Following its world premiere with Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle, Jonathan Harvey’s Weltethos (‘world ethics’) received its UK premiere on Thursday 21 June in no less a grand setting: the opening night of the London 2012 Festival in Birmingham with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, combined CBSO choruses and conductor Edward Gardner. The epic and visionary work for orchestra, choirs and narrator, was a commission from the theologian Hans Küng and as such, explores the shared spiritual heritage of humanity through texts from six of the world’s great religions: Confucianism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity; a fitting message for the Olympic spirit of this summer’s celebrations.
Celebrated choral conductor Simon Halsey, who led the Berlin Radio Choir in the world premiere, and who has directed the CBSO choirs for this performance explains his love of this ‘unique and deeply imaginative work’:
'The sound world that Jonathan Harvey creates in Weltethos, which evokes the six great world religions, is like visiting a wonderful art gallery. The piece is full of extraordinary colours and sound images which come together to portray aspects of peace, as seen through the eyes of different religions.’
Simon Halsey, Chief Conductor, Berlin Radio Choir and Chorus Director, City of Birmingham Symphony Choruses
After the Birmingham performance, Weltethos will reach London on 7th October when the CBSO orchestra and choirs perform the work as part of the Southbank Centre’s Ether Festival.
You can now listen again to the performance on the BBC iPlayer here.