes up because it is the first and last time in my life that I sang in Czech, and I still remember my struggle to do justice to that beautiful music in a completely foreign language.  I remember a moment in which I told the person who was assisting me with the language: see, in this word I have to sing four notes and there are only two vowels, or I lack something or I have something left over.  Because the rest are all consonants, and no Latin can sing a consonant.  Well, the answer was very simple: sing the consonants and walks.”

Changed the piano for rugby

José Cura’s walk for what he calls this beautiful madness began at an early age with the most diverse nuances.  Originally, he was inclined toward sport, which in the end represented an important contribution to his artistic career.

"When I was 7 or 8 years old my father told me to study piano.  At that time we had to study piano, we are talking about the 60's, coming to the 70's, my father played the piano as the son of a good middle-class family at the time.  That gave it cache.  And after a few days, a few lessons, the teacher sent me back home with a note that said: Josecito is not interested in music, find him another hobby.  And it was then that I started playing rugby, you see the connection of ideas, which had nothing to do.  They were fundamental to the way I faced my career as a man of the stage.  At that time it was a novelty: the athletic man who sang opera was a rare animal.”

The concerns of the Argentine artist are numerous.  There is nothing that happens to humans to which he is indifferent.

“Humans, to begin with, are all unique, what happens is that now--it has always been like this--more than ever we are so stunned by overcrowding, by globalization and all these horrendous '-tions' that are destroying the identity of the people. Now everyone dresses the same, eats the same, listens to the same music, smells the same, walks the same.  This is good?  No. Is this bad?  No.  It is a pity.  Point!  Is a pity, because it is impoverishing us as a genre, as individuals."

We all have the gifts of God

The positive energy that Cura brings to the stage fully corresponds with his creed of life, with his total commitment to art as a vehicle of communication.

"I have a theory that I have already stated several times.  And I think for those who understand me, it is the explanation of everything.  I believe that all of us have been blessed with certain gifts, no more or less.  I think really all of us have the same amount but what happens is that not all of us have the same ability to discover them.  If you have luck or if you have misfortune, or if you are an introvert, discover what you are capable of and then you have two choices in life:  hide them or show all you can do.  If you hide them, then you have to deal with God who will ask you after all I gave you, what did you did with it?  If you do not hide (the gifts) the sticks will come from your fellow men.  I think that the clubs will be there anyway so it will be better to come from your fellow men, because those of God hurt more."

If you enjoy it, do not be shy, cry scream and kick

The passion, the delivery of Cura for opera and classical music was crowned in Prague, where he told us he received one of his greatest compliments.

“People don’t care if opera costs five euros or ten.  If what you are going to see on stage really excites you, you will pay ten or even twenty.  The problem is not that, the problem is what is put on the stage.  One of the most beautiful compliments I have received as a conductor came from Prague a few months ago on the occasion of my last concert.  Someone wrote on social media. "Seeing Cura on the stage with the Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK) reminded me of Bernstein's concerts, in which one had the absolute clear conviction that the orchestra played for him and he directed for them.  What was happening here was a love story, which we were fortunate enough to attend and observe…"

On the eternal controversy of bringing opera to the people or not, the Argentinean has a firm and direct recipe that break many of the canons imposed by some sectors of the music world.

“What is opera and classic music to people.  Going to a stage full of dirt and telling people “do not clap between movements, because this is classical music, silence,’ or if the people get excited between the allegro and the adagio, okay the same.  To bring opera to the people, let the people manifest, emote freely.  Classical concert where you can feel the people excited but don’t cry because the person next to them will think they are being corny, but why…Cry, kick, scream, get up and shout bravo.  Who cares?  No, classical music must not be interrupted….Please.”

With 40 years on the stage, the Argentine director, composer and tenor José Cura will offer once again to the Czech public his artistic talent to which he delivers body and soul.

 

 

 

Photos from Jitro Singer Parent.....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eyewitness Report - Zsuzsanna

José Cura’s superb concerts with Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK) presenting

 the world premiere of his Oratorio Ecce Homo

 

8 and 9 March 2017, Smetana Hall of Municipal House, Prague

 Report and Photos by Zsuzsanna Suba

 It was an unmissable and exciting opportunity to travel to Prague in early March to see and listen to the newer thematic concert of José Cura and Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK) which was the fifth in the row during Cura’s three-year-artistic residency with this ensemble. As usual, the program was very interesting and challenging. It consisted of rarely performed impressive orchestral pieces from Erik Satie (Gymnopédies) and Ottorino Resphigi (Church Windows) and we were honoured of being the witnesses of the world premiere of José Cura’s own composition, his oratorio “Ecce Homo”. According to the nice and informative program booklet, the listener could discover one of the common links of the composers, especially between Cura and Resphigi in applying Gregorian choral as fundamental source in their music.

This time José Cura displayed three roles of his wide artistic palette here. He conducted the first part of the concert, and then in the second half of the evening in addition to being the composer of the piece, he presented himself on the stage too as the main protagonist singer of his oratorio Ecce Homo in the tenor role of Jesus Christ. In this part of the concert, his compatriot colleague and friend, Mario De Rose – who conducted Cura’s Stabat Mater in České Budějovice in 2014 - led the performance with his baton. Continuing their cooperation with Cura, the Prague Philharmonic Choir (choirmaster: Jaroslav Brych) and the Czech Children's Choir Jitro (choirmaster: Jiří Skopal) acted in the difficult roles of the choirs. In the three other solo parts, Czech singers, Lucie Silkenová (soprano), Sylva Čmugrová (alto), Ales Voráček (tenor) and Jaromir Nosek (bass) participated.

For me the real merit and exclusivity of the concert program stood in the presentation of the world premiere of José Cura’s oratorio Ecce Homo. It’s a very impressive piece that grabbed you from the first note and didn’t let your brain and soul escape from the newer and newer musical turns and evocative passions. The dramatic power, purity and particular resonance and deepness of the distinct musical sounds and layers had enormous impact to the audience.

You wondered how the musicians of FOK, the singers of the two exceptional choirs and the soloists were able to display and delineate all the different layers of this very complex music, and produce this exceptionally strong sound and drama. They all gave a wonderful, incredible performance together. You also felt that José Cura was the only possible singer who could sing and live the centre role of Christ bringing such a powerful and sensible voice and soul for the performances. He displayed enormous vocal charisma and beauty and acted as the real central figure and focus of the oratorio. For me the whole oratorio represented a very reasonable source of music that carried the “story” well and you could discover the layers, its meanings and features throughout. Rehearsing and performing of this piece could be a real challenge, an almost impossible task but they managed to solve it brilliantly. Mario De Rose also did a perfect job on the conductor’s podium; he ensured heated implementation, support and focus while worked with the musician in this very difficult and profound work. I think this beautiful accomplishment is one of the main results of their fruitful cooperation and common thinking.

The concerts harvested huge success in both nights, but in the second night on 9th March magic happened when both the audience and the participated musicians met together in a particularly inspired mood and common wavelength during the performance. This was already reflected at the end of the first part of the concert, where the audience granted them with noisy jubilation and great enthusiasm. Then, after the last notes of Ecce Homo, people were holding their breath for a magical 15-20 seconds in producing a wonderfully elevating silence around, only then could be heard the first shy signs of the warm admiration and applause of the audience. Then it took the many inventive forms of stormy, exalted celebration with shouts of joy, bravi and frenetic applause and cheers. Soon we produced a unified standing ovation while attacking the stage with newer and newer rejoicing waves. José Cura was busy to express his thanks to his conductor, the choirs and their choirmasters and all the musicians on the stage. When he finally stepped onto the podium alone, he was moved to tears by receiving the overwhelming love and appreciation of the audience for this concert experience and especially for the special enjoyment of his Ecce Homo. It was a touching moment indeed, but this gave another fuel for our applause and standing ovation which all together lasted about almost ten minutes.

Preceding the first concert, a nice meeting was organized in the house on 8th March by FOK, a so-called pre-concert talk session with the participation of José Cura, Mario De Rose and the representatives of FOK in the persons of the choir-master (Jaroslav Brych) and program director (Martin Rudovsky). Lots of concert visitors took the time to come and listen to this gentle, serious and jovial “question and answer” meeting with the audience. José Cura’s Ecce Homo was the centre theme of the conversation. The whole event had a very nice atmosphere which was soon directed by Cura’s passionate, bright and modest words. Of course he ensured our entertainment through his impassioned explanations about his work, music and artistic approaches spiced with his kind spontaneity and sparkling humour. He expressed his joy and great astonishment that his oratorio - which was written many years ago in 1989 when he was very young and a “romantic” dreamer – would be finally performed in the concert hall with this orchestra and choirs. Then he joked with his recent age reminding us to his “white” hair and beard in connection of his credibility and recognition as being the “old Maestro” now, and started to introduce his work to the audience gently.

I know this couldn’t be an easy task, but it was a unique opportunity and soon you felt, the more you heard, the more you wished to know about it.  Thinking in a broader sense, he explained that he had his own language in his music which was very difficult to achieve after those many giant composers we had. You can’t be original 100% considering, that after J. S. Bach everything had been written. Through his music we can hear his personality which is very important. His music is polyphonic in a lot of extent. He also expressed that probably musicians were closer to God; it was not surprising that all the works of Bach were dedicated to God.

Then the choirmaster of FOK talked about the difficulty of the process of rehearsing this entirely new piece. The choir was thrilled and honoured dealing with this dramatic composition, its rich and powerful feelings, but they really had to find their way to the music at the beginning. So they choose to start working with the choir first. This was a key element for them for this interesting piece and this part of the music also reflected the fact that the composer had also the singer in his mind. They also hoped that the choir would be able to follow Cura, who gave very powerful performance as a singer too on the stage. The conductor Mario De Rose told us that this was one of the most difficult works he conducted so far technically. Unavoidable he got involved in the music emotionally due to its deepness, dramatic power and spirituality, so it was difficult to remain cold in leading the orchestra.

Then José Cura kindly shared more information with us about his piece which was a very useful and expressive introduction indeed from the first source. He talked about special instruments and orchestration, the different musical layers and sequences of his dramatic “storytelling”, and the real meaning of “Amen”, the word and mood with which the work was finished. “The orchestration of the piece is done in several layers, from which the top layer is the most important psychologically. The voice of God, in the “imagination” of the voice of God, is always the founder, you feel the big tamburo, the Japanese odaiko, which is not seen on the stage, it’s up on the balcony. On the stage something happens, which is needed to comment by God. In the beginning, the voice of kids is heard from the backstage, the voice of angels, who sing to God, then humans take the melodies and use it during the piece. We can hear other instruments like the one which is used like a hammer when the judge tries to maintain the order during the trial. Crucify him!-shouts the choir, the small drum is heard from backstage – military march – execution is going to happen. On the top of the tamburo, the orchestra and choir develop a fugue, then “Salute the King of Jews!” – is shouted, it’s a mockery! At the middle of the choir “chsss” is heard, this is the sound of the whip. On the whole, all this layers are included in the piece. It’s an oratorio but it has a very operatic “flair”. It’s very important to follow the text while listening to the music. Everything is connected to the words. At the end, the voice of God – Amen – flies away in the air and the piece is finished. It’s a very symbolic, semiotic moment.”

Cura also praised both choirs. According to the children’s choir Jitro, he told us, that he wasn’t aware that such a choir in that quality existed close to Prague. He met and worked with them for the first time on the occasion of the concert performances of his Magnificat last year. According to his opinion, this is one of the best children choirs of the world, and Czech people should be proud of them. The same is true for the Prague Philharmonic Choir. They are very accurate producing absolute perfect, subtle sound due to the reflection and preparation of the singers.

Finally, it is worth quoting José Cura’s words about his Ecce Homo that you could read in the program booklet before the concert: “…The musical and dramatic layout of Ecce Homo combines the religious introspection of the masses —and their pagan irreverence— with the interventions of a Christ who is earthly tangible, who alternates between a mystical depth, corresponding to his divinity, and the visceral nature of his attacks of desperation, more akin to his human condition. In this sense, the moments which are especially moving for me are those three in which we witness a devastating sincerity: Jesus’ plight for help in Getsemahne reflected in Psalm 6 “Father, where art thou? Save me!”, his desperate cry in Golgotha “O Lord, why hast thou forsaken me?”, and the Antiphon, interspersed in the Stabat Mater, in which the Virgin Mary, watching her son dying, asks: “Tell me, is there a greater pain than this?”

Cura also revealed in an interview he gave to Radio Prague that “If there is a single novelty in Ecce Homo, it is to have inserted two themes that musically, not theologically, are usually separated.  It is the passion on the one hand and the Stabat Mater on the other.  That is, it is the pain of the child on the one hand and the pain of the mother on the other, putting them together in the same work.”

Let’s give some more details about the concert of the second night which I guess will remain in our memory for a while. The first part of the concert had a splendid impressionistic flavour which fitted very well for the style of FOK and the conductor José Cura. He conducted the first symphonic work, Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies, its two short pieces (orchestrated by Claude Debussy) without a baton using his hands only to caress our soul with this gentle music. It was an unknown work for me and a great delight to listen to, a good introduction to the peculiarity of the evening’s musical word. The central theme carried a haunting melody which varied in the orchestration using different instruments led by the warm flute and harp.

Then the program continued with a longer piece, Ottorino Resphigi’s Church Windows (four impressions for orchestra) and Cura used his baton now on the podium. At the first notes, you had the impression that Satie’s music continued, but soon you’ve got a greater span of playful melodies together with the dynamism and light-heartedness of the strings in opening part (The Flight to Egypt). The second part (Saint Michael Archangel) had a very exciting and talkative language and orchestration with lots of explosive moments and rushes; it really pictured the phases of the fearful battle with the dragon using abundant, dangerously dark and also gleaming musical characterization and colours. You travelled together with the brilliant performance of the orchestra without any rest. The musicians played the music with great stamina “competing” with Cura who used his full body and soul to drive the musician with ever-growing passion and energy. The third part (The Matins of Saint Clair) had a distinctive melancholic and warm, almost fragile character through the appearance of light instruments and the power of bells and choral chant. The last part (Saint Gregory the Great) continued with dark and heavy colours and the music carried feverish passages of great heart and soul emphasising the power of choral and the unified colours of winds, organ and brasses. The final climax of this concluding part was enthusiastically drawn by our conductor again. When you thought they couldn’t play it with more power, Cura took newer swings with the baton while also stopping the movement of his body in the last moments expressing the extent of strength, vitality and splendor he wanted to achieve and the musicians wonderfully materialized this. Thus not only the final, stormy movement of the orchestra indicated the highpoint of the piece and resounded in our brain for a while, but Cura’s body was also resonated by the music through the transmitted impulses. Taking away the delivered spirit from the musicians, great, heated cheer greeted them for the whole, fantastic performance by the ardent audience.

The second part of the concert featured José Cura’s Ecce Homo in the form of an oratorio. It was a real curiosity for the orchestra and singers to perform and also for the audience to meet with this extremely strong and dramatic music where the contribution of the orchestra and human voices was particularly handled. Listening to Ecce homo, it was very interesting to experience how the meanings of Cura’s thoughts were realized in the music as a whole and also in the details. In the reading text and musical words of Christ, he delineated his fear, bitterness, pain, suffering and also his forgiveness toward his Farther and the people in a veritable, passionate and extremely dramatic way while he interacted with a merciless, mocker crowd who wanted to see the wonder of his rescuing by God or his death. It was also important for Cura to show the feelings of the Mother after his Son’s death as the part of this oratorio giving also a reference to the resurrection at the end.

Thanks to the content of the chosen texts from the Psalms and Stabat Mater, its musical and dramatic expressiveness, the delineated feelings, colors and orchestration solutions, the interaction of human voices and the versatile usage of musical instruments, the presented music displayed more and co-existing, exciting layers indeed. All these features acted together very effectively and created incredible tenseness and deepness in the drama and emotions. It also showed an exceptional quality in the resonances of the sounds and performance of the music in its purity and still harmonic guidance creating also a constant doubt and answer in the listener’s soul that how this event could really happen at all. When you listened to this music at the first time, it was hard to believe that it took 35 minutes long, because it engaged your attention so deeply, that you felt the time passing really fast.

The oratorio started with a short, bitter but movingly true verse (“There was once a king”, written by Cura in 1982) which was heard in the performance of an actor (in Czech language) from the speakers placed on the two sides of the stage. This already created a touching and sublime atmosphere in the hall which was doubled and amplified by the enormous power and influence of the music produced by the orchestra, choirs and the soloists.

From the very first notes of the orchestra and choirs you were forced to follow and absorb the notes not to miss any features of the sonority of the sounds, its impressive polyphony and little musical events which always had theatrical meanings and carried a kind of cinematic projection too. I must mention that beside of the quality of Cura’s densely woven, intense and emotionally charged music, the other key factors of the thrilling dramatic impact of the whole oratorio laid in the incredible quality of the performance from all the participants. José Cura gave an extra charge and leading force for the drama singing and incarnating the role of Jesus Christ with exceptional empathy, passion and vocal beauty. Just imagine how easily and dominantly his strong voice and velvety soft and tender timbre could fly over the huge resources of the orchestra and choirs while all the real feelings of the center hero appeared and stood in front of us in touchingly genuine screens through his questions, cries, tears and pleas.

Similarly astonishing and amazing experience we had seeing and hearing the beautiful fulfilment of the very concentrated, whole-heartedly devoted and prepared FOK orchestra including all the instrumental sessions. Both the two choirs showed us their unique qualities, their key contribution gleamed as a jewel through the music and the performance. The three other soloists also offered nice and touching appearances in their respective roles. The whole ensemble all together gathered more than 120 musicians on the stage and was able to show a very organic and integrated rendition of the piece. On the conductors’ podium Mario de Rose represented a unifying and cohesive force and link based on his understanding, confidence and tenderness for the music and musicians during the performance of this very difficult and wonderful piece.

Some text of the Stabat Mater and the symphonic sound of orchestra bring a frame to the work. Especially in the beginning of the piece, the orchestra painted darker and darker shades to depict the extremely ominous environment. It indicated the forthcoming danger surrounding Christ and his betrayal colored by the serious mood of the bell and drum. The jointly echoed, intensified and restless sound of the choirs (“Quando corpus morietur…”) and drums introduced Christ’s desperate, weeping words talking about his questions, pains and fears. In his first speaking José Cura’s Christ recited a text and sang the tenor solo very movingly showing completely naked and honest, genuine human feelings in his voice. Fortunately the children’s’ choir intervened as a caressing hand for the soul together with the developing gentle melody of the mixed choir, but you soon were awakened by the beats of the big drum too.

Then the vocal lines of Christ changed into a slowly developed, monotone but emotional recital as he predicted the forthcoming events accompanied by the orchestra and choirs weaving the other threads of the music. During the newer, heated climax we were led through the tragic trial and event, where the different reactions and shouts of the crowd appeared in a turbulent musical sequence (“Crucify him!”...) It carried taunting, accusing words and violence which were displayed in many musical forms including the cold, fearful beatings of the Japanese  “odaiko” among the drums during the accelerated rhythm and screaming of the music. We were also shocked by hearing Christ’s heartbreakingly realistic, painful cries and weeping words in more attempts to ask for pity in order to stop this merciless violence (“Elí!!...”) . Then after the irreversible conclusion of the big drum, the music changed and developed a beautifully gentle and relaxed melodic line by the trumpet and the voice of the choirs and soloists leading to a newer embittered begging and outburst of Christ and the music. The text of Stabat Mater and the powerful sounds of the different vocals prevailed for a while, and then another beautiful musical line succeeded in the form of the alto and later by the soprano solos with the purity of a Gregorian chant. The mourning of the Mother was accompanied by the many running vocal layers of the voices. Christ’s words calmed down but everything was in a whirling motion and relied on the deeper musical layers of the orchestra.

The conclusion of the piece was very effective, darkly surging, peacefully harmonic and confidently joyous at the same time. After the last peaceful signing line and breath of Christ the repetition of the unrestful theme (“Quando corpus morietur”) was heard and then it transformed into a mellowed, wonderfully transparent, almost glassy resonance of the voices together with the accompanied gentle bell and organ (“Fac ut animae donetur, Paradisi Gloria”). The final chords were owned by the orchestra where the strong polyphonic turmoil of the different musical phrases was followed by a long-lasting and ethereal “Amen” of the choirs.

After the end of the oratorio huge celebration started in the hall and resulted in a glorious standing ovation which well expressed our gratitude for the beautiful enjoyment. After almost ten minutes of jubilation we could continue it but our Maestro nicely wave goodbye to us.  He knew that he still had other tasks in his pocket taking his farewell of the musicians and also fulfilling an autograph session with the audience in the foyer. We had the extra bonus to meet with José Cura and Mario De Rose there in order to gain a signed program booklet and also enjoy a little chat with them. It’s nice to know that other compositions of José Cura and further interesting symphonic programs will be performed by FOK under his baton according to the planned programs of their prosperous cooperation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Last Updated:  Friday, April 28, 2017  © Copyright: Kira