»This was an incredibly powerful moment. One of the most powerful moments of my career.« – Benedikt Kristjánsson
Benedikt Kristjánsson is a singer without false vanity. The tenor ventures into the extremes, where he leaves the singer behind and reaches the existentially human within. With three projects the Icelandic singer designed a Beethovenfest residency that featured his individual voice and impressively demonstrated his pursuit of truth in expression.
The central project, newly conceived for Beethovenfest 2022, took the idea of Schubert's Winterreise to its utmost consequence: »Winterreise Perpetuum.«
The basic idea of the performance »Winterreise Perpetuum«: The Winterreise by Franz Schubert on repeat, as a 24-hour-performance. But a foot injury came in between Kristjánsson's plans. He decided to interrupt the 24 hours of singing at night for sleeping. Still, the performance was an unprecedented feat of strength.
»Yesterday I did sing for nine hours straight in venue one. By then [around 4:30 am], everybody had left. Then I slept a few hours and now I am back here at venue two and will start to sing here completely alone, until people will arrive to the concert.« Kristjánsson on the 11th Sept. 2022, the second day of the performance
For detailed information on the schedule and the idea of the performance, please refer to our magazine article.
Krstjánsson was especially anticipating the reactions of the audience to his performance. Because the radical presentation of a song cycle as never-ending circle confronts the listeners with the unusual situation of having to engage actively with the performance. Kristjánsson tells about his experience of the moment, when the first runthrough of the piece had finished and he resumed singing the first song of the Winterreise:
»After the last note, you feel the eagerness of the public to begin clapping. And to destroy this moment by beginning to sing again was really breathtakingly powerful. Because you just don't give the public the chance to breathe again… the bewilderment, that all of a sudden the public is put in the position to have to leave and sort of make a scene, and more and more people leaving – This was an incredibly powerful moment. One of the most powerful I have ever had in my career.«
How hard it was on him to sing for hours and alone in the swimming pool of Viktoriabad with crutches and a dislocated ancle may be perceptible on the pictures of the evening. The atmosphere was influenced by another circumstance too: The »Chin Chin Yeah« party that took place subsequently during the performance in the adjacent small swimming pool of Viktoriabad with silent disco.
»I felt like I was a caged animal in a zoo, and people were having a party around me and just went like ›Look at that guy‹. The feeling was completely different.«
After about nine hours, around 4:30 am, Kristjánsson interrupted his performance, subdued by pain. Only two persons had remained in the audience. The following day, he resumed singing the Winterreise in the afternoon at the second venue Kleine Beethovenhalle… Until the last runthrough of the evening with pianist Fabian Müller, when he mobilised all reserves once more, resulting in a gripping version.
In the future, Kristjánsson can imagine to do a similar performance again – but maybe in a shorter time span, to enable all listeners to stay for the whole time.
JUDAS: misunderstood antagonist of the passions
Judas Ischariot, the traitor of Jesus? For Benedikt Kristjánsson, he is a complex human being like any of us. Kristjánsson's second project created especially for Beethovenfest 2022 is the concert JUDAS. An evening exploring the ambivalent figure, his contradictions and motivations. Kristjánsson combined arias from various Cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach with excerpts from Amos Oz's novel Judas. Together with Baroque instrumentalists Clara Blessing (oboe), Nadja Zwiener (violin), Elina Albach (harpsichord/organ), Liam Byrne (viola da gamba) and Philipp Lamprecht (percussion), they created an individual interpretation of an archetype. The Viktoriabad offered the open space for this projekt yet again.
St. John's passion for trio
It is probably the project that attracted the greatest attention to Benedikt Kristjánsson: Johann Sebastian Bach's Johannespassion for soloist and two instruments alone. The arrangement goes back to a concept by Steven Walter and was created in close collaboration with harpsichord player Elina Albach and percussionist Philipp Lamprecht. It was born out of the situation of the first Corona lockdown. At Easter 2020, no concerts could take place, the traditional great performances of Bach's passions were cancelled.
The St. John's passion, then broadcast online, for tenor, harsichord/organ and percussion with three musicians and chorales inserted via Zoom from Bach choirs around the world, touched many hearts.
Also at Beethovenfest 2022, the Johannespassion for trio at Kreuzkirche Bonn developed an overwhelming impact. The chorales were sung by the whole audience, as was customary in Bach's own time in church performances. Historical performance practice that lives the spirit of the music, but freed from the literal adherence to the letters.
Benedikt Kristjánsson in the festival podcast
Benedikt Kristjánsson's residency at Beethovenfest 2022
St. John Passion
Elina Albach, Benedikt Kristjánsson, Philipp Lamprecht
Clara Blessing, Liam Byrne, Elina Albach
Benedikt Kristjánsson, Fabian Müller
, Kleine Beethovenhalle
Benedikt Kristjánsson, Fabian Müller