Sunday, October 23, 2016
The late Stephen Paulus (file photo) On Sunday at 4pm in First Church, Cambridge, the Harvard University Choir, under the direction of Edward Elwyn Jones, will present Stephen Paulus’s church opera The Three Hermits. Based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy, the opera features a colorful cast of characters richly portrayed through Paulus’s striking music. The opera focuses on the themes of humility, tolerance, and servitude, making it of particular relevance in our current climate. The performance features soloists from the Harvard University Choir, alongside local favorites David McFerrin and Clare McNamara, and is free and open to the public. In response to our questions Jones submitted the following: It’s a wonderful piece and Paulus’s untimely death in 2014 was a great loss to the American musical scene; last time we did the Hermits he came and worked with the choir, which was a real treat. We are not doing any staging for this performance—I think the music and words speak volumes by themselves—though we will be utilizing the spatial effects of First Church. I don’t think the libretto is preachy at all—Leo Tolstoy was, after all, rather an anarchist Christian—but the theme of a figure in authority being humbled by the humility of everyday folk is—without wanting to be too obvious—quite interesting (and hopefully even prescient) in this rather strange election year. I see a lot of parallels between this work and Britten’s church parables, and even more importantly, the example of Britten’s St. Nicholas—the beginning of the Paulus is sonically reminiscent of that work. And I think both composers believed strongly in the power of communal (and amateur in the best and truest sense of the word) music-making within society. Edward Elwyn Jones (file photo) Paulus wrote very fluently in almost every genre, though he is particularly remembered for his operas and church music—this work marries both genres very well. The writing is lyrical with moments of great poignancy and drama; the choral music is so well-written, and the closing section of the work—the famous Pilgrims’ Hymn—has become Paulus’s best-known work. The orchestration is also very colorful: it’s for chamber forces (again taking off from Britten’s lead, I think) and he uses the solo winds to great colorful effect. The Three Hermits was commissioned by House of Hope Presbyterian Church, MN, and premiered there in 1997, with a text by Michael Dennis Browne (after Tolstoy). The performance takes place in in First Church because Memorial Church, the home to the Harvard University Choir, is closed for the semester for renovations. “It’s lovely to be performing outside of its walls, particularly in First Church, whose aesthetic (slightly Byzantine) is very well-suited to this piece.” More info at memorialchurch.harvard.edu The post First Church Becomes Hermitage appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .
Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) Trauermusik (1936) Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) Lachrymae. Reflections on a song of John Dowland (1976) Krzysztof Penderecki (1933) Concerto per viola ed orchestra (1983) Kim Kashkashian, viola Stuttgarter Kammerorchester, Dennis Russell Davies ECM 1506 (1993) [flac, cue, log, scans]
What are songs but stories set to music? Whether they are confessional stories of the self or telling any variety of narrative, songs are tales spun to music. Back in February of 2009, I had the privilege of participating in one of the Marilyn Horne Foundation's National Artist Residencies in Oberlin, Ohio. These residencies consisted of a full recital on the local presenting series (in this instance, the Oberlin Conservatory's Artist Recital Series), preceded by a couple of days of outreach performances, taking art songs into the local schools. The most challenging and rewarding part of this week in Ohio were these outreach performances. My pianist colleague and I performed in classrooms filled with children as young as 5 years old - 1st and 2nd graders. We were limited to only art song - no opera arias, no crossover repertoire. The task of presenting the songs of Robert Schumann and Benjamin Britten to these young people was a daunting one - how does one hold a child's attention with this music? It was a transformative experience for me (one which I blogged about at the time), and it revolutionized my approach to performance ever since. At one point a few years ago, I was seeking programming advice from one of the artistic planning directors at Carnegie Hall, when he told me something that reminded me of that experience with those children back in 2009. "When it comes to art song, you have to remember, there really is NO standard repertoire," he said. It was a liberating reminder, making me remember that any song repertoire will be falling on ears as fresh as those young schoolchildren back in Ohio. The same techniques apply, regardless of one's audience - one has to mine every detail, and pretend that they are telling a tall tale to a group of children around a campfire. No stone must be left unturned, and every colorful extreme must be brought to life. As a child, one of the first books I remember falling in love with was a copy of D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. I’ve been fascinated with tales of the legendary and fantastic ever since. As more and more children have entered our lives, most notably Myra's two daughters and my niece, storytelling has become a greater part of our personal lives, leading us to this fun Gods & Monsters program that is so full of musical imagination. One of the most astounding aspects of these powerful musical miniatures is the incredible amount of color and atmosphere they lend to these stories, so that each song becomes an epic tale of almost cinematic proportions. I found myself standing in front of an audience full of fresh ears yet again last Friday in Washington, DC. Myra and I took our Gods & Monsters program out for its maiden voyage in public, as part of a benefit concert for a fantastic volunteer organization called YSOP. Standing in front of an audience of YSOP's many supporters who there to support their efforts, and experience a new musical experience; some of the young people that YSOP engages in community service projects, and some homeless people who are the beneficiaries of YSOP's programs, I felt not unlike I did standing in that Oberlin 1st & 2nd grade classroom seven years ago. It was a thrill to be able to pretend that we were all sitting around a campfire, with Myra and I telling them tales of kings, knights, witches, gods and monsters in as much vivid detail as possible, seeing everyone's eyes brighten as their imaginations fired up just as much as ours were. Myra and I at the YSOP benefit recital last Friday in Washington, DC. There's still a couple of weeks to pre-order your copy of Gods & Monsters, as well as make a tax-deductible contribution towards underwriting the final stages of the project before its January 2017 release. Pre-order your copy and make a donation HERE! Nicholas Phan Recording Projects is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a nonprofit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Nicholas Phan Recording Projects must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” only. Any contribution above the value of the goods and services received by the donor is tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Opera loves its anniversary years, and works inspired by William Shakespeare are everywhere in 2016, marking 400th since his death. Since January I have posted adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, Falstaff, Othello, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This week, I am happy to add two of the newest crop of nods to the Bard of Avon: Lear by Aribert Reimann, and Hamlet by Anno Schreier. A quick glace around the Internet revealed some 49 operas inspired by Shakespeare, from Henry Purcell’s The Fairy-Queen to Thomas Adés’ The Tempest. I’m not counting West Side Story or Re Lear, for which a libretto was completed by Antonio Somma but Giuseppe Verdi unfortunately never got around to finishing the score. Reimann’s opera, set to a libretto by Claus H. Henneberg, famously premiered at the Bayerische Staatsoper in 1978 as a vehicle for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s original production soon transferred to the San Francisco Opera where it was performed in English starring Thomas Stewart. Productions in Paris and London followed shortly thereafter. In addition to a Deutsche Gramophon studio recording, a 1982 telecast from Munich with many members of the original cast can be found on pirated DVDs; a broadcast from San Francisco also exists. Post-Mozart and Billy Budd, Bo Skovhus has morphed into a champion of New Music and has sung Lear in Hamburg (the source of this week’s performance) and most recently in Paris. Reimann does like his coloraturas (the music for the heroine of his most recent opera, Medea, is a marathon written with Marlis Petersen in mind; she returns to sing it at Wiener Staatsoper this season), and newcomer Siobhan Stagg tackles Cordelia’s difficult music in a 2014 performance led by Simone Young. Schreier, a 37-year-old composer from Aachen, Germany, was commissioned by Theater an der Wien to compose an opera for its ongoing Shakespeare celebration, which also includes Antonio Salieri’s Falstaff, Verdi’s Macbeth in both its original 1847 version and 1865 revision, The Fairy-Queen, and in concert Johann Adolph Hasse’s Piramo e Tisbe. Schreier’s Hamlet, a critical success at its world premiere on 14 September 2016 in a production by Christof Loy, diverges from a strict, linear adaptation of the play. Thomas Jonigk uses not only Shakespeare for his libretto, but sources which Shakespeare possibly cinsulted, such as Saxo Grammaticus’ Historia Danica and François de Belleforest’s Histoires tragiques. The opera presents a series of 24 episodes in Hamlet’s life concentrating on interpersonal relationships, such as the prince’s incestuous relationship with his mother, Gertrud. Musically, I find it to be influenced by the Three B’s: Bartók, Berg, and Britten, with a touch of Richard Strauss for irony. In perhaps a nod to Reimann, who assigned Lear’s Fool to an actor, Schreier created the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father as a speaking role, here performed by veteran countertenor Jochen Kowalski. One of the many choices which I find fascinating in this opera is the decision for the chorus to perform the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, as if so many voices speaking inside Hamlet’s head. Sporting ripped jeans, a T-shirt and a man bun, young baritone Andrè Schuen scored a triumph in the title role. Marlis Petersen plays his sex-crazed mum, memorably letting her son’s hair cascade from the top of his head as she strokes his face. Bo Skovhus is here, too, creating the role of Claudius. Michael Boder leads the ever-adventurous ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien and the Arnold Schoenberg Chor in this broadcast of the world premiere. Hamlet was subsequently streamed online, and will be telecast by ORF in November. Post scriptum – In case these passed you by in a busy week, I posted several performances which have been hot topics in recent weeks on Parterre: Der Rosenkavalier from the Boston Symphony with Andris Nelsons leading Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, and Franz Hawlata; a concert performance from Berlin of Act I of Die Walküre with Anja Harteros in her role debut as Sieglinde, along with Peter Seiffert and basso-of-the moment Georg Zeppenfeld; and finally Harteros’ first Tosca in Wien, in the less-than-stellar company of Jorge de León and Marco Vratogna. As always, they can be found at https://www.mixcloud.com/Jungfer_Marianne_Leizmetzerin/ . It’s been a while since I saw a truly demented Tosca and Harteros did not disappoint: lines growled rather than sung, ample dips into chest voice, an actual cackle as she rips the safe-conduct from Scarpia’s corpse, and an A+ in cape-waving (including some Julie-Andrews-as-Maria-von-Trapp 360° twirls in Act III). Her loose cannon approach made my last Tosca, Angela “they made me wait so I make them wait” Gheorghiu, seem downright schoolmarmish.
By Jacob Stockinger It has been a busy weekend for music, and tomorrow, Sunday, Oct. 16, it continues. For fans of band and choral music, a lot of choices are on tap at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and Edgewood College . Here is the lineup: At 1 p.m. in Mills Hall, the University Bands (below top) at the UW-Madison will perform under conductors Darin Olson (below bottom), Nathan Froebe, Justin Lindgre. Sorry, no word on the program. At 2:30 p.m. St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood College Concert Band presents its Fall concert. Admission is FREE with a free will offering to benefit the Luke House Community Meal Program. The program, under the direction of Walter Rich (below, in a photo by Edgewood College) will perform music by John Williams, Leonard Bernstein and Richard Strauss. The program combines those three legendary names with a selection of new music by three young composers: Brian Balmages , Sean O’Loughlin and the emerging American star Daniel Elder. The Edgewood College Concert Band provides students and Madison-area community musicians with the opportunity to perform outstanding wind literature. The band has performed a variety of works, ranging from classic British band literature of the early 20th century to transcriptions, marches, and modern compositions. The group charges no admission for concerts, but often collects a freewill offering for Luke House, a local community meal program. The group rehearses on Wednesday evenings from 7-9 p.m. At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music will host the FREE Choral Collage Concert. The concert features many groups: the Concert Choir (below top), Chorale, Madrigal Singers, Women’s Choir (below bottom), University Chorus and Master Singers. The program, drawn from the Baroque, Classical and Modern eras, includes music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (the beautiful “Ave Verum Corpus ,” which you can hear with Leonard Bernstein conducting, in the YouTube video at the bottom), Benjamin Britten, Johann Schein, Arvo Part (below), Orlando di Lasso and others. For more information and a link to the complete program, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/uw-choral-collage/ Tagged: Arts , Arvo Part , Ave Verum Corpus , band , Baroque , Benjamin Britten , brass , Brian Balmages , British , choral music , Chorale , Classical , Classical music , Concert Band , Concert Choir , conductor , Daniel Elder , Edgewood College , Jacob Stockinger , Johann Schein , John Williams , Leonard Bernstein , Luke House , Madison , madrigal , Madrigal Singers , march , marches , Master Singers , modern , Mozart , Music , New Music , Orlando di Lasso , Richard Strauss , Sean O'Loughlin , singer , transcriptions , United States , University Chorus , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , vocal music , Walter Rich , Wisconsin , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , women , women;s choir , YouTube
Benjamin Britten (22 November 1913 - 4 December 1976) was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. Showing prodigious talent from an early age he composed his Quatre Chansons françaises for soprano and orchestra at the age of fourteen he first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945 Britten leapt to international fame, and for the next fifteen years he devoted much of his compositional attention to writing operas, several of which now appear regularly on international stages. Britten's interests as a composer were wide-ranging; he produced important music in such varied genres as orchestral, choral, solo vocal (much of it written for the tenor Peter Pears), chamber and instrumental, as well as film music. Britten also took a great interest in writing music for children and amateur performers, and was considered a fine pianist and conductor.
Great composers of classical music