Passion Play Music

Music carries an extraordinary significance within the Passion Play of Oberammergau

© Arno Declair

Many first-time visitors are astonished by the powerful role the music plays within the perfomance. Almost a third of the five and half hours lasting perfomance is taken up by musical compositions- which is almost equivalent to a complete oratorio.

The Legacy of Dedler

When Rochus Dedler, teacher an composer from Oberammergau, composed the music for the Passion Play in 1820, his third attempt went well beyond a musical composition meant to underscore the dramatic action on-stage. Nowadays, music composed for the cinema and television is usually reduced to background music. Musical compositions of the past, like Mendelssohn´s score for Shakespear´s ' A Midsummer Night´s Dream' or Beethoven´s score to 'Egmont', are characterized by their autonomy- a characteristic which clearly associates these compositions with ecclesial oratorios. The musical compositions by Rochus Dedler for the Passions Play must be viewed in the same context.

Criticism grew in the second half of the nineteenth century. The propensities of the time deemed the melodies too catchy and the performance by the musicians and vocalists of Oberammergau a bit rustic. As a result each Passion Play season the orchestra was expanded and the number of vocalist steadily increased until a seizable choir was established.

Dedler´s melodies underwent numerous changes, set pieces were commissioned, added and rejected. Modifications to the scenes and the texts required extensive abbreviations and changes within the musical compositions. It was not until Professor Eugen Papst´s profesional revision in 1950 that the continuois modifications came to a standstill.

In the light of the emerging trends in the 1970´s for a return to more historically informed performances it seems plausible that calls for a reinstatement of Dedler´s original music would have been made. However, the authentic sound of Dedler´s music may have suprise the people of Oberammergau the most as they have only ever been exposed to the highly revised version.

Instead Oberammergau holds fast to the habit of ever-evolving stage scenery, text, and music

Extracts of the Passion Play Music 2010

The CD of the Passions Play Music 2010 can be ordered at our onlineshop or at the Tourist Informations of the Ammergau Alps