Süddeutsche Zeitung, 23.05.2020; translation by Danny Antonelli
Composer Rainer Bartesch from Pöcking has written an oratorio that adresses Greta Thunberg's climate protests
Pöcking – Rainer Bartesch has composed a new 23-minute oratorio on a burning hot topic. No, it is not about Corona, but about climate change. Global warming continues unabated without regard to the lockdown; glaciers and polar caps continue to melt. In the meantime, politicians have once again been reminded that there is another problem besides the pandemic that will have serious consequences if we do not act immediately.
In order for the issue to remain in our consciousness, the composer, who lives in Maising, wrote this new work. It now bears the new working title “Our World is on Fire”, loosely based on a phrase from the speech by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, which she gave at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Several paraphrased excerpts from this speech can be found in “An Oratorio for Our Future”, which was originally to be called a Fridays for Future Oratorio, “because she gets to the heart of the matter so well,” says Bartesch. He would have liked to quote Thunberg directly, but the schoolgirl’s words is have been signed over to publicists whose conditions are stringent and restrictive.
The composer stands behind the Fridays for Future movement. He likes to participate and to debate. What Greta Thunberg said in Davos, he can sign up to.
Saving the environment is his concern as well, which, due to the lockdown, is faced with a unique opportunity to finally get through with a well-thought-out new start. All climate activists agree that there can be no further business as usual. The debate about how to do this has long since been ignited.
But not only Thunberg's ideas are found in the libretto of the composition, which is, as Bartesch says, an “oratorio in terms of form”. It is sacred in every respect, because the words in English are contrasted with words in Italian by Francis of Assisi, from the 13th century. With the haunting “Canticle of the Sun”, the hymn of praise to creation, they bring the subject matter up to a philosophical level.
To make sure that everything makes sense thematically, librettist Danny Antonelli, a multilingual globetrotter from Trieste (Italy), added his own words, challenging consumption and economic growth from a contemporary perspective. For example:
squeeze the debtor
pump in profit
slash the losses
be the owner
be the bosses
Such a distinctive work has hardly any precursors on which Bartesch could have based his music. It was “not so easy to find a structure that is appropriate but not too pop-like,” he says of the problem of form.
The situation was made more difficult by the fact that the no-budget work was subject to certain constraints. A Munich choir, which wanted to perform Bartesch’s “Tyrolean Requiem”, asked for an additional work with the same instrumentation. That meant: two soloists, a large mixed choir, chamber music, a small wind orchestra, four percussionists and organ. A colourful line-up, from which Bartesch gets effective musical results.
The composer put an electronically generated demo version online, where it registered 160 hits after only a few hours. The current number is over 500. The work is not an avant-garde creation. Bartesch’s background in film music can be clearly heard.
He first studied French horn and then played in orchestras for four years, including the Dresden Semper Opera Orchestra under Giuseppe Sinopoli.
But as a passionate folk and jazz musician he had a second support pillar with his French horn and alphorn. Having an affinity for technology, he also built up a studio. Bartesch returned to the Hochschule für Musik, first of all to take classes for teaching at schools, and immediately seized the opportunity to join the newly established film music class. In conducting and composing, he had finally reached his goal of being able to use all his skills and interests, which he then taught for five years as a lecturer at the university.
In the meantime Bartesch can point to a large catalogue of works: He has written over a hundred film scores, including for Matthias Kiefersauer’s comedy “Falsche Siebziger” and Jens Schanze’s “La Buena Vida – Das Gute Leben”, as well as serious music for soloists, choirs and orchestras, jazz and pop songs.
Among his mots prestigious awards is the first prize in the Paradisi Gloria composition competition of the Bayerischer Rundfunk for new sacred music, which he won in 2007 with his “Magnificat in modo moventium picturarum”.
With the oratorio, Bartesch is not only concerned with the music, but also with a work “that can provide impulses”. Two Munich filmmakers have already expressed interest in creating images for the composition. Various formats are planned, for example for concerts with video feeds, for an installation in planetariums or for a virtual reality 360-degree music video that can be viewed with VR glasses.
Using special encoding, priorities can be set in such a way that the speed of the film matches the speed of the music being played live.
“Our World is on Fire” is to be premiered on 14 November this year in Munich’s Himmelfahrtskirche with a performance by the Maria Ward Choir conducted by Thomas Baron – provided the corona restrictions allow it.
Münchner Merkur, regional news, 4.8.2020
A portrait of the musician Rainer Bartesch
From St. Francis of Assisi to Greta Thunberg:
Rainer Bartesch composes an oratorio warning about climate change
© Andrea Jaksch
Rainer Bartesch from Maising in Bavaria plays 40 instruments. He has now composed a piece in which activists from Fridays for Future also have their say: an oratorio warning about climate change.
Maising, Bavaria – He loves the peace and quiet, being embedded in nature. He feels like a part of the whole, as an equal part of it. The composer and musician Rainer Bartesch has been living in Maising since 2012, in a place which is, as he says, “an intense village community.” This is where he feels comfortable with his family, this is where he is at peace deep inside himself. Especially in his garden, which offers a view over meadows and an old mill. Bartesch has completed a climate change oratorio, which will premiere in Munich on 14 November under the direction of Thomas Baron.
Our World is on Fire was created during the lockdown, because 50 of his concerts were cancelled. So he put his time and energy into a nearly half-hour work for the Maria Ward Choir from Nymphenburg. It is a dramatic work that is intended to sharpen awareness about the seriousness of the state of the world, but also to awaken hope. A boy soprano, tenor, choir and 20 instrumentalists lend a strong voice to the cause of the Fridays for Future movement and span a long arc from St. Francis of Assisi to Greta Thunberg.
Fridays for Future activists will also be singing along. The special ensemble for the oratorio is due to a second work: The Tyrolean Requiem. It was commissioned by Bartesch’s former percussion teacher Manfred Trauner, who told him that the piece should incorporate chamber music, alphorns, brass instruments and also be written for four percussionists, organ, solo tenor and boy soprano. It should sound Alpine. Yodels of praise and reverence, folk songs, the Andreas Hofer Song (the inofficial national anthem of the Tyrol) and the Marseillaise should be quoted. “A colourful tapestry”, says Bartesch with a laugh.
Bartesch has written more than 100 film scores
In November the Tyrolean Requiem will have its 13th performance. It follows the tradition of the parody mass, in which melodies known since the Renaissance are transferred into the sacred through a sacred text. The film and theatre composer, conductor, music school teacher, Mozart fan and musician, who has mastered 40 instruments, gladly accepts such challenges. He has written more than 100 film scores, conducted compositions such as Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in Africa) or Der Junge muss an die frische Luft (The Boy Needs to Go Out into the Fresh Air), and has been involved in major school projects, including at the Montessori School in Starnberg, where he worked on a world premiere with 120 primary school pupils. He has written theatre music and is proud that he discovered the talented Midas Dingemanse, winner of the Jugend musiziert prize.
Bartesch grew up in the Schongau area near a paper factory that polluted the environment with tons of sulphur dioxide. At the age of 17 he gave a three-hour lecture on the dying forest. He marched along with the protesters in Wackersdorf, photographed the symptoms of the dying trees and started studying chemistry after school to help protect the environment. Against the wishes of his parents. They saw him as a musician, but he was afraid of being put to the test on stage.
An emotional climax: a lady, “overwhelmed by music”, faints.
The passion gripped him nevertheless. At the age of twelve he played trumpet and horn in a wind band, at 14 he discovered the guitar. He played in a pop band, rocked the church, took part in youth pilgrimages to the Wieskirche and had his most formative experience there: a lady, “overwhelmed by music”, fainted. There it was, the power of music, the emotional and intellectual access to deeper layers of consciousness. This is what he wants to achieve with his compositions. Bartesch mentions his piece Gletscher-Atem (Glacier Breath) for alphorn and strings, in which, at the end, the audience breathes in the same rhythm as the music. “A synchronisation takes place – a basic human need.” And then he lets drop the line: “Ego is always a hindrance to composition.”
As a film composer he has written the music for directors such as Marcus H. Rosenmüller, Matthias Kiefersauer, Stefan Betz and TV series’ such as Weingut Wader and he helped with film selections for the Fünf Seen Filmfestival. Currently he is mastering the interplay of film and music as if in a trance while assembling a music video with 150 students from the Munich Klenze-Gymnasium.
He is now also seeking sponsors, trying to finance a video for the climate change oratorio in order to enhance its impact even more. Singers are also welcome to join in for the concert in November. As are musicians who would like to perform the work in other venues.