The city where no birds are singing and no bells are ringing is a dead city. If measured by the intensity of its daily bell-ringing Munich would undoubtedly prove to be the most vivid city in modern Europe.
Upon receiving a request from Munich Philharmonic Orchestra to write a composition dedicated to the 850th anniversary of their home town, I decided to visit Munich for the first time in my life. It was a weekend at the end of September 2006. On Sunday morning, at the first tolling of the bells of the Peterskirche, I started a long walk around the city, armed with a thick guide book and a MiniDisc recorder. The first bell ringing on my disc was of course the one from Peterskirche. At noon the sounds of the wonderful Rathaus glockenspiel were also recorded. At 5.45 p.m. I was standing in front of the Frauenkirche waiting with a great impatience for the ringing of the bells announcing the Angelus service. Afterwards I joined the crowd attending the ‘Gottesdienst der Nationen’, quite a remarkable evening service held in 5 different languages. By the end of that memorable day the title and the structure of the future composition was clear to me.
Angelus starts with a hint of a Celtic chant, as a very vague greeting from ancient times. Out of the mists of the very remote past the first tolls of the church bell emerge. It is an imitation of the early morning bell of the Peterskirche. Bells of the nearby churches join in. They are accompanied by the sounds of singing birds (woodwinds). The persistent energy of time rapidly and vigorously passing by is reflected in the next episode followed by the one minute short stop at Marienplatz. The Glockenspiel of the Rathaus is playing the 3 Höfelein melody by Friedrich Silcher. Afterwards we gradually slide into the Angelus tolling of the Frauenkirche and into the evening church service itself. At the end of the piece there is the last bell-ringing of the day to be heard from Peterskirche again. As I was walking to my hotel along the streets of Munich on that Sunday evening the following words were echoing in my mind: “However often we lose faith in Our Lord, He never loses His faith in us”.
For 850 years ago the church bell sounded in the very heart of the future city of Munich for the first time, struck by the hand of a lonely monk. It has never since stopped ringing.