BO HOLTEN (b.1948): Schlag sie tot! - the Fire of Change.
Catalogue Number: 09X049
Description: Holten's opera tackles no less a subject than the Protestant Reformation, inevitably centered on its central figure, the complex and fascinating figure of Martin Luther, whose fiery rhetoric, irascibility, and skillful manipulation of public opinion led to one of the greatest polarizations of society ever achieved, one still capable of sparking fierce passions and controversy five hundred years later. The composer’s natural idiom is tonality; he has declared that composing without tonal harmony is like "painting without colour" and has demonstrated repeatedly that, gifted with a prodigious imagination and a wealth of performing experience, it is indeed possible to write works of great originality in an idiom that is simultaneously of our time and rooted in the historical tradition. The libretto concentrates on Luther the man rather than delving into theology, and with his complicated personality - dogmatic and self-assured, yet racked with doubt and unsure of his own salvation even as he dictated terms for that of others, makes him the ideal flawed operatic hero. For the music, Holten has adopted an unique strategy, perfectly suited to this particular work. Research suggests that Luther wrote much of the music associated with his chorales, so Holten has based his score on the Lutheran Hymnbook, claiming that something of Luther is present in virtually every bar of the score. But we hear no transcribed chorales; the genius of Holten's approach lies in the way in which the (sometimes very familiar) material is adapted into passionate declarations by the principal characters, raucous crowd scenes, ceremonies, events of overwhelming drama, introspective soliloquies, and all the accoutrements of the operatic tradition. The result is a sumptuous neo-romantic score, with an unfailing sense of appropriateness to its subject and (of course) exemplary vocal writing, in a powerful, character-driven drama. 2 CDs. German-English libretto. Dietrich Henschel (baritone), Thomas Volle (tenor), Inger Dam-Jensen (soprano), Reinhard Hagen (bass), Malmö Opera Childrens' Chorus, Malmö Opera Chorus and Malmö Opera Orchestra; Patrick Ringborg.