Beloved Son (1978)


An Easter Oratorio
1978 | 40 min
Music by Dave Brubeck / Poetry of Herbert Brokering. Scriptural text and poetry by Lutheran minister Herbert Brokering (1926–2009) adapted by Iola Brubeck.
Commissioned by the American Lutheran Church Women

For baritone, soprano, chorus, jazz quartet and orchestra
(Reduced orchestration: 3 fl, 4 hrn, hrp, timpani, perc, organ)

I. Abba, Father
II. Eli
III. Rabboni

Overview

Beloved Son was commissioned by the American Lutheran Church Women for its sixth triennial national convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The text, from scripture and poetry by Lutheran minister Herbert Brokering (1926–2009) was adapted by Iola Brubeck. Brokering said in a Minnesota Public Radio interview in 1978:

“I tried to put something together that was round—east, west, north, south, sky, and earth. I wrote an entire round piece once … I thought iambic pentameter, and I wondered if I could cradle it in Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” … I wrote it so that sometimes you could sing it from the top down, from the bottom up, and from the center out. … I wanted to make it flexible. That’s the way I think … I do not think from the top down or from left to right. I think from the center out and back. I think cyclically.”

The work is divided into three parts—I. Abba, Father; II. Eli; and III. Rabboni—and scored for mixed chorus, women’s chorus, baritone soloist (Jesus), soprano soloist (Mary), and full orchestra with optional jazz improvisation. It’s use of chorales and counterpoint imitates the style of J.S. Bach.

Synopsis

The prophecy unfolds in the Garden of Gethsemane as Jesus’s voice cuts through the murmurs of voices. Jesus’s first statement (“My soul is sad even unto death / Wait here, watch, and pray” is set to a twelve-tone row, a compositional technique developed by Arnold Schoenberg (whom Dave met in his college years) that puts all twelve notes in an order sequentially. Jesus prays and the chorus of women and children chant “Abba Father”.

The second scene opens with a drum solo and chant (“Behold the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”)