Easter Festival of Sacred Music 2018



Brno International Music Festival

Easter Festival of Sacred Music

Garden, vineyard

25 March to 8 April 2018


When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.

(John 18:1-3)


The garden as an enclosed space, a refuge at times of anxiety.

The garden of Gethsemane, where Christ went to pray, was located at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Perhaps this is why, in the Moravian folk tradition, it is the olive tree – a rare and exotic tree that would not survive in Moravia’s frosts – that became the chosen wood of the Cross.

Alongside beeswax, olive oil is the most precious oblation, which fed the eternal light of sanctuary lamps, but it is also the oil used for anointing (the name Christ/Messiah means the anointed one). When the waters of the Flood receded, the dove brought an olive leaf back to Noah’s Ark.

The olive as a symbol of redemption.


The 27th year of the Easter Festival of Sacred Music is inspired by the emblem of the garden and its treasures. The symbolism and practical use of plants have been narrowly linked with the Christian tradition, but our understanding of these meanings and the connections various flowers have with the parts of the liturgical year is gradually disappearing. The Easter festival reminds us of these varied meanings: characteristically, it begins on the Mount of Olives with Beethoven’s oratorio, it keeps a vigil at the garden of Gethsemane (Wolfgang Rihm’s Vigilia) and references the folk tradition by walking out beyond the city walls, into the Art Nouveau Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Křenová, where we will hear the Saint John Passion, based on the tunes of Moravian folk songs.

During Holy Week, the flower patterns are woven into the joyous Masses composed in medieval Italy and into the works of Jan Dismas Zelenka, a musical master of the baroque era. The resurrected Christ, whom Mary Magdalene at first mistakes for a gardener, reminds us of the garden of Gethsemane. The emblem of the garden might merge with the idea of an island. But if it ceases to be a refuge, it might become, rather, the biblical vineyard, chosen by the Lord, which turned against Him.


There stands the olive tree, exotic olive tree,

With our Lord resting on it,

His precious blood all spilt.

(From Rudíkovy near Šumperk. František Sušil: Moravské národní písně)


Vladimír Maňas, programmer of the festival


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