Frank Martin Golgotha – A Passion oratorio for 5 soloists, mixed choir, organ and orchestra
Performance on Good Friday of Golgotha, one of the most impressive passion oratorios of the twentieth century.
As Bach begins his St John Passion with the threefold exclamation ‘Lord’, so Martin’s Passion oratorio Golgotha commences with a loud and thrice repeated ‘Père!’, as the curtain opens for a magisterial Passion of great narrative force. From a very early age Martin found inspiration in Bach’s music. But the real catalyst for Golgotha was The Three Crosses, a 1653 etch by Rembrandt which was exhibited in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Geneva in the spring of 1945. Frank Martin describes his perception of this masterpiece as follows: ‘Amid a dark crowd which seems frozen with fear, the three crosses rise up. A sheet of white light descends from heaven on the central cross, on which Jesus is dying. From this moment I was haunted by the idea of realising, in so far within my ability, an image of the Passion.’ In ten tableaus the composer depicted the events from the Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the Resurrection at Easter. With this gripping musical narrative, in which hope is finally victorious over grief, Frank Martin created one of his most important and remarkable compositions.
Image: Rembrandt – The Three Crosses (1653)