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Süddeutsche Zeitung, 6 April 2021, translation by Danny Antonelli


For the online version of the oratorio “Our World is on Fire,” Pöckingen composer Rainer Bartesch is rounding up singers and instrumentalists from around the world. The world premiere, which will also be streamed live to cinemas in the district, is scheduled for June 12.

By Reinhard Palmer, Pöcking

Somehow, from the very beginning, Rainer Bartesch’s composition had an urge to become something grander. The basic idea of the composer, who lives in Maising near Pöcking, was to use “Our World is on Fire – An Oratory for our Future” to support the Fridays for Future (FFF) movement in the fight against climate change and in the struggle for a future worth living. The premiere of the work, coupled with moving images, was supposed to have taken place last November, possibly to be followed by a tour. But then, as we know, everything turned out differently.

Bartesch was not prepared to sit back and hope for better times, especially since the project was gradually gaining momentum. The video that accompanies the project, financed by crowdfunding, was made by two young filmmakers from Munich who devote themselves to computer-generated images under the label “Luminous Delusion”. The unusual feature: For the first time in Europe, they used special software from the USA (Muséik Cinema by Ionconcertmedia). This software makes it possible for the playback speed of the video to be dynamically adapted to the music. In terms of content, the animation transfers the statements of the oratorio into its own visual language, “without a simple duplication or pure illustration of what is sung.” As Bartesch says: “Since the oratorio is conceived of as a portrayal of the experiences of two opposing groups, the Nature People and the Money People, two opposing worlds are also found in the video.” The statements are political and explosive, as explicitly intended by Bartesch in the libretto artfully composed by Danny Antonelli.

But it didn’t stop there: With concerts and gatherings impossible, Bartesch devised a concept for an online event with protagonists from all over the world. Since then, he has been recruiting singers and instrumentalists across all continents to bring together orchestra, choir and soloists for this unusual jigsaw puzzle performance. Bartesch has set up a network of around 5,000 participants via Facebook alone. Those who want to actively participate in the music, record their relevant part on video and send it to Bartesch. The most recent idea is to also allow non-professionals to sing at certain points. This, too, is being done worldwide; if possible, 500 choir singers will be brought together in this way. The local community (the schools have been asked) and the world will sing with one voice on behalf of climate protection. The sheet music and musical accompaniment material, as well as instructions (in nine languages) for creating the video, are already available online:

So that people have something to watch while listening to the concert, Bartesch asks the participants to also send in their short videos of nature, both intact and polluted by humans. He wants to edit all of this into a multiscreen vision for his oratorio and send it out into the world as a message. The project is also sponsored by the Starnberg administrative region.

The idea is being well-received worldwide – the professional cast from 34 countries, from Colombia to the Ivory Coast to Sri Lanka, is almost complete. Bartesch tracked down the great black tenor Emmanuel Henreid (known as Onry) who lives in Portland (USA) for the lead solo part. Then Bartesch made a virtually sensational discovery: a Ghanaian male bass, Michael Mensah, who will sing for the first time in a major project. Michael Mensah has a vocal range of the darkest depth, capable of making the walls vibrate.

With Mensah, the tenor Henreid and three other professional singers, Bartesch has already been able to add some of the choral parts and the first solo part to the video as a demo. The boy soprano solo is David Schilde, grandson of the recently deceased pianist Klaus Schilde. Schilde joins in from the Munich Boys’ Choir. And just in time, because a request flew in from the City of Madison (USA) to screen the oratorio as a video at the “Winter is Alive” festival. It was recently streamed from there to the world.

Of course, the oratorio will also be performed live. Provided the Corona situation allows it, the premiere will take place on 20 November 2021 in the Church of the Ascension in Munich-Sendling. The public in the region will also have the opportunity to experience the concert in real time via live stream in the wide-screen cinemas of Matthias Helwig. Those who miss the live concert will benefit from a Musikfonds grant awarded to Pöckingen composer Bartesch, which will be used to create a professional video recording of the performance. Filmmaker Ralf Luethy from Feldafing has already agreed to participate. Sebastian Riederer from Audiamus, a recording studio in Munich, will record the audio.

After having developed a good relationship during the work on the project with the renowned US climate activist Stuart Scott and with many active campaigners involved with saving the climate, Bartesch hopes to soon also meet FFF initiator Greta Thunberg.

Original German version:

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Süddeutsche Zeitung, 23.05.2020; translation by Danny Antonelli


Composer Rainer Bartesch from Pöcking has written an oratorio that adresses Greta Thunberg's climate protests

Pöcking – Rainer Bartesch has composed a new 23-minute oratorio on a burning hot topic. No, it is not about Corona, but about climate change. Global warming continues unabated without regard to the lockdown; glaciers and polar caps continue to melt. In the meantime, politicians have once again been reminded that there is another problem besides the pandemic that will have serious consequences if we do not act immediately.

In order for the issue to remain in our consciousness, the composer, who lives in Maising, wrote this new work. It now bears the new working title “Our World is on Fire”, loosely based on a phrase from the speech by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, which she gave at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Several paraphrased excerpts from this speech can be found in “An Oratorio for Our Future”, which was originally to be called a Fridays for Future Oratorio, “because she gets to the heart of the matter so well,” says Bartesch. He would have liked to quote Thunberg directly, but the schoolgirl’s words is have been signed over to publicists whose conditions are stringent and restrictive.

The composer stands behind the Fridays for Future movement. He likes to participate and to debate. What Greta Thunberg said in Davos, he can sign up to.

Saving the environment is his concern as well, which, due to the lockdown, is faced with a unique opportunity to finally get through with a well-thought-out new start. All climate activists agree that there can be no further business as usual. The debate about how to do this has long since been ignited.

But not only Thunberg's ideas are found in the libretto of the composition, which is, as Bartesch says, an “oratorio in terms of form”. It is sacred in every respect, because the words in English are contrasted with words in Italian by Francis of Assisi, from the 13th century. With the haunting “Canticle of the Sun”, the hymn of praise to creation, they bring the subject matter up to a philosophical level.

To make sure that everything makes sense thematically, librettist Danny Antonelli, a multilingual globetrotter from Trieste (Italy), added his own words, challenging consumption and economic growth from a contemporary perspective. For example:

squeeze the debtor
cut expenses
pump in profit
slash the losses
be the owner
be the bosses

Such a distinctive work has hardly any precursors on which Bartesch could have based his music. It was “not so easy to find a structure that is appropriate but not too pop-like,” he says of the problem of form.

The situation was made more difficult by the fact that the no-budget work was subject to certain constraints. A Munich choir, which wanted to perform Bartesch’s “Tyrolean Requiem”, asked for an additional work with the same instrumentation. That meant: two soloists, a large mixed choir, chamber music, a small wind orchestra, four percussionists and organ. A colourful line-up, from which Bartesch gets effective musical results.

The composer put an electronically generated demo version online, where it registered 160 hits after only a few hours. The current number is over 500. The work is not an avant-garde creation. Bartesch’s background in film music can be clearly heard.

He first studied French horn and then played in orchestras for four years, including the Dresden Semper Opera Orchestra under Giuseppe Sinopoli.

But as a passionate folk and jazz musician he had a second support pillar with his French horn and alphorn. Having an affinity for technology, he also built up a studio. Bartesch returned to the Hochschule für Musik, first of all to take classes for teaching at schools, and immediately seized the opportunity to join the newly established film music class. In conducting and composing, he had finally reached his goal of being able to use all his skills and interests, which he then taught for five years as a lecturer at the university.

In the meantime Bartesch can point to a large catalogue of works: He has written over a hundred film scores, including for Matthias Kiefersauer’s comedy “Falsche Siebziger” and Jens Schanze’s “La Buena Vida – Das Gute Leben”, as well as serious music for soloists, choirs and orchestras, jazz and pop songs.

Among his mots prestigious awards is the first prize in the Paradisi Gloria composition competition of the Bayerischer Rundfunk for new sacred music, which he won in 2007 with his “Magnificat in modo moventium picturarum”.

With the oratorio, Bartesch is not only concerned with the music, but also with a work “that can provide impulses”. Two Munich filmmakers have already expressed interest in creating images for the composition. Various formats are planned, for example for concerts with video feeds, for an installation in planetariums or for a virtual reality 360-degree music video that can be viewed with VR glasses.

Using special encoding, priorities can be set in such a way that the speed of the film matches the speed of the music being played live.

“Our World is on Fire” is to be premiered on 14 November this year in Munich’s Himmelfahrtskirche with a performance by the Maria Ward Choir conducted by Thomas Baron – provided the corona restrictions allow it.

Reinhard Palmer 

Münchner Merkur, regional news, 4.8.2020

 A portrait of the musician Rainer Bartesch

From St. Francis of Assisi to Greta Thunberg:
Rainer Bartesch
composes an oratorio
warning about climate change

Rainer Bartesch holding his French horn

© Andrea Jaksch

Rainer Bartesch from Maising in Bavaria plays 40 instruments. He has now composed a piece in which activists from Fridays for Future also have their say: an oratorio warning about climate change.

Maising, Bavaria – He loves the peace and quiet, being embedded in nature. He feels like a part of the whole, as an equal part of it. The composer and musician Rainer Bartesch has been living in Maising since 2012, in a place which is, as he says, an intense village community.” This is where he feels comfortable with his family, this is where he is at peace deep inside himself. Especially in his garden, which offers a view over meadows and an old mill. Bartesch has completed a climate change oratorio, which will premiere in Munich on 14 November under the direction of Thomas Baron.

Our World is on Fire
  was created during the lockdown, because 50 of his concerts were cancelled. So he put his time and energy into a nearly half-hour work for the Maria Ward Choir from Nymphenburg. It is a dramatic work that is intended to sharpen awareness about the seriousness of the state of the world, but also to awaken hope. A boy soprano, tenor, choir and 20 instrumentalists lend a strong voice to the cause of the Fridays for Future movement and span a long arc from St. Francis of Assisi to Greta Thunberg.

Fridays for Future activists will also be singing along. The special ensemble for the oratorio is due to a second work: The Tyrolean Requiem. It was commissioned by Barteschs former percussion teacher Manfred Trauner, who told him that the piece should incorporate chamber music, alphorns, brass instruments and also be written for four percussionists, organ, solo tenor and boy soprano. It should sound Alpine. Yodels of praise and reverence, folk songs, the Andreas Hofer Song (the inofficial national anthem of the Tyrol) and the Marseillaise should be quoted. A colourful tapestry, says Bartesch with a laugh.

Bartesch has written more than 100 film scores

In November the Tyrolean Requiem will have its 13th performance. It follows the tradition of the parody mass, in which melodies known since the Renaissance are transferred into the sacred through a sacred text. The film and theatre composer, conductor, music school teacher, Mozart fan and musician, who has mastered 40 instruments, gladly accepts such challenges. He has written more than 100 film scores, conducted compositions such as Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in Africa) or Der Junge muss an die frische Luft (The Boy Needs to Go Out into the Fresh Air), and has been involved in major school projects, including at the Montessori School in Starnberg, where he worked on a world premiere with 120 primary school pupils. He has written theatre music and is proud that he discovered the talented Midas Dingemanse, winner of the Jugend musiziert prize.

Bartesch grew up in the Schongau area near a paper factory that polluted the environment with tons of sulphur dioxide. At the age of 17 he gave a three-hour lecture on the dying forest. He marched along with the protesters in Wackersdorf, photographed the symptoms of the dying trees and started studying chemistry after school to help protect the environment. Against the wishes of his parents. They saw him as a musician, but he was afraid of being put to the test on stage.

An emotional climax: a lady, overwhelmed by music, faints.

The passion gripped him nevertheless. At the age of twelve he played trumpet and horn in a wind band, at 14 he discovered the guitar. He played in a pop band, rocked the church, took part in youth pilgrimages to the Wieskirche and had his most formative experience there: a lady, overwhelmed by music, fainted. There it was, the power of music, the emotional and intellectual access to deeper layers of consciousness. This is what he wants to achieve with his compositions. Bartesch mentions his piece Gletscher-Atem (Glacier Breath) for alphorn and strings, in which, at the end, the audience breathes in the same rhythm as the music. A synchronisation takes place a basic human need.” And then he lets drop the line: Ego is always a hindrance to composition.”

As a film composer he has written the music for directors such as Marcus H. Rosenmüller, Matthias Kiefersauer, Stefan Betz and TV series’ such as Weingut Wader and he helped with film selections for the Fünf Seen Filmfestival. Currently he is mastering the interplay of film and music as if in a trance while assembling a music video with 150 students from the Munich Klenze-Gymnasium.

He is now also seeking sponsors, trying to finance a video for the climate change oratorio in order to enhance its impact even more. Singers are also welcome to join in for the concert in November. As are musicians who would like to perform the work in other venues.

Astrid Amelungse-Kurth