August 25, 2002 9th
Prelude for Strings - Allan Robert Petker (1955-)
Dixit Dominus -
George F. Handel (1685-1759)
|DIXIT DOMINUS (George F. Handel, 1685-1759)
The most delightful pleasure of hearing the Dixit is the witness of a Handel most audiences do not know. Here we experience the qualities of a young genius - too many ideas converging at once, yet such wonderful ideas; the old German cantor style learned from his teacher Zachau, and the influences of the new Italian masters - a rhythmic vitality surging with youthful freedom that later matures into the great works he triumphs in England. Historian William Herrman describes this attribute as, "the cantus firmus technique and the solid counterpoint of the German Kapellmeister fused with the rhythmic vitality, the harmonic clarity, and the instrumental brilliance of the Italian concerto."
The Dixit was composed in Rome in 1701, when Handel was 22. A year earlier he had left his native Germany to travel throughout the musical centers in Italy, which was recognized as the hub of musical creativity at that time. The music of Corelli, the Scarlatti brothers, Vivaldi, Lotti, and many others influenced him greatly. Music historian, Paul Henry Lang, declared, "the three and a half years spent in this environment had a decisive influence on the rest of Handel's life."
The demands on the voice throughout this work are extreme, which explains the rarity of performance of the Dixit. The Italian instrumental writing of the period employed a wealth of arpeggios and octave leaps which Handel liberally parallels for his singers. In the end, the listener can enjoy a very active piece of music, balanced in interest and importance with vocal and instrumental parts, and containing an energy and vitality that not only captivates but devours the spectators.
I. Dixit Dominus (Soloists: Soprano I - Marty Friesen, Soprano II - Ruth Kenny, Tenor - Michael Petersen)
REQUIEM (Herbert Howells, 1892-1983)
Although composed in 1936, this work was not performed until 1980. Musicologist Barry James Holden explains the delay, "In 1936 Howells suffered the sudden death of his nine-year-old son Michael (from polio), a harrowing event which understandably left its mark on the man and his music. From here on, the intense spirituality of Howells' music took on a more profound depth. Earlier speculation assumed that the Requiem was composed after Michael's death as a personal tribute to a dearly loved son. However, evidence has since emerged that the work was in fact written three years earlier, in 1933, for Boris Ord and King's College Cambridge. It is true that Howells later re-used some of the Requiem to create his larger, longer Hymnus Paradisi, which was very much dedicated to Michael. Other than that, Howells appears to have kept the shorter masterpiece of the Requiem to himself. Perhaps like Mahler and the Kindertotenlieder, which predated the loss of a daughter, Howells resented his own ominous prescience in completing a Requiem so soon before his son's death.
III. Requiem aeternam (I)
A UN GIRO SOL DE'BEGL'OCCHI (Claudio Monteverdi, 1557-1643)
Often referred to as the father of the madrigal style of composition, Monteverdi was a musical genius and creative pioneer in his time. His musical depiction of texts was far ahead of his contemporaries, and caused considerable debate of appropriateness by the scholars of the day. Joan Conlon's scholarly treatise on Monetverdi records, "His secular music from around 1600 flaunted [musical] violation of strict rules of counterpoint - rules that produced 'perfection' of expression, and scandalized the conservative, defensive and prolix Canon from Bologna, Giovanni Maria Artusi...Similarly, the militants of the Counter-Reformation encouraged hostile reaction to humanism and to expanding the freedom of any expression that was outside the accepted norm." By the end of his life, Monteverdi had extended the boundaries for musical expression so thoroughly that the prima prattica which had flourished for 175 years was forever unseated.
The text below begins with what seems like a simple love song, but takes an unexpected turn for the macabre. This was not an unusual occurrence in the poetry of the Italian Renaissance. Monteverdi wrote, "It is contrasts that move men's minds" in his last book of madrigals, the "Madrigals of Love and War." One of Monteverdi's favorite poets was the court poet at Ferrar, Giovanni Battista Guarini (1538-1612), who provided the words for this madrigal. The turn to self-pity following such amorous words could be seen as both tragic and self-deprecating humor at the same time.
A un giro sol de'begl'occhi lucenti ride l'aria d'intorno e 'l mar s'acqueta e i venti e si fa ciel d'un altro lume adorno. Sol io le luci ho lagrimose e meste. Certo quando nasceste cosi crudel e ria, nacque la morte mia.
TWO CHORAL PIECES BY ERIC WHITACRE (Eric Whitacre 1970-
I Thank You God For Most This Amazing Day (poem by e.e.cummings)
Sleep (poem by Charles Anthony Silvestri)
TE DEUM TO MUSIC (Allan Robert Petker)
Movement Two uses the verses from I Chronicles 16:23-25 which calls us to "sing unto God," almost as a command given by a monarch. The music captures this regal and stately flair by using Handelian (like a Handel anthem) construction. A typical Baroque fugue ensues with an obvious affinity for the heralding interval of the fifth. Following the exposition, a very modern, arrhythmic theme interrupts, "Declare God's marvelous works among the people." This contrasting theme is still very orderly but noticeably contemporary. Eventually the fugue returns, but now in the midst of a development section containing inversions, double canons and strettos in homage to our heritage of Baroque church music. A final surge to the dominant and it is as if the interval of the fifth gives way and leaps from the Baroque to the new millennium. Fifths sprial up and down into a cacophony of sound that finally explodes into the modern, secondary theme - a symbold that the God of our heritage is the same God we worship today.
The third movement depicts the gentler side of singing to God - from within. Colossians 3:16 states, "Let the words of Christ dwell richly in you... singing hymns and songs to God." The secondary theme of the previous movement becomse the first thread that links movements two and three together. Although displaced rhythmically and harmonically, the connection will be immediately apparent. The same interval of the fifth will become the building motif for the contrapuntal statements of the middle section. Connecting the second and third movements celebrates how we worship God in different ways: using music to praise God in strength (movement two), or in quiet meditation (movement three). The movement concludes as gently as it began, and disappears sonorously, but leaves the listener suspended harmonically, so we can be assured there is more worship to come.
Movement Four awakens us from our meditation and throws us into a driving ostinato. The subject of this movement is that "music itself glorifies God." The choir enters with the opening words of the "Te Deum" in a primal chant. The "Te Deum" is perhaps the oldest song of praise to God that has been set to music by composers through the ages. Stated first in the traditional Latin, the English translation appears in the very next section where the music paints images of God and worship in strikingly twentieth century colors using tone clusters, bitonality and minimilistic tendencies. The centerpiece of the movement is the elegant text of Fred Pratt Green, "When in Our Music God is Glorified." The melody is grand, reassuring and passionate, and only alters between verses to portray the magnificent lyrics of Rev. Green. The Te Deum text returns in a surprising burst of energy that drives to an exhilarating conclusion.
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