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Concert at La Madeleine Church , Paris, 2013

Oratory ( kirchenlat. Oratorio "house of prayer", from lat. Orare "pray") is called in musical theory of form the dramatic, multi-part scoring a mostly spiritual action, spread over several people, choir and orchestra . It is a narrative-dramatic (i.e. interspersed with plot elements) composition.

The term oratorium is derived from the Italian “oratorio” or the Latin “oratorium”, which originally referred to a prayer hall. This points to the beginnings of the genre, which developed from non-liturgical musical devotions in the Roman oratorio and took its name from the place where it was created and performed.

In contrast to Italian and German, other languages ​​differentiate between the prayer hall and the musical genre: for example, the prayer hall is called “oratory” in English and “oratoire” in French, while the musical genre is called “oratorio” in both languages.

Differentiation from opera

In contrast to the opera , the oratorio is only performed in concert form , so the action only takes place in the texts and in the music. Another fundamental difference between opera and oratorio is that opera is largely about secular material, while oratorio is more focused on spiritual stories. Oratorios are traditionally performed in a church setting. As a rule, no operas were given during church fasting; During this time the oratorio found increased public interest. Oratorio and opera have always influenced each other, for example in the introduction of the da capo aria .


The early oratorio is generally in two parts , which shows its musical origin: In Philipp Neri's devotions , the music served as a “framework” for the sermon that took place between the two parts. The total duration of the performance is around 40–50 minutes, the text length around 350–450 lines.

The text is poetically formed, often rhyming (with changing numbers of syllables and rhyming). Until the middle of the 17th century, narrative parts of the text, performed by a soloist, the "testo" (from Latin testis = witness), were standard, but in the second half of the 17th century a dramatic form of the oratorio without epic text parts, through. This lays the foundation for the centuries-old dispute as to whether the oratorio should be viewed more as an epic , a dramatic or perhaps even a lyrical genre .

The number of interlocutori, the singing characters, is usually three to five, with the five-part voice (SSATB) being a characteristic of the Italian madrigal , one of the forerunners of the oratorio. Groups of people, crowds, and turba choirs can be found in early oratorios, but became increasingly rare in the course of the 17th century. Instead, the voices for viewing or commenting passages tend to join together to form ensembles.

Musically, in the oratorio as in the opera, the sequence of recitatives and arias is established , replacing the original continuous musical arrangement. The decisive factor is the pairing: Each aria is preceded by a recitative with the same scoring. The resulting units of meaning correspond in a broader sense to the division of scenes in the opera.

The German Protestant oratorio is based on a biblical text, usually the passion story (often in harmony of the gospels). The Brockes Passion , named after its author, Barthold Heinrich Brockes , remained formative for a long time: the storyline in the oratorio is provided by the narrator (Historicus, Testo or Evangelist ). He presents the general plot to the audience in recitatives. Words of Jesus and other characters are usually set to music as recitative or as monodic ariosi with string accompaniment. As an example, a short excerpt from Johann Sebastian Bach's St. John Passion :

St. John Passion Denial Beginning.png

In addition, there are other texts that are performed by the choir and the soloists, such as madrigal poems and sacred lyric poetry that reflect and comment on the event, as well as choral stanzas. The lyrical parts of the text are mainly implemented as da capo arias for soloists or vocal ensembles. The choir has a threefold task: it takes on the literal speech of crowds (“turbaechoirs”), madrigal texts set to music as choruses and - as a kind of representative of the community - the chorales.

This textual division results in a special dramaturgy, the so-called three-level dramaturgy, which can be considered characteristic of the oratorio: In addition to the epic narrative report (1), there are individual expressions of feeling in the arias (2), as well as collective reflections of the believing community the chorales (3). Even if the oratorio was in phases oriented towards the opera and was open to more dramatic designs (including individual scenic oratorios), this type of design has continued to this day.

The materials for an oratorio mostly come from the Old or New Testament , hagiography and Christian allegory . Even figures from mythology (as with Hans Werner Henze ) or world history ( Martin Luther or Dietrich Bonhoeffer ) can be represented in the oratorio.


Forerunner of the oratorio and origin

The Council of Trent 1545–1563, which strictly limited the use of music in worship, provided the framework for the emergence of the oratorio as a genre . (These provisions were confirmed in 1917 and only repealed with the church music redefinition of the Second Vatican Council 1962–1965). Only organ playing and singing are allowed, provided that they are not composed "extravagantly" and "for the vain feast for the ears" and the text is understandable.

As a countermovement to the Council of Trent, numerous Catholic reform movements flourished that shaped church life in the 16th century, including the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri . In the prayer rooms of this religious community, the so-called oratorio, spiritual devotions took place in the vernacular (i.e. Italian) as a supplement to the services that were held in the liturgical language Latin. In the devotions, prayers, smaller sermons and pieces of music alternated. The lauden , polyphonic hymns of praise to texts of traditional Italian folk sacred poetry, were of particular importance for the musical design .

In 1600 came a work based on a text by the laudist Agostino Manni for scenic and musical performance, the Rappresentatione di Anima, et di Corpo by Emilio de 'Cavalieri (1550-1602). It is written in the then modern style (unlike the formally simple Lauden) and alternates solo with ensemble and choral singing. Numerous allegorical and biblical characters appear, such as intellect, advice, guardian angel, world, damned souls in hell, happy souls in heaven. Compared to the lauden, this means a considerable liveliness and intensification of the text. After this work was considered an oratorio by music researchers for a long time, it is now considered the first sacred opera.

Another forerunner of the oratorio are the Italian sacred madrigals in dialogue form, which emerged in the 17th century in the new, concertante style. Claudio Monteverdi is an important representative , for example with works from the Selva morale e spirituale collection .

At about the same time as St. Philippo Neri created the Congregatio del Santissimo Crocifisso , a community of believers from the Roman upper class. Her spiritual exercises - perhaps based on the model of the Filipino movement - were relaxed musically, but mostly designed in Latin. The Fridays of Lent as well as Maundy Thursday and Good Friday were given a lot of musical attention. Since the Congregatio del Crocifisso has considerable financial resources at its disposal, celebrities such as Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina or Emilio de 'Cavalieri are often committed to the musical design . Are listed predominantly Latin A-Cappella - motets , wherein dialogical here forms are preferred. In contrast to the Italian spiritual madrigals, however, the texts here are usually excerpts, "condensations" of the Latin Bible text ( Vulgate ).

This laid the foundations for the development of the Italian and Latin oratorios until the middle of the 17th century.

17th and 18th centuries: early phase

Performance of the oratorio The Creation in the ballroom of the Old Vienna University on March 27, 1808 in honor of and in the presence of Joseph Haydn
Children's choir, mixed choir and orchestra perform the creation , the oratorio by Haydn in a church in 2011

The first musical works called oratorio are recorded around 1640. The term was first used for a musical work by the Roman composer and writer Pietro Della Valle , who wrote in a letter in December 1640 about an oratorio for Mary Candlemas being performed in the composer's house. Other works from this period that resemble this oratorio, however, often still bear the designation "Dialogo" or "Cantata"; the boundary between these genera is not sharply drawn.


The first known Italian oratorios include Giacomo Carissimi's “Daniele” and an “Oratorio della Santissima Vergine” (probably written before 1642), a resurrection oratorio “Oratorio per il giorno di Resurrezione” by Marco Marazzoli (after 1636) and a number of works by Luigi Rossi . Latin oratorios are documented a little later, also by Carissimi as well as by Francesco Foggia and Bonifazio Graziani .

The oratorio soon aroused the interest of ecclesiastical and secular dignitaries and quickly established itself as a representative musical genre in all the musical centers of Italy at the time: Rome, Bologna, Modena, Florence, Venice, Naples. Above all, the Italian oratorio, which is freer in its design, is spreading; Latin is less common.

Important Italian oratorio composers of the 17th century are Marco Marazzoli, Domenico Mazzocchi , Pietro Della Valle, Luigi Rossi, Giacomo Carissimi, Francesco Foggia, Alessandro Stradella , Alessandro Scarlatti , Vincenzo De Grandis , Giovanni Carlo Maria Clari , Antonio Caldara , Carlo Francesco Pollaiolo , Tommaso Pagano , Donato Ricchezza and others.


The oratorio came to Vienna in the middle of the 17th century: by two Venetians who held important musical functions at court, Giovanni Priuli (around 1580–1629) and Giovanni Valentini (1582 / 1583–1644).

In the period that followed, the special type of "Oratorio al Sepolcro del Venerdì Santo", known in musicological literature as the "Viennese Sepolcro", established itself. The oratorios from 17th century Vienna therefore rarely bear the name "Oratorio", but are more often called Rappresentazione sacra al Sepolcro, Azione sacra or Componimento sacro al Sepolcro. Characteristic of the Viennese Sepolcro is the scenic representation and at the same time the one-piece design.

In terms of performance, Sepolcro is a musical and dramatic production in front of the Holy Sepulcher; it is the only musical genre that originated autochthonously on the grounds of the imperial court music band in Vienna and was only cultivated there between around 1640 and 1705 on Good Friday or Maundy Thursday .

Numerous Viennese court musicians and opera composers emerged as composers of this sepolcro : in the 17th century Giovanni Felice Sances , Antonio Draghi and Giovanni Battista Pederzuoli , in the 18th century Marc'Antonio Ziani , Johann Joseph Fux , Antonio Caldara and Francesco Bartolomeo Conti . Emperor Leopold I composed several oratorios. In the second half of the 18th century, Georg Christoph Wagenseil , Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf , Antonio Salieri and Joseph Haydn performed with Italian oratorios.

The most important librettists of the oratorio in Vienna in the 17th century are the court poet Nicolò Minato as the main librettist of Sepolcro, in the 18th century Pietro Metastasio and Apostolo Zeno . With the death of Emperor Charles VI. The Habsburg line in Austria expires and the glamorous times of the Viennese court come to an end. With the musical activities, oratorio production largely comes to a standstill.


In France, the Huguenot Wars and absolutism caused musical stagnation that lasted for almost a century, which particularly affected church music. This not only meant that Italian opera did not really gain a foothold in France, but quickly led to an independent French opera, but also prevented the oratorio from being established.

Marc-Antoine Charpentier (around 1643–1704), of whom some Latin oratorios have come down to us, is an exception atypical of the time, whose influence on the further development of music history remained small.



Italy is still one of the most important oratorio centers in the 18th century. Stylistically, the transition from the figured bass era to the Viennese classic and the triumphant advance of Neapolitan opera are noticeable. The latter led to the da capo aria typical of the oratorio being increasingly replaced by other arioso forms (such as the cavatine , rondo ). The number and scope of choirs, ensembles and instrumental pieces are also increasing. Overall, however, the oratorio is stylistically more conservative than the opera; Neither are characteristic elements of opera buffa included nor the typical motivic-thematic working method of the classical period. The majority of the surviving works are Italian; Latin oratorios make up only a small number.

The seven oratorio libretti Pietro Metastasios , which were composed between 1730 and 1740 and were set to music countless times in the following decades, played a decisive role in the development of the Italian oratorio in the 18th century . They are characterized by the consistent alternation between recitative and aria, whereby the recitatives largely contain narrative, reflective and moralizing passages; however, there is no “testo” as a central narrative instance.

Most of the oratorio composers of this time are the band masters employed by large ecclesiastical institutions. The most important include Niccolò Jommelli , Giovanni Battista Casali and Pietro Maria Crispi in Rome, Giovanni Battista Martini in Bologna, Baldassare Galuppi in Venice and Domenico Cimarosa in Naples.

Three oratorios have come down to us from Giulio Cesare Arresti , who worked at the transition from the 17th to the 18th century: "The Garden of Gethsemane" - L'orto di Getsemani (Bologna, 1661), "Jesus' Farewell to Maria" - License di Gesù da Maria (Bologna, 1661) and “The Wedding of Rebekah” - Lo sposalizio di Rebecca (Bologna, 1675). There was, however, a fourth oratorio by him that has been lost: “The Beheading of St. John” - La decollazione di S Giovanni (Bologna, 1708).

The North German Protestant Oratorio

Autograph of Johann Sebastian Bach's St. John Passion , 1723/1724
Performance of a baroque oratorio with the Windsbacher Boys Choir and the Berlin Academy of Early Music in the Frauenkirche Dresden

The German, evangelical oratorio made an independent development compared to Italy. The forerunners include responsorial Passion settings and histories , which in the 17th century were increasingly no longer limited to setting the Bible text to music, but instead contained textual and musical insertions; the dialogues and small spiritual concerts example of Heinrich Schütz played a role.

The compositions that Dietrich Buxtehude wrote for his Lübeck evening music are among the most important precursors of the German Protestant oratorio . On five Sundays a year, after the afternoon sermon, he performed a five-part spiritual composition with coherent content. The text is composed of literal and paraphrased biblical passages as well as spiritual poems and choral stanzas; the musical system is reminiscent of the Italian oratorio.

The first German oratorio to be considered is “The Bloody and Dying Jesus”, set to music by Reinhard Keizer and with a libretto by Christian Friedrich Hunold . The world premiere took place in Hamburg in 1704. The composition, the text of which survived, was long lost. The Leipzig musicologist Christine Blanken found the sheet music in 2007 in the Berlin State Library. In 2010 the rediscovered oratorio was performed again for the first time in Hunold's birthplace Wandersleben. Compared to the responsorial Passion settings, what is new is that the underlying Bible text is not taken over literally, but retold in full in verse. The free treatment of the Bible text drew criticism from the Hamburg church authorities, for whom the vital Hamburg opera was a thorn in the side. Neither Keiser's oratorios nor the Matthesons and Telemanns were performed in churches. With this, the oratorio lost its connection to worship and developed from a church music to a concert genre.

Of Keiser's other oratorios, the passion oratorio The Savior Martyred and Dying for the Sin of the World (1712) is of particular importance in terms of music history . The text is based on a passion poem written by the young Barthold Heinrich Brockes . The so-called Brockes Passion was set to music by numerous important composers ( Georg Friedrich Händel 1716, Johann Mattheson 1718, Georg Philipp Telemann 1722) and thus finally helped the oratorio achieve a breakthrough in Germany.

The choice of material for the German baroque oratorio is largely limited to Passion and Christmas. Only a few oratorios are known of Johann Mattheson (whose manuscripts came to Yerevan as looted art after the Second World War and therefore only became accessible again in recent years) that do not deal with the Passion story, such as "Joseph Merciful to His Brothers" from 1727; Georg Philipp Telemann also wrote almost exclusively passion oratorios. In return, Telemann and his lyricists bring allegorical figures into the events of the oratorio and do not limit themselves to the biblical staff.

Outside Hamburg, only a few oratorios are known until 1760. Passion oratorios have come down mainly from Carl Heinrich Graun in Dresden, Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel in Gotha and Christian Friedrich Rolle in Magdeburg; Smaller centers of oratorio maintenance were temporarily Gdansk, Schwerin-Ludwigslust, Berlin and Leipzig. The climax and conclusion of the German Protestant Passion Oratorio are the Passions of Johann Sebastian Bach ( Johannes Passion BWV 245, 1724; Matthew Passion BWV 244, 1727/29 (early version) and 1736 (final version); Markus Passion BWV 247, 1731). Bach had studied the Hamburg oratorio tradition intensively, as evidenced by numerous performances of Reinhard Keiser's passions that he directed . Musically and lyrically, his passions borrow from Keizer and Telemann, but are filled with his own expression. In contrast to Brockes' work, Bach's madrigals and chorale texts no longer serve as an attunement to the biblical text but as a theological interpretation; they do not address a listener who is to be converted, but rather the piously educated, tradition-conscious Christian.

The other oratorios of Bach - Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 , Easter Oratorio BWV 249 , Ascension Oratorio BWV 11 - clearly stand out from the Passions and are more related to his cantatas . In fact, they were all originally composed as cantatas and only later or when Bach was reworked they were called "oratorio". Similar to Bach's other cantatas, these works focus less on the biblical text than on the chorale used.

The most famous oratorios that are still frequently performed include the oratorios of Bach and the Messiah by Handel , whose other oratorios ( Belshazzar , Judas Maccabaeus , Solomon ) are much less present. The oratorios The Israelites in the Desert and The Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus by Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach also deal with biblical subjects .

Catholic oratorio centers in the German-speaking area

Cover of an oratorio by Johann Adolph Hasse from 1746, which was published in Dresden

If in the 16th and 17th centuries Dresden stood for an important place of Protestant church music, which is closely connected with the names Johann Walter , Heinrich Schütz and others, this changed in the 18th century with the conversion of the Saxon Elector Friedrich August I to Catholicism. During this time, Dresden became not only architecturally but also musically a stronghold of the Italian Baroque in Germany. At the Holy Sepulcher , which was built in the 1720s based on the Viennese model in the Dresden Court Church, passion music and oratorios were performed annually on Holy Saturday, sometimes on Good Friday. In this way, the Italian oratorio as a continuation of the Viennese Sepolcro becomes at home in Germany.

The most important Dresden oratorio composers are Johann David Heinichen , Jan Dismas Zelenka , Johann Adolf Hasse and Johann Gottlieb Naumann .

In addition, the most important places where Catholic-influenced German-language oratorios were created are mainly in the Austro-Habsburg region. The most important composers here are Gregor Joseph Werner as Kapellmeister in Eisenstadt, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger , organist at Melk Abbey, and Leopold Mozart and Johann Ernst Eberlin in Salzburg . Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , Johann Michael Haydn and Anton Cajetan Adlgasser made contributions to the Catholic oratorio (participation in the composition of the oratorio “ The debt of the first commandment ”).

In Vienna, the German language instead of the Italian oratorio began to prevail in the 1770s, but the number remains small overall. The emerging cultural environment with the bourgeois Tonkünstler-Societät and the tireless efforts of Baron Gottfried van Swieten for the works of Johann Sebastian Bach , Georg Friedrich Handel and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach form the basis for the great oratorios of Joseph Haydn ( The Creation , The Seasons ) on the threshold of the 19th century.

Fortunato Chelleri , who composed the two-part oratorio Beatæ Mariæ Virginis (Würzburg, 1723) , worked in Würzburg, but also recently in Kassel .


Georg Friedrich Handel's oratorio Messiah in the composer's handwriting
In 18th century England, the
Covent Garden Theater in London was an important venue for not only operas but also oratorios

The English oratorio in the 18th century, like the music history of the country in general, was shaped and dominated by the person of Georg Friedrich Handel . Due to the distancing of the English Church from Catholicism, there was no oratorio in England before Handel. It was not until the phase of religious tolerance under King George II that the social conditions for the success of Handel's oratorios were created.

Handel himself composed two Italian oratorios at a young age ( Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno , 1707; La Resurrezione , 1708) and a Passion Oratorio based on Barthold Heinrich Brockes ; these works, however, are clearly inferior to his English oratorios, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Handel first used the generic name “Oratorio” for an English work in 1732, when he arranged and performed his two stage works Acis and Galatea and Esther (both probably composed in 1718). At this point in time, Handel had already worked as an opera composer in London for 20 years. Nevertheless, his oratorios are not simply a continuation of his operatic work, but show considerable differences. In addition to the use of the English language, this concerns above all the type of singing, which is no longer designed for the Italian virtuoso voices , as is the case in operas. Instead, Handel developed a special tone of voice typical of English oratorios, and in many oratorios assigns a significant role to the choir, which is most evident in Messiah and Israel in Egypt . A peculiarity of Handel's oratorio, which distinguishes it from the works on the mainland, is its three-part structure. This is actually due to the influence of the opera, which basically consisted of three acts. The majority of the subjects come from the Old Testament, which was extremely popular in English Puritanism . The oratorios Deborah , Saul , Joseph and his Brethren , Joshua , Solomon and Jephtha can be found in Handel's work . In doing so, Handel's lyricists often did not fall back directly on the Bible, but on literary arrangements: for Samson, for example, the librettist Newburgh Hamilton arranged the biblical drama "Samson Agonistes" by John Milton .

The success of the oratorio in England is not least due to the increasing self-confidence of the strengthening middle class. This turned away from the Italian opera, which was perceived as aristocratic, and turned to the oratorio, which is not regarded as an ecclesiastical, but as a spiritual, but theatrical-concertante genre.

As a successor to Handel, large music festivals were set up all over England, which played an important role not only in maintaining his work, but also in the further development of the oratorio. Large choir communities were involved, in which the bourgeoisie gathered and made their cultural demands clear to society. As early as the middle of the 18th century, Handel's oratorios were part of the repertoire of music festivals in English cities; The performances of the “Messiah” played a special role and - following the example of the performances organized and directed by Handel himself - mostly served charitable purposes.

The dominance of Handel and his works meant that only a few oratorios by other composers (for example John Stanley and John Christopher Smith ) were composed over the decades . A more or less clear influence of Handel can be discerned in these works, so that they remained marginal phenomena.

Pre-classical and classical

This libretto by Karl Wilhelm Ramler served several composers as the basis for a Passion Oratorio; these include Carl Heinrich Graun , Georg Philipp Telemann and Joseph Martin Kraus

While Bach's Passions conclude the baroque oratorio tradition with a final climax, another popular work of the time shows an oratorio type that was to become predominant in the following years: in Carl Heinrich Graun's setting of a passion libretto by Karl Wilhelm Ramler , "The Death of Jesus" (1755; later also set to music by Georg Philipp Telemann and Joseph Martin Kraus ). Ramler's two more oratorio libretti followed later: “The Shepherds at the Manger in Bethlehem” (1758; set to music by Johann Friedrich Agricola , among others ) and “The Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus” (1760; set to music by Georg Philipp Telemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach , among others ). In terms of literary history and aesthetics, these oratorios belong to the (pre-classical) sensibility , even if - unlike a short time later in Georg Friedrich Handel's “Messiah” - there are no direct influences from Klopstock . Graun's “Death of Jesus” was extremely successful when it appeared and was performed frequently; in Berlin almost annually until 1858 and again from 1866 to 1884.

Lyrically and musically, Graun's work marks a new oratorio style. The immediacy of the biblical event is replaced by contemplation and reflection of the biblical text. This is evident not least from the fact that verbatim speech by acting persons is no longer occupied by individual soloists, but is instead integrated into the narrative as a quotation. The contemplation is shaped by the views of the Protestant theological enlightenment, which sees Jesus as an exemplary wise man and derives from his actions a virtuous way of life that is supposed to lead to the "immortality of the soul". Musically, gallant , “ pre-classical ” style elements prevail: high-contrast dynamics, symmetrical melodies and a preference for third and sixth parallels.

The creation of Joseph Haydn leads over to the age of classical music and the corresponding tonal language , which was a great success for the composer.

The oratorio in the Viennese Classic is determined by the few oratorios by Joseph Haydn ( The Creation , The Seasons ) and Ludwig van Beethoven (Passion Oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives ). All three represent individual confrontations with the tradition of the genre, which, however, remained without direct successors. In the case of Haydn, the importance of the chorus, which until then can only be found in Handel, as well as the removal of the link between the recitative and the following aria, is particularly striking. Beethoven is breaking new ground with the musical design of the figure of Christ: Christ appears as an almost operatic person, not a lot removed, but very tangible. Despite the immediate success of his oratorio, Beethoven received strong criticism.

The best known secular oratorio is probably The Seasons by Joseph Haydn.

At the transition to Romanticism in 1810, the serious oratorio The Four Last Things by Joseph Leopold Eybler was composed . Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy's Elias and Paulus, on the other hand, clearly introduce the era of the romantic oratorio. Also at this transition to Romanticism are the works of Ferdinand Ries , who created two sacred oratorios: The victory of faith , oratorio in two sections for solos, choir and orchestra, op.157 (1829) and The Kings in Israel , oratorio in two sections for solos, choir and orchestra op.186 (1836/37).


German language area

In the 19th century, the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin , along with other singing academies, became an important center for civic oratorio maintenance in Germany

Due to the Napoleonic Wars, cultural life in Europe stagnated at the beginning of the 19th century. In the period that followed, Germany developed into the leading cultural center for maintaining oratorios.

Based on the works of the Viennese Classic, in the 19th century the oratorio finally made the step from the church to the world of civic concerts. The denominational ties, which have already become weak, are disappearing completely, just as regional characteristics are becoming increasingly blurred. The oratorio is seen as the spiritual counterpart to the symphony, which promotes its "secularization" as well as the restoration efforts within church music, which refer to Palestrina and the a cappella ideal.

As the importance of the courts and church centers for the maintenance of oratorios dwindled, the importance of the large music festivals and the civic music associations and singing academies increased. The most important are the Tonkünstler-Societät in Vienna, the Musical Academy in Munich and the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin . In order to meet the preferences of these concerts, in which amateurs and professionals often played together, the proportion and differentiation of the choirs in the oratorios of the 19th century continues to increase. Friedrich Schneider , whose oratorios were among the most popular in the first half of the 19th century, casts various numbers with different ensembles that he takes from the large choir - a concept that can also be found in Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Handel's choirs had a great influence on the design of the choir parts.

The most important oratorio composers of the 19th century include: Friedrich Schneider ( The Last Judgment , 1819; Gethsemane and Golgatha , 1838), Carl Loewe ( Gutenberg , 1837; The Atonement of the New Covenant , 1847), Franz Schubert ( Lazarus , 1820), Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy ( Paulus , 1836; Elias , 1846; Christ , 1847), Robert Schumann ( Das Paradies und die Peri , 1843; Der Rose Pilgerfahrt , 1851, as well as the scenes from Goethe's Faust , 1853, which are at least close to the genre ), Franz Liszt ( The legend of St. Elisabeth , 1865; Christ , 1873), Louis Spohr ( The Last Things , 1826; The Savior's Last Hours , 1835), Friedrich Kiel ( Christ , 1870).

Biblical material, especially the Old Testament, played a major role throughout the 19th century: Franz Lachner placed the figure of Moses at the center of an oratorio (op. 45, 1833). With Belshazzar (op. 73), Carl Reinecke contributed an oratorio based on the biblical book Daniel, which was first performed in 1885 in the Leipzig Gewandhaus. Georg Schumann is still in the spirit of German Romanticism, but already in the 20th century, with his biblical oratorio Ruth (op. 50, 1908). Ferdinand von Hiller treats the biblical act of the fall of Jerusalem in an oratorio. The work is called The Destruction of Jerusalem . In 1890 Albert Becker created a church oratorio “Blessed from Grace” op. 61.

Oratorios were also created in the vicinity of the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin. The director of the academy, Eduard Grell , created the oratorio The Israelites in the Desert , the singer and musicologist Heinrich Bellermann wrote Christ the Savior . From George Valentin Roeder the two oratorios come Caecilia or The Celebration of Music (Text: Christoph von Schmid ) and Messiah (Text: Karl Wilhelm Ramler ), the premiere was in 1822. These works fall into the early stages of Cecilianism , a church music restoration movement. Max Bruch , strongly following the tradition of Felix Mendelssohn, created several secular oratorios in addition to the sacred oratorio Moses (1893/94), including the then very successful Odysseus (1872) and The Bell after Friedrich Schiller (1879). The tetralogy Christ by Felix Draeseke can be regarded as the pinnacle of the oratorio composition of German Romanticism . Like the Liszt work of the same name, it shows parallels to Richard Wagner , but this time to the Ring of the Nibelung .

With Luise Adolpha Le Beaus Ruth (1882) and Hadumoth (1893) two works by a female artist can be found in the canon of romantic oratorios.


Due to French centralism, the musical life of France takes place predominantly in Paris. Due to the overwhelming impact of opera in public cultural life, Jean-François Le Sueur was the only oratorio composer to appear in the first half of the century . He uses the term oratorio in a very individual, unsystematic way. His works, not just the genre-historically unique “Coronation Oratorios”, represent the Catholic-Italian oratorio tradition, which at that time had almost fallen silent. They are isolated in the history of the genre and have no influence on later composers, even on his pupil Hector Berlioz. But the rest of the European oratorio is hardly popular in France either; only Beethoven's Christ on the Mount of Olives finds its way into the concert repertoire.

In the further course of the 19th century oratorios were found at the borders of large symphonic genres. Few composers still use unambiguous genre assignments, especially since the church ties are extremely low. Works called “Symphonie dramatique” or “Mystère” appear on a par with large concert oratorios; The former with a secular text, the latter with a spiritual text.

It was not until the last third of the 19th century that concert societies based on the model of the singing academies emerged in France and began to accept classical and contemporary models. This leads to a revival of the French oratorio creation, which shows a special focus in the treatment of the Christmas story.

The most important composers and works: Hector Berlioz ( La damnation de Faust , 1846; L'enfance du Christ , 1854), Félicien David ( Moise au Sinai , 1846; Eden , 1848), Charles Gounod ( Tobie , 1854; Les sept paroles de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ sur la croix , 1855; La rédemption , 1882; Mors et vita , 1885; Saint Francois d'Assise , 1891), Camille Saint-Saëns ( Oratorio de Noël , 1858; Le Déluge , 1876; La Terre Promise , 1913), César Franck ( Ruth , 1846; Rédemption , 1874; Les béatitudes , 1879), Jules Massenet ( Marie-Magdeleine , 1873; Ève , 1875; La Vierge , 1880; La Terre Promise , 1900), Gabriel Pierné ( La nuit de Noël , 1895; La croisade des enfants , 1902; Les enfants à Bethléem , 1907) and Henri Rabaud ( Job , 1900).

In the 20th century, in addition to Olivier Messiaen ( La transfiguration de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ ), Jeanne Marie-Madeleine Demessieux and others took up the genre anew with the oratorio Chanson de Roland for choir, mezzo-soprano and orchestra (composed 1951–1956, previously unpublished).


In the 19th century, Peter Benoit produced a wealth of oratorios with four works: Lucifer (1865), The Schelde (De Schelde, 1868), The War (De Oorlog, 1873) and, most recently, in 1889, The Rhine (De Rijn). In the spiritual field, Edgar Tinel should be mentioned with an oratorio Franciscus (op. 36, 1890), which was followed two years later in 1892 by Paul Gilson with the dramatic oratorio Francesca da Rimini based on a model by Dante .


Oratory at Cambridge University, Church of St. Mary the Great, 1842

Since England was not directly affected by the Napoleonic Wars, there is a cultural continuity that was unique for this period, which meant that the oratorio was particularly valued as the epitome of the sublime until the turn of the century. As in Germany, the major music festivals ( Three Choirs Festival in Worcester, Gloucester and Hereford, and the music festival in Birmingham) and the lay choral societies played an important role in maintaining oratorio .

Oratorio production in the first half of the century was shaped by the overpowering role model of Georg Friedrich Handel , especially his Messiah . From the middle of the century onwards, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy's Elias and Johann Sebastian Bach's Passions, which were only performed again at a later date, served as models that were almost as powerful. It was only in the last third of the century that England opened up to an increasing mutual musical exchange of influences with other countries, which had previously been curbed by the unique denominational homogeneity and religious genre awareness. Only the composers of the New English School go their own new ways, striving for a renewal of the national tonal language.

The most important composers and works: William Crotch composed three oratorios: he set the subject The Captivity of Judah to music twice, and in 1812 he wrote Palestine, the first English oratorio in more than forty years.

Also to be mentioned are George Frederick Perry ( Hezekiah ), George Alexander Macfarren , Arthur Sullivan ( The Prodigal Son , The Light of the World , The Martyr of Antioch ), Alexander Mackenzie ( The Rose of Sharon , Bethlehem ), Charles Villiers Stanford ( The Three Holy Children , Eden ), Hubert Parry ( Judith , Job , King Saul ), Edward Elgar ( The Light of Life , The Dream of Gerontius , The Apostles , The Kingdom ), Charles Edward Horsley ( Gideon , David , Joseph ), Henry David Leslie ( Judith , Immanuel ), John Stainer ( Gideon , The Daughter of Jairus , St. Mary Magdalan , The Crucifixion ).


Giuseppe Martucci created the biblical oratorio Samuel in 1881 . Lorenzo Perosi created the biblical oratorio La risurrezione di Cristo in 1898 .


Friedrich Haeffner became known in Sweden for his oratorio Försonaren på Golgatha ("The Redeemer on Golgatha"), a work that was written in 1809. Andreas Hallén became known for his Ett juloratorium (1904).


Feliks Nowowiejski became known for his oratorio Quo vadis based on Henryk Sienkiewicz's novel (1903).

20th century

Beginning of the century

The 20th century knows a variety of oratorio forms. A general guideline cannot be determined; instead, many different solutions are emerging. Arthur Honegger completed his oratorio Le Roi David in 1921 , and Igor Stravinsky developed Oedipus Rex (1927), an intermediate form of opera and oratorio - the work can, but does not have to be, staged. Arnold Schönberg made his contribution to the genre with Die Jakobsleiter (1917–1922, unfinished). Between 1917 and 1924, Gerhard von Keussler completed his three spiritual oratorios Jesus from Nazareth , The Mother and Zebaoth , which was followed in 1926 by a secular, In Young Days . Hermann Suter's most important work is his late romantic oratorio Le Laudi di San Francesco d'Assisi , composed in 1923 and performed in Basel in 1924. Paul Hindemith premiered his oratorio Das Unaufhörliche in 1931 . The coined sub-genre of the Christmas Oratorio appeared at this time with a work by Richard Wetz in the 20th century: A Christmas Oratorio on Old German Poems Op. 53 is his most extensive choral symphonic work, composed between 1927 and 1929. The title Christmas Oratorio appears as Opus 17 ( 1930/31) also in a work by the later Thomas Cantor Kurt Thomas . He later performed the oratorio Saat und Harvest (op. 36).

During his time with the Bavarian Radio in 1931, Werner Egk created his oratorio Feartless und Wohlwollen for tenor, mixed choir and orchestra. The large calendar from 1932/33 is a secular oratorio in four parts for soprano and baritone solo, mixed choir, children's choir, orchestra and organ by Hermann Reutter , whose work was considered " degenerate ", although it was an early NSDAP - Has been a member. The oratorio Yoram (1933) was written by the Israeli composer Paul Ben-Haim .

In Austria, Franz Schmidt also made an important contribution to the genre, which has been performed again since the 2000s: The book with seven seals for solos, choir and orchestra, text based on the Revelation of St. John (composed between 1935 and 1937; First performance in Vienna, 1938). Arthur Honegger's oratorio Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher was also performed in 1938 . Then heard Michael Tippett's A Child of Our Time (1939-1941) to the known oratorios of the first half of the 20th century. The oratorio Jeanne d'Arc à Orléans by Tony Aubin from 1942 became important for France .

In France, Georges Dandelot's oratorio Pax from 1935 is considered to be his main work. In it, he primarily deals with experiences from the First World War , which shape the work. Igor Markevitch , the French composer of Ukrainian origin, addressed Paradise Lost in his oratorio Le Paradis Perdu , a work from 1934 and 1935 based on a text by John Milton.

Time of National Socialism and the Second World War

Some of the oratorios by Joseph Haas were written in Munich during the Nazi era . His four most important works of the genre are titled: The Holy Elizabeth , The Book of God , The Year in the Song and The Blessed , which, however, have rarely been performed again in the second half of the 20th century. Paul Höffer , who was presented with a gold medal for a choral work at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, wrote the oratorio Mysterium der Liebe in 1944 on behalf of Joseph Goebbels .

In Switzerland, Willy Burkhard created the oratorios The Face of Isaiah (1933–1935) and The Year (1940–1941). By Frank Martin , the famous oratorio comes in terra pax (1944), which was created during the Second World War and was published at the end. This partially double-choir work has both a French and a German original text and contains 12-note passages that have hardly played a role in oratorios to date, but were also used by Martin in Le vin herbé , which premiered in 1942 . Other oratorios were Golgotha (1949), Le Mystère de la Nativité (1959) and his Requiem (1972).

In Austria in 1938 the oratorio The Book with Seven Seals by the composer Franz Schmidt was premiered. Schmidt set acopalyptic texts from the Revelation of John to music . In 1946, under the impact of the World War, Karl Schiske's main work, the oratorio Vom Tode opus 25, was dedicated to his brother Hubert, who died near Riga in 1944. It was premiered in 1948 under Karl Böhm in the Wiener Konzerthaus.

Post-war period and second half of the 20th century

After the Second World War there was a new beginning in this genre with Johannes Driessler's rich oratorical work. The larger works are worth mentioning here: Your kingdom come , op. 11 (1947/1948, first performed in 1950), De profundis , Op. 22 (1952), The Living One , Op. 40. (1954–1956), oratorios, some of which are opulent (vocal soloists, chamber choir and large choir, woodwinds, brass, piano, percussion) and are looking for ways of creating a new musical language in this genre. Alexandre Tansman created Isaïe le prophète , an oratorio for choir and orchestra , in 1950 .

Heinz Wunderlich's main work is the scenic Easter oratorio Maranatha - Our Lord is coming . The work was created in 1953 and depicts the biblical events between Easter morning and Ascension Day. Heinrich Vogel dealt with Christ in a similar direction : Christ Triumphator was created as an oratorio in 1960, but this is an oratorio that has more effect through its chants. The year , an oratorio based on a poem by Emil Hecker , was created by Hans Friedrich Micheelsen . In 1961 Günter Bialas set In Beginning - Creation Story after Martin Buber for three echo voices, choir and orchestra. Between 1959 and 1964, Klaus Huber worked on the oratorio Soliloquia for solos, two choirs and a large orchestra. Texts by Aurelius Augustine formed the basis .

Theophil Laitenberger makes references to the biblical prophet figure Jeremia : Zeit des Jeremia (1972), a large oratorio for baritone, large and small choir, flutes, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, kettledrum, strings and organ. Max Baumann designed the theme of the resurrection (op. 94, 1980) in a large-scale oratorio with texts from the Holy Scriptures (for soprano, baritone, bass, speaker, speaker, speaking choir, choir and large orchestra).

The composer Giselher Klebe wrote a Christmas Oratorio on behalf of the Rheinischer Merkurs and the city of Bonn , in the center of which is the text Die Kunde von Bethlehem by Heinrich Böll . The seventy-minute work for mezzo-soprano , baritone , speaker, mixed choir and large orchestra was premiered in 1989 as part of the 2000 year celebration of the city of Bonn in Bonn 's Beethoven Hall.

There was also an interesting new beginning in the secular area: Paul Dessau composed his great oratorio Deutsches Miserere for mixed choir, children's choir, solos, large orchestra, organ and trautonium together with the playwright Bertolt Brecht from 1943 to 1947 , but this was not done until September 20, 1966 was premiered during the Days of Contemporary Music and the International Musicological Congress of the Society for Music Research in Leipzig under the direction of Herbert Kegel . Under the regime of Josef Stalin Dmitri Dmitrijewitsch Schostakowitsch wrote the oratorio: The Song of the Woods (op. 81) in 1949 , Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev in 1950 the oratorio: Auf Friedenswacht (op. 124). The Austrian Johann Nepomuk David dealt with the genre oratorio . In 1957 he composed the Ezzo song , an oratorio for solos, choir and orchestra (op. 51).

In his own musical language, Hans Werner Henze wrote the oratorio Das Raft der Medusa (completed in 1968), which finally took the genre out of the church. The same applies to the work of Milko Kelemen , in particular to his oratorio Salut au Monde , which was only performed three times worldwide (as of 2005) due to its difficulty and large cast. In 1984 Wolfgang Rihm created the oratorio Dies for four voices, two speakers, children's choir, speaking choir, mixed choir, organ and orchestra. The texts come from the Graduale and the Vulgate as well as from Leonardo da Vinci . It was premiered in Vienna in 1986.

Helmut Bieler created the oratorio Der Ackermann aus Böhmen with a libretto by Dietrich W. Hübsch (based on the work of the same name by Johannes von Tepl) for speaker, 2 speakers, alto, baritone, organ, synthesizer, percussion and tape (1977, revised 1982) . The world premiere was in 1977 in Bad Hersfeld . In 1996 Jürg Baur composed his oratorio Perché based on poems by Giuseppe Ungaretti .

Towards the end of the 20th century, Oskar Gottlieb Blarr wrote two oratorios about Jesus: Jesus - Birth. Christmas Oratorio (1988/1991) and the Easter Oratorio (1996). Violeta Dinescu created a Whitsun Oratorio for five soloists, mixed choir and chamber orchestra (1993). With his main work The Shrine of the Martyrs (1989) Bertold Hummel created a large-scale oratorio that is able to fulfill the original meaning of the genre name with Gospel texts, Irish and Latin prayers. Tom Johnson's Bonhoeffer Oratorio (1998), which saw numerous European and American performances, received much international attention . The full-length work was preceded by the smaller oratorio Trinity (1978), which thematizes the Creator, the Son of God and the Holy Spirit. On the one hand Steve Reich rediscovered his Jewish roots, on the other hand he opened up to numerous new means of a new tonal language at the end of the 20th century. The Cave, multimedia oratorio in three parts , which was created between 1990 and 1993 and was widely used, is evidence of this .

Heinz Martin Lonquich created two oratorios The Silence of Johann von Nepomuk (1991) and On the Edge of the Wall (1993). Matthias Drude created a Christmas Oratorio (1995–1996) based on a text by Dietrich Mendt ; next to it the chamber oratorio On the Troubles of Homecoming , which, based on motifs from the Old Testament (Book of Esra ), refers to German reunification . Its world premiere was in Halle (Saale) in 2000 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of German unity.

In the field of sacred popular music , the songwriter and cantor Siegfried Fietz made a name for himself with the creation of oratorios (and their recordings). Mention should be Paulus oratorio , Peter oratory , John oratory and his Luther oratory . The preservation of the earth from its destruction by humans is the subject of an oratorio by Georg Reuter , which he composed at the end of the century: Lied für die Erde (1994) and an oratorio by Krzysztof Meyer : Creation (1999).

German Democratic Republic

Günter Kochan's great political oratorio : The Peace Festival or Participation became important for the music history of the GDR . Oratorio for soprano, tenor, bass and two orchestras (1978). The composer Paul Kurzbach created the oratorio The Blue Planet (1988) a year before the fall of the Wall .


Continuing the tradition of Swiss oratorio composition since Volkmar Andreae , Hans Huber , Hermann Suter and Arthur Honegger wrote Albert Jenny ( The Unknown God (1956), The Song of Creation (1960) and The Large Circle (1973)) and Hermann Haller ( Job (1974) for soprano, baritone, mixed choir, organ and orchestra) oratorios.


In Italy there were composers who contributed to the genre. Carlo Pedini created the oratorio Il Mistero Jacopone in 1993 as a commission for the RAI , which was premiered in Turin by the RAI Symphony Orchestra under Karl Martin.


A Christmas Oratorio (Jõuluoratoorium) was created in 1992 by the composer Urmas Sisask . A St. John Passion in Latin under the name Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem for soloists, mixed choir, instrumental quartet and organ was created by the internationally known composer Arvo Pärt in 1982 .


Karel Salmon created the oratorio Shir Hatekuma (English: The Song of Affirmation ). The Hebrew text editing by Avigdor Hameiri is based on a text by Moshe Yakov Ben Gabriel.

21st century

Large oratorio performance with youth choir, choir and orchestra


Hans Georg Bertram should be mentioned for the further development of the genre oratorio since the 2000s . His Joboratorio (2001) and his Oratorio of Creation (2005) combine the old genre with modernity and its new means. Also at the turn of the century is John Coolidge Adams with his El Niño - A Nativity Oratorio (1999–2000). Hanno Haag wrote Franziskus , an oratorio for soprano, speaker, three-part choir, flute, horn, strings and percussion, opus 62 (2001). Wolfgang Pasquay composed a peace sensoratorium . Oratorio against war based on the words of Erasmus von Rotterdam and Bertolt Brecht (initially under the title Erasmus Oratorio ; complete version 2003).

In the area of ​​sacred popular music, Gregor Linßen called his oratorio “Die Spur von Morgen” (1998) the NGL oratorio, because it draws on the abundance of musical roots of the NGL ( New Spiritual Song ) genre . Together with the oratorios “ADAM” (2002) and “Petrus und der Hahn” (2007) it forms the oratorio trilogy “Question and Answer”. The Catholic cantor and composer Thomas Gabriel made a name for himself with the creation of oratorios (and their recording). Worth mentioning are his oratorios Emmaus (2002), Bonifazius (2004) and Kreuzweg (2006). On the Protestant side, Klaus Heizmann should be mentioned. His oratorios are Israel Schalom (1988), Jerusalem Schalom (1994), The light shines in the darkness (1998), From the darkness into the light (2007), David Oratorio (2010).

The end and beginning is the title of a Bonhoeffer oratorio for soprano, tenor, bass, violin, piano, organ, brass and percussion, written by the Tübingen cantor and composer Gerhard Kaufmann . It was created on the occasion of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's big birthday in 2006 and deals with the events of the so-called Third Reich. At the same time, the work also poses questions to the present, even in the opening choir: "Who will hold up?"

In 2002 Matthias Nagel also created an oratorio on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which he called the Lied Oratorio . Wolfram Graf presented a large oratorio work : Resurrected. An Easter Mysteries Oratorio (op. 166; 2006–2008) for two speakers, soloists, choir, children's choir, organ and orchestra. Wolfram Graf himself compiled the libretto based on texts from the Old and New Testaments, apocryphal additions to the book Esra and from Wladimir Solowjow , Fjodor Dostojewski , Christian Morgenstern , Dante Alighieri , Hans Scholl , Dietrich Bonhoeffer .

Matthias Drude composed For your honor I fought, suffered - Stations of the Passion of Jesus (2000 ), the Oratorio of Creation Everything that Breaths, Praise the Lord (2003/04), the Easter Oratorio Auf - Er - Stand (2009/10) and the Pentecostoratorium From the spirit of diversity (2013/14), all based on texts by Hartwig Drude , as well as the Passion Oratorio We Can Dare Our Life with You (2014/15) based on a text by Detlev Block .

The Oratorio of Creation With All Eyes , which confronts the story of creation with the destruction of nature, was created by the Münster cantor and composer Jutta Bitsch (* 1969). It premiered in Münster in 2014.

On behalf of the Diocese of Limburg , Helmut Schlegel wrote the text for the oratorio “ Laudato si '/ A Franciscan Magnificat ” with music by Peter Reulein in 2016 . In 2016 the Passion Oratorio Jerusalem op.90 by Gunther Martin Göttsche was commissioned by the Landau collegiate church in the Palatinate . It is based exclusively on Bible texts in the translation of Martin Luther, formally takes up the tradition of the oratorical passions, but goes its own way in a moderately modern tonal language.

In 2000 Lothar Graap composed a secular oratorio based on a text by Arnim Juhre, an oratorio on the fire in the Reichstag in 1933, entitled One day we must tell the truth . In 2005 Moritz Eggert wrote a soccer oratorio based on texts by Michael Klaus with the title The Depth of Space for the 2006 Soccer World Cup.

In 2005 Esther Hilsberg composed the choral symphonic oratorio "Dante's Inferno and the Path to Paradise" based on Dante Alighieri's " Divina Commedia ", which was premiered in the Konzerthaus on Gendarmenmarkt Berlin. With the "Christmas Oratorio" followed in 2010 another oratorio by Esther Hilsberg, which was also premiered in the Konzerthaus on Gendarmenmarkt. It not only tells the well-known Christmas story, but also places special emphasis on the emotions of characters such as Herod, Joseph or Mary, and lets the listener experience the Christmas story in a completely new way.


Pierre Bartholomée created the Ludas Sapiente Oratorio in 2001 (based on a libretto by Nicolas Blanmont).


Paul McCartney has written two oratorios, Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio (1991) and Ecce Cor Meum (2006). Phil Minton created the choral oratorio Songs from a Prison Diary , which is based on texts by Ho Chi Minh .


In 2009 Arvo Pärt created the oratorio Adams Lament  for four-part mixed choir and string orchestra. The Lamentation of Adam was commissioned on behalf of the cultural capitals of Istanbul and Tallinn and was premiered in the Hagia Eirene in Istanbul in June 2010 by the Turkish President Abdullah Gül and the Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on the occasion of a tribute to Arvo Pärt for his life's work.


Lior Navok's work And the Trains Kept Coming ... is an oratorio from 2007 for tenor, bass-baritone, boy soprano, choir and orchestra and deals with the theme of the Holocaust .


Lorenz Maierhofer appeared in Austria with biblical oratorios; Among other things, he created IM ANFANG WAR DAS WORT / IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD , an oratorio based on the prologue to the Gospel of John for mixed choir, soprano and baritone solo, solo violin, organ and strings; he published the work in German and English. The first performance was in Graz in 2009.

The performance of an angel oratorio - de sanctis angelis for large choir, soloists, brass, percussion, organ, synthesizer, contrabass based on texts by Rainer Maria Rilke , Friedrich Nietzsche and Bible in 2005 marked the 50th anniversary of the Republic of Austria's ceremony Anniversary of the State Treaty. The creator of the work is the Austrian composer Franz Xaver Frenzel .

A Litanies oratorio based on texts by Franz von Assisi and Teilhard de Chardin for alto, tenor and baritone, mixed choir and large orchestra was created by the Feldkirch music teacher and university professor Bruno Oberhammer .

Klemens Vereno is also active in Austria with a wealth of oratorios. Mention should be made of his work Now we begin to sing , an oratorio for the Salzburg Advent Singing of 2006.

On October 7, 2011 in the parish church of Brixen-Milland, Brixen , Genesis - Oratorio for soprano, baritone, four to eight-part choir, 2 horns, strings and percussion by Franz Baur was premiered. The composer uses texts from the Old Testament (or the Tanakh ), but initially starts with the story of the creation of the world from the Gospel according to John ; the composer follows the seven-part narrative sequence of Genesis. Baur has supplemented the biblical text with comments by Empedocles , Melchior Vulpius , Michael Schirmer , Joachim Neander , Isaiah and Heinrich von Kleist . The composer, who "always had a soft spot for oratorios", was not so interested in "the great oratorical works [...] by Johann Sebastian Bach , Georg Philipp Telemann , Dietrich Buxtehude , Joseph Haydn and Felix Mendelssohn " for religious reasons, but “because of the musical possibilities of an 'opera without a scene', in which text and music are in the foreground.” Baur does not use a uniform composition technique. Each day of his oratorio is “shaped by one or more special techniques. This creates a great pluralism of styles , which includes , for example, aleatoric , sound surfaces and twelve-tone technology . "

On December 11th, 2011 the premiere of the Christmas Oratorio - “The Word became flesh - The Birth of Christ” op. 11 by Michael Stenov took place in the parish church in Niederkappel . The Easter Oratorio - "Resurrection" op. 73, which was premiered on May 10, 2018 in the parish church of St. Peter in Linz / Spallerhof, comes from the same composer .


On December 18, 1998 the world premiere of Dante Anarca Oratorio for soprano, alto, tenor, bass, mixed choir and orchestra took place in Stockholm's Berwaldhalle . Anders Eliasson used the prose poem Dante Anarca ei suoi sei maestri (Dante Anarca and his seven teachers) by the Italian scholar and poet Giacomo Oreglia as the basis for the 84-minute composition .


Thomas Fortmann created a Franciscan oratorio (1981 / 82–2005). In 2016 Elia Rediger and William Britelle composed the stage project LSD oratorio with the title Oh Albert for performance with the Basel Sinfonietta , the theme of the explorer Albert Hofmann's drug LSD .


Richard Einhorn created the oratorio The Origin in 2008 , a work that was inspired by Charles Darwin's life and work. In 2012 the European premiere was in Bremen.

Other forms

Evening music

The evening music composed from the middle of the 17th century by the organists of Lübeck's Marienkirche ( Tunder , Buxtehude ) for the concert series of the same name is classified as a sub-genre of oratorios.

New forms of the oratorio can be observed from around 1960.

Children's oratorio

Behind the term “children's oratorio” hides an oratorio work that can either be performed by children's choirs or offers child-friendly content. This is where the above-mentioned distinction between “Singspiel for children” (scenic) and “children's oratorio” (concert version) applies. The term “children's musical” must be distinguished from this (see the corresponding explanations for this term under musical ).


  • Paul Burkhard : Children's oratorio Zäller Wienacht , 1960; wide spread in Switzerland
  • Holger Hantke : The Christmas story for children . Oratorio for solos, children's choir, recorder quartet, flute, string quartet and obbligato organ, 1999
  • Chris Seidler: Children's Oratorio 7 Heaven (interreligious work)

Oratorio Passion and Passion Oratorio

Especially with a view to the suffering of Jesus and in the course of the musical implementation of the Passion Report of the four Gospels of the New Testament, the sub-genre Oratorio Passion and later the Passion Oratorio was formed .

Spiritual drama

A spiritual drama ("dramma sacro") is an oratorio with a stage set . An example of this is Johann Simon Mayr's two-act Atalia . It was premiered during Lent in 1822 at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples and, like Rossini's Ciro in Babilonia (1812) and Mosè in Egitto (1818) or Donizetti's Il diluvio universale (1830), belongs to the “fasting opera” type. The Italian opera houses remained closed during the Passion period or had to confine themselves to biblical themes. Opinions diverge as to whether these works can be described as operas or oratorios.

Staged oratorio and opera oratorio

The scenic oratorio is located as a sub-genre in the border area between opera and oratorio . Here are Alfred Koerppen with the scenic oratorio Der Turmbau zu Babel for four solos, male choir and large orchestra (1951) and also Wolfgang Schoor with the work Ein Denkmal für Dascha (text: Paul Wiens ) for two solos, two mixed choirs and large orchestra (1958/60) should be mentioned. Cesar Bresgen wrote the oratorio Visiones amantis in 1951 (The Wolkensteiner - Ludus tragicus in six pictures based on poems and ways by Oswald von Wolkenstein for solo voices, speaker, mixed choir and orchestra). It was staged semi-staged in 1952, and the staged premiere was in 1971.

But it also happens that an oratorio is subsequently staged by cautious direction (through scenery, gestures, costumes) without the composer's intention. Georg Katzer created oratorical scenes with his work Medea in Corinth based on a libretto by Christa Wolf in 2002.

Opera oratorio in two parts is the name of a genre in Darius Milhaud . His work Saint-Louis roi de France from 1970 is also somewhere between opera and oratorio. The premiere was on March 18, 1972 in Rome; she was staged on April 14, 1972 in Rio de Janeiro ( Theatro Municipal ).

Christiane Michel-Ostertun created a work on Martin Luther in the run-up to the anniversary of the Reformation in 2016 : Martin Luther - Oratorio for scenic or concert performance for 4 soloists, 1 to 3 choirs, chamber orchestra, trombone choir with young winds, recorder ensemble and organ.

Ballet oratorio

As early as 1932, Józef Koffler combined dance and oratorio and composed a ballet oratorio for dancer, soprano and baritone solo, choir and orchestra (op. 15). Dieter Schnebel created a work for this special genre with the title Dance of Death from 1992 to 1994 . This ballet oratorio is designed for two speakers, soprano, bass, choir, orchestra and live electronics.

Folk oratorio

The term folk oratorio called an oratory for and about the people .

Pop oratorio

An oratorio with this generic name indicates that it explicitly wants to be included in the music style of popular music.


  • Peter Maffay (music), Michael Kunze (text) using an idea from Novalis with Liesbeth List (soloist) and other contributors: The Blue Flower. A pop oratorio , 1972
  • Johannes Nitsch , Helmut Jost: Eternity falls in time - A pop oratorio on the story of Christ , 1989
  • Gerhard Schnitter Christmas POPratorium - Light in the Dark 1996. Schneider's so-called 'Christmas Choir ' with the title The Christmas Miracle , 2009, goes in a similar direction
  • Helmut Hoeft (music) and Wolfgang Fietkau (text): On the way: Stop at the present - On the tightrope between angels and tormentors. A pop oratorio , 2001
  • Michael Benedict Bender : King Dave. Pop oratorio (no year).
  • Klaus Heizmann : Israel Schalom Oratorio , 1988 and DAVID Oratorio - King - Singer and Poet , 2009
  • Gerd Schuller (music) and Sarah Hucek (text): Paulus composition commissioned by the Catholic Youth of Styria in the Paulus year 2008/2009

The pop oratorio The 10 Commandments by Dieter Falk and Michael Kunze, which was partly presented as a musical, made the step into the gigantic . 9,000 spectators in Dortmund's fully occupied Westfalenhalle watched the premiere in January 2010. According to the organizer, 2,700 people were involved in front of and behind the stage.

The pop oratorio I am - Jesus in Words and Miracles of the New Apostolic Church by Sigi Hänger and Christoph Oellig , whose libretto was written by Jürgen Deppert and the text book and the framework by Benjamin Stoll , is smaller . More than 1,500 young singers, the youth symphony orchestra of the New Apostolic Church of North Rhine-Westphalia and other musicians and performers took part in the premiere on June 1, 2013 in the Westfalenhalle in Dortmund and in the performance on June 14 in the O2 World Hamburg . Different styles from rock to blues to ballads and gospel come into play.

Rock oratorio

This oratorio style works with the tonal language and the means of rock music .


See also

Research history

Arnold Schering completed his habilitation in 1907 at the University of Leipzig with the work The Beginnings of the Oratorio , which he published in an expanded form in 1911 under the title History of the Oratorio . This first systematic presentation of the genre formed the basis for all further music-historical presentations of the topic in the 20th century.

Günther Massenkeil received his doctorate in Mainz in 1952 with a thesis on Giacomo Carissimi (The oratorical art in the Latin histories and oratorios of G. Carissimis).

Literature (chronological)

Individual evidence

  1. Reinhard Keizer : Passion Oratorio “The bloody and dying Jesus” (libretto by Menantes). (PDF; 33 kB) menantes-wandersleben.de, accessed on July 21, 2013 .
  2. ^ Homepage of the Joseph Haas Society .
  3. ^ Evangelical community sheet for Württemberg. Issue 46, November 15, 2009, p. 28.
  4. Jutta Bitsch's dramatic oratorio. ( Memento from September 24, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) In: Ruhrnachrichten. 29th September 2014.
  5. Live recording of the world premiere on September 28, 2016 on YouTube .
  6. Pontifical Mass and Festival Concert - Church Music Department in the Diocese of Limburg celebrates its 50th birthday. (No longer available online.) Diocese of Limburg , October 25, 2016, archived from the original on November 6, 2016 ; accessed on November 6, 2016 .
  7. Web page of the oratorio "Jerusalem" with individual references
  8. ^ Franz Baur: Genesis - world premiere. ( Memento from July 1, 2013 in the web archive archive.today ) on: kultur.tirol.at , 2011.
  9. CD booklet, CD 13013 ISRC-AT-TF 41 3001 Tiroler Landesmuseum 2013, p. 2.
  10. Anders Eliasson's oratorio Dante Anarca ( Memento from December 15, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) on musikmph.de .
  11. ^ "Oh Albert" in the Basel barracks. Barfi AG, September 30, 2016, accessed October 24, 2018 .
  12. James P. Cassaro: Gaetano Donizetti: A Research and Information Guide. Routledge, 2009, p. 136 ( online in the Google book search).
  13. ^ Helen M. Greenwald: The Oxford Handbook of Opera. Oxford University Press, 2014. p. 733 ( online in Google Book Search).
  14. Cesar Bresgen: Visiones amantis (The Wolkensteiner). Ludus tragicus in six pictures after poems and wise men by Oswald von Wolkenstein. Edition Peters, 1962.
  15. The Ten Commandments - a pop oratorio by Michael Kunze and Dieter Falk. Leading roles Michael Eisenburger and Bahar Kizil.
  16. Pop oratorio “I am” - Word and Wonder. wort-und-wunder.de, accessed on July 21, 2013 .
  17. Pop oratorio: Interview with director Benjamin Stoll. In: www.nak-nordost.de. June 14, 2016, accessed December 18, 2016 .