Classical Review: David

Coming from an almost unknown German Romantic composer, this was a surprisingly impressive work.

Soloist Ensemble 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Soloist Ensemble 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A recently discovered mid-19th-century biblical oratorio, David, by the largely forgotten Carl Gottlieb Reissiger, a contemporary of Weber and Mendelssohn, has been rescued from oblivion in a first performance outside of Germany, in Jerusalem, by the David Choir from Belzig, the composer’s hometown, conducted by Winfried Kuntz.
Coming from an almost unknown German Romantic composer, this was a surprisingly impressive work. During its two-and-a-half hour performance there was no dull moment. This effect was achieved by the extreme diversity of abundant appealing melodies, gripping rhythms, unpredictable harmonies and dramatic tension.
This resulted, no doubt, from Reissiger’s experience as a composer of eight operas, and this oratorio indeed contained discernible operatic touches. Though Romantic in style, the music steered clear of this period’s conventions, and is rich in individual inventiveness. Its Victory Chorus, for instance, is contagiously exuberant, the Coronation March is rhythmically exciting, and David’s emotional Lament of Saul and Jonathan sounds intensely moving rather than formally liturgical.
The work’s chief hero is the choir. It conveys the narrative’s main events forcefully as well as subtly. The David Choir, despite consisting of amateurs, or perhaps because of that, sounded well balanced, with meticulously pure intonation and, above all, remarkably enthusiastic.
Among the soloists, Stefan Puppe was particularly noteworthy.
His warm, sonorous, dark-timbred bass-baritone sounded friendly, and his intelligent rendition of the text emphasized its meaning clearly and communicatively.
The orchstral part was performed by the Israel Camerata.
This first encounter with Reissiger has now aroused curiosity for more examples of his oeuvre.
Carl Gottlieb Reissiger
Church of the Redeemer,
April 28