Liszt’s oratorio Christus, in an Israeli premiere, conducted by Meir Minsky, was a highlight of the Israel Festival’s classical music events.

It is a monumental work. This is probably the reason it is performed only rarely, since it requires a festival to make its presentation possible. It seems to be another Liszt, different from the one we commonly encounter. Not the quasi- Hungarian piano-fireworks virtuoso of his Hungarian Rhapsody-like pieces whom Heinrich Heine labelled as a “gigantic dwarf,” but the more mature composer who had become inclined toward solemnity, religiosity and spirituality.

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The work’s chief hero is the choir, although its orchestral parts seem to be longer. These are reminiscent of Liszt’s earlier symphonic poems where he appears to be saying more than he has actually got to say. Well-calculated cuts might render the work more compact and digestible without causing any sense of loss.

The choral parts, on the other hand, although shorter – or perhaps because of that – are immensely impressive and gripping.

The work seems also to gain force as it carries along, its latter parts sounding noticeably more intense than the former ones. The women’s chorus Alleluia was breathtaking in its delicate softness, the subsequent Alleluia sounded stunningly forceful, and the Resurrexit exploded like an exuberant celebration of joy.

The Transylvania Choir of Cluj Napoca’s performance was admirable in its forceful expressiveness, subtle nuances and perfect cohesion.

The soloists – soprano Talia Or, mezzosoprano Iris Vermillion, tenor George Oniani, bass-baritone Roman Trekel – blended in harmoniously with each other.

The orchestral part was performed by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra.