The Mortality, The Foreboding, The Hope

Halloween Concert with the Mogens Dahl Chamber Choir, Toke Møldrup and Jakob Lorentzen


Sunday 1 November at 20:00

Holmen’s Church, Copenhagen


S. Bach (1685 – 1750): Jesu, meine Freude BWV 227
Sven-David Sandström (1942 – 2019): Drei Rilke Gesänge (2017)
S. Bach: Cello Suite
Arvo Pärt (f. 1935): Berliner Messe

Mogens Dahl Chamber Choir
Toke Møldrup, cello
Jakob Lorentzen, organ
Mogens Dahl, Conductor


One of Bach’s vast and most fascinating motets sets the theme of this Halloween concert: A hope despite the finality of life. ‘Jesu, Meine Freunde’ by Johann Franck personifies this hope put in Jesus and Bach brilliantly weaves Johann Kruger’s choral melody into a work in which the six verses of the psalm are illuminated by words from the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans. The climax is the five-part double fugue of the sixth movement in which Paul assures us that we humans are more than flesh and blood.


Thus, continuing the concert with a work by the late Sven-David Sandström – the longstanding composer in residence of the Mogens Dahl Chamber Choir – is deeply meaningful. Man’s encounter with death is thematised by his wonderful music for Rilke’s powerful poetry.


In the first poem, ‘Herbsttag’, the coming of autumn appears as a time of resolution – a time when the fruits of life will appear just as they are while lonely man “will restlessly travel back and forth, amongst the driving leaves of the avenues”.


In the second short poem, ‘Schlußstück’, it is death which is great – it cries in us ‘in the middle of life’, which is a recurring motif in literature: In a poem by Tomas Tranströmer, it is, thus, also ‘in the middle of life’ that death comes to measure up man, just like in Dante’s ‘The Divine Comedy’ it is ‘in the midst of the walk of life’ that the narrator finds himself in the dark forests with no way ahead.


In the last of the three Rilke poems, a ray of hope shines in the reconciliation between ‘night and sun’. Although love’s longing is ‘the pale of night’, Rilke ends his poem with a smile and white flowers.


The Berliner Messe, or Berlin Mass, was commissioned by Deutscher Katholikentag, a festival which is held every other year. In 1990, the festival was held in Berlin. Of course, it had been planned for several years but, the preceding winter, the hated wall dividing the city had unexpectedly fallen. Beyond the religious object of the Berliner Messe, the work has become a strong symbol of the overcoming of division and boundaries in this world and, thus, a beacon of hope in more sense than one.


In connection with a composition, the term ‘mass’ usually signifies a postponement of the five ordinarium parts, the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei, usually included in the celebration of the Roman Catholic Mass. However, but Pärt’s mass stands out: In 1990, the festival took place during Pentecost which is why he chose to supplement with three texts that belong exclusively to Pentecost.