Celebrating Philomusica's 25th anniversary with music director Dennis Boyle

 

2008 Spring Concert
 

W.A. Mozart Te Deum and Dominican Vespers

and Michael Haydn Requiem in C Minor

With Orchestra and Soloists
Soprano: Nadine Robinson; Mezzo-Soprano: Teresa Bucholz;
Tenor: Oliver Mercer; Bass: Scott Dispensa



MAY 31, 2008, 8 PM
AND
JUNE 1, 2008, 4 PM


St. Bartholomew's Church, 470 Ryders Lane, East Brunswick, NJ


 
This program has been made possible in part by funds from 
the New Jersey Council on the Arts/Department of State, 
a Partner Agency of the National Endowment on the Arts;
through a grant provided by the Middlesex County Cultural
and Heritage Commission Board of Chosen Freeholders.



Program Notes

 

     In addition to numerous masses and two sets of Vespers written for use in the Salzburg Cathedral, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) also composed a number of short, sacred pieces of music. His only setting of the Te Deum was composed in Salzburg in 1769, when Mozart was 13 years old. Although it is a fairly short piece in length (7–8 minutes), it is set in symphonic form of 4 distinct sections: the opening, vigorous Allegro praising God, a stately Adagio which expresses a plea for aid and comfort, an Allegro in triple meter which combines more requests with more praise, and a concluding double fugue setting the words, “O Lord, in thee have I trusted; let me never be confounded.” A double fugue is based on two equal, yet independent themes. Theme I is heard in the first Tenor entrance and Theme II appears in the very next measure in Soprano. These two independent melodies keep reappearing in various voice parts until near the end, where there seem to be overlapping entrances of Theme I from Sopranos down to the Basses. However, listen closely. Only the Basses have the real melody, and once it’s complete all the voices come together in the final repeats of “…let me never be confounded” to conclude the piece.

     As mentioned earlier, Mozart wrote two sets of Vespers, which he held in high regard. In 1783, he wrote and asked his father to send them to him in Vienna in order to show them to Baron von Swieten. The Vesperae de Dominica, K.321, was composed in 1779 and consists of settings of Psalms 109 (“Dixit”), 110 (“Confitebor”), 111 (“Beatus vir”), 112 (“Laudate pueri”), 116 (“Laudate Dominum”), and the “Magnificat.” Each movement ends with the same Doxology text, “Gloria Patri…,” but with music derived from themes of that particular movement. The opening movement (“Dixit”) is a vigorous setting, beginning with chorus and orchestra, including trumpets and timpani. The solo voices begin to emerge after the first 15 measures and alternate with the choir throughout the movement. Trumpets and timpani are silent in the next 4 movements. Whereas Movement I began with chorus and orchestra, Movement II (“Confitebor”) opens with soprano solo and orchestra in triple meter. Movement III (“Beatus vir”) opens with a short orchestral introduction leading to the first choral entrance. The violins play a particularly spirited role in the movement, which again alternates choir with soloists. There are no solo voices employed in the fifth movement (“Laudate pueri”). As tradition decreed, it is written in the “learned” style, meaning it is predominantly polyphonic in texture. The Sixth Movement gives a strong contrast: it is an extended, florid aria for solo soprano (including a solo cadenza) accompanied by strings and organ obbligato. The concluding movement (“Magnificat”) opens with a slow, majestic introduction leading to the final allegro, which once again alternates choral and solo sections. To give a fuller sense of closure, the trumpets and timpani are once again used to return us to the same sound world in which the Vespers began.

     (Johann) Michael Haydn (1737–1806) was the younger brother of the more famous composer, Franz Joseph Haydn. In 1762 the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg, Archbishop Count Sigismund Schrattenbach, appointed Michael Haydn court composer and concertmaster. So he was a working musician and composer at the same time as Leopold Mozart and as Wolfgang Amadeus (Mozart) came of age. Although the relationship between Haydn and young Mozart could have been a difficult one, they apparently enjoyed a friendly relationship based on mutual respect. It seems that Mozart even copied out works of Haydn, a typical compositional exercise of the time. And here is where we first take notice of today’s concert title, “Celebrating Inspiration.” Mozart was artistically inspired by Michael Haydn’s music. Remember the opening Te Deum? According to musicologists, it is based to a large extent on Haydn’s Te Deum setting dated April 1, 1760.

     1771 was a hard year for Haydn. First, his only child, Aloysia, died just before her first birthday and in December, Archbishop Sigismund passed away. Haydn’s Requiem in C minor Pro Defuncto Archiepiscopo Sigismundo was officially written in honor of Salzburg’s popular ruler, and is dated December 31, 1771. The depth of passion contained in the work is most probably the result of these combined losses. All of the members of the court ensemble, including Wolfgang and Leopold Mozart, would have performed at the Requiem’s premier in January 1772. This piece must have had a profound effect and inspired Wolfgang, because Mozart specialist H.C.Robbins Louden has declared that this Requiem is “…indisputably the direct model for Mozart’s own Requiem written twenty years later.”

    Haydn’s Requiem opens with a walking bass line underpinning the first few notes of the violin, softly playing the first few notes of the choir’s and entrance to come. Added to this are stark fanfares in the trumpets. With the choir’s first entrance, the violins begin a syncopated rhythmic figure that Mozart was to use at his first choral entry twenty years later. Haydn’s choral parts here contain a fair amount of dissonance, reflecting the composer’s depth of feeling. A repeat of the last 3 measures of the orchestra’s introduction leads to the women’s Gregorian chant “Te decet hymnus…” accompanied by an insistent triple rhythm in the violins. When the full choir re-enters for “Exaudi…” the violins switch to a 32nd note figure. Thus, while the tempo has not changed, the rhythmic excitement in the orchestra has been steadily increasing. The four soloists now enter with a repeat of the “Requiem aeternum…” text set to new music. Then the choir returns with their original fugal theme for “Kyrie eleison.” At the “Christe eleison” the soloists and choir enter into antiphonal dialogue. The movement ends with a final repeat of the powerful opening “Requiem” theme.

     Many composers have set the substantial text of the sequence (including “Dies Irae,” “Rex tremendae,” “Confutatis,” and “Lacrimosa”) as completely separate movements. Haydn sets this text as one continuous, though sectionalized, movement. It begins with full choir and orchestra, then two extended solo sections, first for soprano and then for alto. The choir enters for a second time with the same rhythm with which they began the movement. This is followed by a second extended solo section, this time for tenor followed by bass. From this point on, sections alternate between full choir and all four soloists before an extensive “Amen” section which closes this longest movement of the Requiem.

    The “Offertory” is divided by Haydn into two parts. The first, “Domine Jesu Christe” begins with soloists and choir responding to each other. A soprano solo takes us to “Quam olim Abrahae,” a strictly constructed choral fugue, in which the rhythmic pattern is the same as Mozart used for this text in his Requiem. The second part, “Hostias,” is composed for soloists with simple stringed accompaniment and ends with an exact repeat of the “Quam olim Abrahae” fugue.

     The grand “Sanctus” leads to a surprisingly understated opening of the “Osanna” section, which builds to a wonderful climax. Based on Gregorian chant, the “Benedictus” employs the solo quartet, as was typical of the time and ends with the same “Osanna” music, though now at a faster tempo.

    In the “Agnus Dei,” each repetition of text begins with a solemn but ornate solo and is completed by the choir with increasing intensity. A short solo section, “Lux aeterna,” leads to a choral fugue for “Cum sanctis tuis…” (which theme was borrowed by Mozart for the “Laudate pueri” movement of his other set of Vespers, K339).

     The final movement “Requiem aeternum…” returns to themes from the opening movement, this time sung by the four soloists before closing with the choir in a repeat of the “Cum sanctus tuis…” fugue.

    Experiencing Michael Haydn’s Requiem in C minor as a listener or performer, it is easy to imagine how it had the power to inspire another composer. Writing personally for a moment, I would like to comment as to how I have been inspired by the singers of Philomusica over the past 25 years. First, the openness of the members to so many different styles and periods of music—so far, from medieval music to that of the late 20th century. Then, there is the willingness and determination to do it all as well as possible, along with the desire and willingness to get better as individuals and as a group. And finally, the times in rehearsals that they have sung a passage in a way that is better than anything that I had imagined. All of this has inspired me as a musician and human being. I sincerely hope that we have been able to share some of these inspired sounds, feelings, and thoughts with you too.



Past Performances:


Awake, Awake - Fall 2007

Sounds of Devotion - Spring 2006
Echoes of Mystery and Joy - Fall 2006



 

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