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Ouverture spirituelle • Eastern Christianity II: Marian Hymns from the Orient


Chants from the Syrian and Maronite Tradition
“Hayya Mai min loubnan” (Come with me and leave Lebanon) – Song of Songs 4:8
“Tawnimar” (Let us Announce Mary’s Beatitude) from the Midnight Mass according to the Syrian-Orthodox Tradition – Ephrem the Syrian (4th Century)
“Yawno Tlito” (The Young Dove Carries the Eagle) from the Midnight Mass according to the Syrian-Catholic Tradition – Ephrem the Syrian (4th Century)
“Gbo wo – Baytun Maghara” (A House, a Manger!) from Midnight Mass according to the Maronite Tradition – Ephrem the Syrian (4th Century)

Limaza ta’jabina ya Mariam (Why do you marvel, o Mary?)
from the Midnight Mass according to the Byzantine-Melkite Tradition

Anti-Ya-Walidata-l-ilah (You, Mother of God)
Excerpt from the Hymn of Akathistos – St. Romanos, 6th Century, Melkite Tradition

Magnificat (My Soul Magnifies the Lord)
Magnificat, Luke 1, 46-55
Music: Sœur Marie Keyrouz

Jami’ou-l-Aiyal (All People Praise You)
Hymn for the Passing of the Virgin Mary, Melkite Tradition

Tahadat (Mary has appeared at the Foot of the Cross of Jesus)
Good Friday Passion, Maronite Tradition

Inna-l-malak (And the Angel Spoke to Her)
Resurrection, Melkite Tradition

Mariam (Mayr, Dry Your Tears, Christ has Risen)
Resurrection, Melkite Tradition

Axion Esti (It is tryly Right to Praise You)
Hymn in Honour of Theotokos from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom – 6th Century, Byzantine Tradition


End of concert approx. 9:45 pm.

Print programme (PDF)


For years, Sœur Marie Keyrouz, originally from Lebanon and now living in Paris, has been advocating interreligious understanding and an open regard of cultures for each other. Together with singers and musicians from the various regions of Lebanon, she founded her ensemble Vocal de la Paix in 1984, a living contribution to peace in her country. Her extraordinary voice opens a path to her audience’s hearts, introducing it to the archaic power of Middle Eastern music: from traditional Marian chants of the Maronites to Byzantine and Melkite hymns, all the way to songs that are Arabic in language and musical form. Proceeds from Sœur Marie Keyrouz’ concerts finance several orphanages in Lebanon. In Salzburg, she and her ensemble dedicate themselves to the vocal traditions of the Melkite, Maronite and Aramaic churches.

Motive Ouverture spirituelle, © Robert Mertens




Ex oriente lux: the sun rising in the East became a symbol for Christian faith – and remained a catchphrase even after the ‘East-West Schism’ had divided the disparate traditions of Christianity into a Western and an Eastern church. From the perspective of modern historians, this was not a singular event in 1054, but a process of estrangement stretching over decades, even centuries, due to increasing linguistic, cultural, political, economic and of course theological differences, culminating in the catastrophic sack of Christian Constantinople by an army of Venetian crusaders in 1204. It was no coincidence that the Eastern tradition chose to call itself ‘orthodox’ (literally, ‘right in religion’) – after all, it worshipped in Greek, the original language of the New Testament. Even the spoken word of God was music, and song its most intense augmentation: no instrument but the human voice was able to express the effect of the Holy Ghost adequately. This conviction, manifest in sumptuous choral works, was handed down to the various traditions rooted in the Eastern church, spreading geographically from Africa to Asia. Ensembles from Russia, Armenia, Greece, Lebanon, Egypt and Ethiopia will offer resounding examples of these different traditions.
Echoes of these can be detected in works like the large-scale Concerto for Choir by the native Russian Alfred Schnittke – in the anti-clerical Soviet Union in 1986, this was as much of a scandal as the religious fundaments of the music of Estonian Arvo Pärt, particularly revered in the West today. His musical self-discovery in the 1970s went hand in hand with his conversion to the Russian-Orthodox faith. In a sublimated form, the latter may have already been present in the Symphony of Psalms which Igor Stravinsky, himself Russian-Orthodox, expressly did not conceive as a symphony featuring sung psalms, but psalms in a symphonic setting.
The ‘Western’ programme of the Ouverture spirituelle mirrors the status of choral music in the Eastern church, especially in great oratorios written in the Catholic or Reformed traditions. Of course the tradition of beginning the series with Joseph Haydn’s Creationcontinues – conducted this year by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. It reaches its contemporary culmination with the world premiere of Peter Eötvös’s dramatic Halleluja – Oratorium balbulum; classical milestones include Mozart’s Mass in C minor at St. Peter and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. While the prophet in Eötvös’s work is afflicted with a stutter, the biblical Daniel in George Frederic Handel’s fascinating oratorio Belshazzar suffers no such impediment: summoned by the Babylonian king – truly a ‘monstrous human beast’, characterized by a pig’s grunt arising from the orchestra pit – Daniel interprets a mysterious writing on the wall (the well-known ‘menetekel’) to foretell his imminent end. The victorious Persian Cyrus liberates the Israelites from their Babylonian slavery: he too, appears as a light from the East.

Walter Weidringer

Tanslated by Alexa Nieschlag

as part of the Ouverture spirituelle

As in previous years, we are grateful that the Herbert Batliner European Institute will cooperate again with the Salzburg Festival, accompanying the Ouverture spirituelle with academic presentations and discussions. Complementing the concert programme focusing on Eastern Christianity, the Disputationes feature issues of intercultural and interreligious dialogue.

The first event takes place on July 22, 2016.
Three rounds of public conversations follow as part of the Ouverture spirituelle.