New York listening to music by Metropolitan Hilarion
The oratorio “The St. Matthew Passion”, composed by one of the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), will premiere in New York on February 7th.
Among the performers at the premiere show, which will be attended by the author, will be American actors, including both soloists and the New York Virtuoso Singers Choir. By the way, this oratorio was already performed in Moscow, Toronto, Istanbul, and Melbourne some time ago. The creation of Metropolitan Hilarion, which, naturally, is based on the traditions of the Orthodox culture, was performed in the Vatican as well. The Head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department For External Relations Metropolitan Hilarion, who is a composer by his first profession, uses his professional composer skills for building bridges between the representatives of various religions and confessions.
During his childhood and youth music was the main passion of Grigory Alfeyev, who later became Metropolitan Hilarion. As a student of the Faculty of Music Composer at the Moscow Conservatoire, he gave up music for the sake of Service in the Church. However, after a 20-year lapse, at the age of 40, while visiting a concert of choral music, the Russian priest happened to listen to one of his works, which he composed during his youth, and he felt immediately that he had to create music again. He needed only 10 days to write “The Divine Liturgy”. Metropolitan Hilarion says:
"Taking as the basis the divine service model, which is characteristic of church services offered during Holy Week, I decided to broaden somewhat the church framework and with the help of a choir, an orchestra and soloists to express the deep feelings and emotional excitement which we feel during the performance."
“Sacred music is a treasure, which the church has accumulated. And it wants to share its treasures not only with parishioners but also with ordinary music lovers, the author of “The Christmas Oratorio”, “The All-Night Vigil”, and “The Song of Ascent” says. And as regards the oratorio “The St. Matthew Passion”, it belongs to a musical genre, which earlier did not exist in the Orthodox music. It is based on Evangelical texts telling us about the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Metropolitan Hilarion has something to say about his own interpretation of the “genre of passions”.
"According to the Western tradition, a very sensitive and anthropocentrical significance has been given to the topic of sufferings of Jesus Christ since the Renaissance Epoch. Jesus Christ was always pictured with opened suffering eyes and with drops of blood. A good example is the film “The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson, with many naturalistic scenes. The Orthodox tradition renounces naturalism. It puts focus on Divine Providence. Even when we look at the crucified Jesus Christ, as is in line with the Orthodox tradition, he is always pictured dead, and we do not see his sufferings. Jesus Christ is shown in his glory and as the one who suffered for our sins and died, to rise from the dead and to open all the others the way towards Resurrection."
And this is exactly what Metropolitan Hilarion was guided by while composing his work “The St. Matthew Passions”.