TO MARK the 100th anniversary of the First World War, the Slovak Philharmonic performed Vladimír Godár’s oratorio Querela Pacis on April 30 in its final show in the Special Concerts series. The piece was performed by the Solamente Naturali ensemble and its choir, Vocale Solamente Naturali, with artistic director Miloš Valent and soloists Hilda Gulyásová (soprano; standing in for Emily van Evera), Petra Noskaiová (alto) and Tomáš Šelc (bass), conducted by Andrew Parrott.

Originally composed for the anniversary of the Utrecht Peace Treaty in 2009 as a cantata consisting of five parts, the oratorio was later re-written with one piece omitted and seven more added and released on CD. “Later, it … [was performed] at the Pohoda [outdoor music] festival, but, alas, nobody really heard it there,” Godár wrote in the accompanying concert bulletin. “Thus, today’s concert on the centenary of the outbreak of WWI is this composition’s true premiere.”

Inspired by the eponymous work of Erasmus of Rotterdam, the oratorio also includes an excerpt from the Orbis Sensualis Pictus encyclopaedia for children by Johann Amos Comenius, the ancient Lament for the City of Ur, A Prayer-Allah poem by H. W. Longfellow, biblical Psalms and the Cradle Song ‘What Does the Little Birdie Say’ by Alfred Tennyson.

The concert, attended by the composer in person, received a standing ovation and was a nice prelude to the May celebrations of the liberation of Europe in the Second World War, as well as to the whole year of events marking the centenary of the big global war that swept through all of Europe and permanently changed the continent’s geopolitical map.

“Rulers have always reasoned the necessity of their wars with noble goals,” Godár wrote in the foreword. “… Dutch humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam was probably the first thinker who unambiguously rejected all justifications of the noble ideas of rulers, and in his two speeches – Querela Pacis and Dulce Bellum Inexpertis – he labelled war an absolute evil, for which the only real reason is the greed of those in power.”