Rebecca Horn, Zwitter, 1987 · Glastrichter, Metallrahmen, pulverisierte Holzkohle, Schwefel · Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Helga de Alvear, Cáceres, Foto: Johansen Krause, © Bildrecht Wien, 2021
About the series

Ouverture Spirituelle · Sacrificium

The German term ‘Opfer’ has a double meaning signifying both sacrifice and victim. It can mean a devout offering for the glory of God, or refer to all those who endure suffering, agony and even death, whether of their own free will or by force. The cultural feat of overcoming the ancient ritual of human sacrifice, as told in Genesis through Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, casts a dark shadow over the Book of Judges, which recounts how Jephthah fulfils his vow to make a burnt offering by sacrificing his daughter, his only child. The New Testament takes up this idea in order to overcome it: according to Christian understanding, the Passion of Christ is the ultimate sacrifice — of the Almighty Father as well as the Son of God, who accepts and fulfils his mission of salvation.

‘No monument stands over Babi Yar.’ So begins the poem Babi Yar by Yevgeny Yevtushenko. When more than 33,000 Jewish men, women and children were murdered in the ravine of the same name near Kiev in 1941, it was one of the most horrifying massacres in the history of the Holocaust. Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 ‘Babi Yar’, in which Yevtushenko’s words are set to music, stands at the beginning of an Ouverture spirituelle focused on musical testimonies to the pain and enormity of the victims’ suffering. The unspeakable horrors of the Shoah are voiced musically in works by Shostakovich and Luigi Nono, while Tigran Mansurian’s Requiem addresses the Armenian genocide and is dedicated to its victims. Honegger depicts Joan of Arc on the stake, and Giya Kancheli turns an ear to the pain of being uprooted. Josef Mysliveček’s Abramo ed Isacco, Giacomo Carissimi’s Historia di Jephte, and Orlande de Lassus’s settings from the Book of Job deal with texts from the Hebrew scriptures, and works by Handel, Scarlatti, Haydn, Mozart and Rihm illustrate different aspects of the suffering and death of Christ.

Walter Weidringer
Translation: Sebastian Smallshaw

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With generous support from Prof. Dr. h.c. mult. Reinhold Würth and the Würth-Group