The much-awaited premiere of Jonathan Harvey’s momentous work, Weltethos, took place on 13th October 2011 in Berlin. The grand forces of the Berlin Philharmonic, Berlin Radio Choir (plus children’s choir), under the expert batons of Sir Simon Rattle and Simon Halsey, proved once again that Harvey’s is a truly unique and visionary compositional voice.
The performance is still available to watch as part of the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert, with an extra introduction video featuring Simon Halsey.
'Jonathan Harvey is regarded as one of the most European of British composers, a ‘Modern Schoenberg’ who has studied electronic music at IRCAM in Paris, who has a firm grounding in the music of Stockhausen and the spirituality of Rudolf Steiner – and who understands the sounds of non-European music. All this has a positive effect on his score. The music is transparent, and this makes it well disposed towards the simplicity of the texts, using fine chamber music effects and precise tone contours...'
Süddeutsche Zeitung (Wolfgang Schreiber), 15 October 2011
'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. It was an enormous pleasure for the Berlin Radio Choir to come together with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, and give a committed premiere of this unique and deeply imaginative work.'
Simon Halsey, Chief Conductor, Berlin Radio Choir
'The world premiere performances of Jonathan Harvey's Weltethos were enthusiastically received by a packed Philharmonie, and reached a much larger audience worldwide through the Berliner Philharmoniker's Digital Concert Hall. Responding to an unusual commission from the Global Ethic Foundation for a piece celebrating great religions of the world – Confucianism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity – Harvey chose and combined timbres from the large orchestra and adult and children's choirs to characteristically memorable effect, finding distinctive and often delicate sound-worlds that communicated the essence of each of the religions in an entirely fresh, uncliched way. A still greater achievement, however, was the subtlety which the piece's structural design pointed out and reinforced the links between the religions concerned. Though Weltethos is Mahlerian in its scope and its command of dramatic gesture – and particularly in its use of the children's choir, who sing movingly of the need for faith in the future – it is a piece that no other composer than Harvey could have written: it tells of his own unique spiritual odyssey in musical language refined to the utmost clarity.'
Dr Michael Downes, author of ‘Jonathan Harvey: Song Offerings and White as Jasmine’