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    Old olive tree

    Beethoven’s “Christ on the Mount of Olives”

    By Marianne Wright

    March 30, 2014

    The Plough Music Series is a regular selection of music intended to lift the heart to God. It is not a playlist of background music: each installment focuses on a single piece worth pausing to enjoy.

    Beethoven’s oratorio “Christ on the Mount of Olives” tells the story of Jesus’ final night in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-56). For close to an hour, the music describes his anguish and prayers; then comes the angry crowd with “swords and clubs” to arrest him. Jesus declares his decision to surrender to the will of the Father, in the knowledge that this will bring about redemption.

    Beethoven’s response to this moment is an anthem of praise which begins so suddenly (with majestic chords on drums, trumpets, and strings) that it almost interrupts Jesus’ final words.

    Welten singen Dank und Ehre
    dem erhab’nen Gottessohn.
    Preiset ihn, ihr Engelchöre,
    laut im heil’gen Jubelton.

    Halleluiah unto God’s almighty son.
    Praise the Lord ye bright angelic choirs
    In holy songs of joy.
    Man, proclaim his grace and glory.
    Halleluiah unto God’s almighty son. 

    The libretto is by Franz Xaver Huber. The English words given here are as most frequently sung; a more literal translation of the first line is “Worlds are singing thanks and praise.”

    Gehtsamane Olive trees Olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane
    Contributed By MarianneWright Marianne Wright

    Marianne Wright, a member of the Bruderhof, lives in southeastern New York with her husband and five children.

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