Death of Light, Light of Death


chamber ensemble of 5 players after Grunewald's Crucifixion in the Issenheim Altarpiece
Mixed Chamber Ensemble
ob(=ca) - harp(=tam-t) - vln.vla.vlc
Commissioned by the Mayor of Colmar for the annual Good Friday Concert, 1998, held in the Musee d'Uterlinden before Grunewald's Altarpiece
First Performance
10.4.98, Musee d'Unterlinden, Colmar, France: Ensemble Intercontemporain

Score and parts for hire

Programme Notes
Jonathan Harvey - DEATH OF LIGHT/LIGHT OF DEATH After Grunewald's 'Crucifixion' in the Issenheim Altarpiece 1 JESUS CRUCIFIED (the body on the cross bearing gruesome scars of terrible physical torture) 2 MARY MAGDALENE (kneeling, leaning back to look wildly, passionately up at Jesus, hands imploring) 3 MARY, MOTHER OF JESUS (pale, in a deathly faint, wiped out) 4 JOHN THE APOSTLE (holding the senseless body of Mary, weeping hopelessly) 5 JOHN THE BAPTIST (by contrast completely impassive, grave, seeing another world, yet, from the other side of the picture, pointing at its subject, Jesus) Each of the five figures in Grunewald's painting are in turn commented on by the music. The unflinching sense of catastrophe that hangs over this picture has given it a special appeal to the sensibilities of our own time. Perhaps no crucifixion ever seemed quite so devastating, the Light has gone out. Yet on the opposite side of the cross to the bereaved mourners appears John the Baptist, a figure from the dead. He shows that, despite all appearances, the gospels will be written - he holds them in his hand - and therefore he points to Jesus' death as a way of hope. In death itself the ultimate meaning can be prophetically found by those who have eyes to see - a message for all religions and all beliefs and no beliefs. This work was commissioned by the Mayor of Colmar to be performed in the annual Good Friday concert of 1998 held before Grunewald's Altarpiece in the Musee d'Unterlinden. Jonathan Harvey

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