Beethoven’s only oratorio, Christ on the Mount of Olives (Christus Am Ölberge) hails from 1803 and delves into the mind of Jesus as he contemplates and ultimately accepts his passion. Such introspective melancholy finds resonance in Beethoven’s personal life, a year after poignantly revealing his struggle with deafness in the now famous Heiligenstadt Testament. The work also paved the way towards the dramatic vocal writing in Fidelio .

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After receiving a lukewarm reception, the oratorio fell into obscurity, apart from the final, so-called ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ – the word ‘Hallelujah’ only appearing in the English translation – which became a favourite with Anglophone choirs in the 19th century. The questionable literary merits of the original German libretto by Franz Xaver Huber, which Beethoven...

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