Bruckner & Beethoven
- Wolfgang Amadè Mozart (1756–1791)
- Kyrie in D Minor, K. 341
- Anton Bruckner (1824–1896)
- Te Deum in C Major, WAB 45
- Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
- Symphony No. 3 in E♭ Major (“Eroica”)
Guest conductor Jonathan Pasternack, music director of the University of Washington Symphony and Opera, leads OSSCS in Anton Bruckner’s magisterial Te Deum and Beethoven’s mighty “Eroica” symphony. The program opens with a seldom-heard but powerful Kyrie from Mozart, followed by Bruckner’s greatest choral work, an awe-inspiring hymn of praise. The OSSCS 2011–2012 season closes with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, a groundbreaking composition that changed the face of music forever.
Please join us at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 13, 2012, at First Free Methodist Church (3200 3rd Ave W), across from Seattle Pacific University, with plentiful free parking available. Tickets (just $20, less for students and seniors, and free for children!) are available online, by phone at 1-800-838-3006, or at the door on the afternoon of the concert.
About the Conductor
Guest conductor Jonathan Pasternack has conducted symphony orchestras and opera in Europe and the United States, including work with the London Symphony Orchestra, Residentie Orkest of the Hague, Oregon Symphony, National Symphony, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, St. Petersburg Festival Orchestra, Romanian National Orchestra, Moscow Chamber Orchestra, North Czech Philharmonic and the Bohuslav Martin#367; Philharmonic, among many others. Winner of the second prize at the 2002 Cadaqués International Conducting Competition in Barcelona, he has also received distinctions at the Aspen Music Festival, Brevard Music Festival and the David Oistrakh Festival in Estonia.
Mr. Pasternack’s conducting credits for the stage include productions of Don Carlo, Tosca, La Bohème, Lakmé, Die Fledermaus, The Turn of the Screw, Cendrillon, Dialogues des Carmélites, L’enfant et les sortilèges, Falstaff, Hänsel und Gretel, The Nutcracker and The Barber of Seville. He led the world premiere in Seattle of Gloria Wilson Swisher’s opera The Prestigious Music Award and the Paris premiere of Robert Clerc’s opera on Persian themes, A L’ombre du grand arbre.
Born and raised in New York City, Jonathan Pasternack received his early training in piano, trombone, violin and cello. At age 16, he entered the Manhattan School of Music on scholarship and later transferred to MIT to study astronomy and political science. He holds graduate degrees in music from the University ofWashington, where he studied orchestral and opera conducting with Peter Erös. His other teachers have included Neeme Järvi, David Zinman, Murry Sidlin and Jorma Panula.
In January 2011, the Naxos label released Mr. Pasternack’s debut recording with the London Symphony Orchestra, assisted by a Grammy-award winning production team led by producer Michael Fine and balance engineer Wolf-Dieter Karwatky, to great critical acclaim. Featuring Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 and Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin suite, this CD marks the first commercial release made with fully digital microphone technology created by Neumann and Sennheiser.
Jonathan Pasternack is currently music director of the University ofWashington Symphony, Opera and Contemporary Group. Since 2009, he has also served as music director of Bellevue Opera.
About the Soloists
Soprano Catherine Haight is well known to Seattle audiences for her performances of Baroque music. She is an accomplished performer of the oratorio repertoire, including all of the major works of Handel and Bach. Ms. Haight has been a guest soloist with the Pacific Northwest Ballet in their acclaimed production of Carmina Burana; her recordings include Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang with Philharmonia Northwest, Orff’s Carmina Burana with Seattle Choral Company and Handel’s Messiah with OSSCS.
Mezzo-soprano Kathryn Weld has performed extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. Her expertise extends from Baroque ornamentation to bel canto opera, from Mahler song cycles to world premieres of contemporary works. She has made two solo appearances with the New York Philharmonic, under the direction of Charles Dutoit (de Falla’s Three-Cornered Hat) and Kurt Masur (Grieg’s Peer Gynt). She made her Carnegie Hall debut to critical acclaim in a performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor with Musica Sacra.
Tenor Dustin Kaspar began his Northwest performing career in 2002 in the Seattle Chamber Singers, shortly after graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in music education. Since 2004, he has been heard in the chorus and as a soloist with The Esoterics, Seattle Bach Choir, Cascadian Chorale, Northwest Opera in Schools Etc. (NOISE) and East Shore Unitarian Church Choir. Mr. Kaspar is currently a regular chorister with Seattle Opera and studies with Stephen Wall.
Bass-baritone Steven Tachell studied at the University of Washington and at the Vienna Academy of Music and Performing Arts. His initial professional experience included two summers with the Santa Fe Opera in their Young Singers Apprentice program, and continued with his engagement as resident bass-baritone with the St. Gallen Opera Theater in Switzerland. He appeared as soloist in concerts and operas throughout Bavaria and performed frequently with the Munich Savoyards. In the United States, Mr. Tachell has performed with the Opera Orchestra of New York, conducted by Eve Queler, Opera New England, Arizona Opera, New Jersey Opera and Chattanooga Opera. He has also performed frequently with Seattle Opera.
Wolfgang Amadè Mozart
Kyrie in D Minor, K. 341
Joannes Chrisostomus Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart was born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756, and died on December 5, 1791, in Vienna. He began calling himself Wolfgango Amadeo around 1770 and Wolfgang Amadè in 1777. Much uncertainty persists regarding the circumstances surrounding the composition and first performance of this Kyrie for chorus and orchestra, which employs (in addition to chorus) pairs of woodwinds, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, organ and strings.
Tenor Michael Kelly described Mozart as “a remarkable small man, very thin and pale, with a profusion of fine, fair hair of which he was rather vain.” The composer’s first biographer, Frantiek Xaver Němeček, wrote that “there was nothing special about [his] physique. He was small and his countenance, except for his large intense eyes, gave no signs of his genius.” This was a man, who, during a brief, illness-plagued, “soap-operatic” life, produced music that ranks among the most marvelous ever composed.
Mozart’s father, Leopold, a violinist and composer, and his wife had seven children. Only two survived: Maria Anna and Wolfgang. Because his mother barely survived his birth and was unable to nurse him, Wolfgang was fed plain water only and did not even begin to walk until he was three years old. By that time, however, the boy had already begun to display extraordinary musical gifts. By age six he was a composer, violinist and keyboard virtuoso who had performed before the Bavarian elector and the Austrian empress. Leopold Mozart therefore decided that it might be advantageous to exhibit the prodigious talents of his son and daughter (a gifted keyboard player herself) to a wider audience. Thus, in mid-1763, when Maria Anna was 12 and Wolfgang seven, the family set out on a grand European musical tour. The children were to spend much of their childhood traveling by coach from court to court as the young Mozart astonished his audiences with his incredible musical skills.
The composer spent most of the years from 1774 through 1781 in his hometown of Salzburg, where he became increasingly discontented because of his inability to find a rewarding musical position. His relationship with his patron, the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, was stormy, and in 1781 he resigned his post and traveled to Vienna, where he hoped that his musical fortunes would improve. He made his living during the following years by teaching, publishing his music, playing at patrons’ houses or in public, and composing on commission (particularly operas). In 1787 he finally obtained a minor court post that provided him a reasonable salary but did not put his astounding musical gifts to good use, requiring nothing beyond the writing of dances for court balls.
In August 1782, over three years after the young soprano Aloysia Weber refused Mozart’s marriage proposal, the 26-year-old composer married her younger sister, 20-year-old Constanze. The couple had six children, but suffered the loss of four. Mozart spent his last years in Vienna mired in growing financial distress. Even though, by musicians’ standards, he earned a good income, through lavish spending and poor management he found it increasingly difficult to maintain the living standard to which the family had become accustomed. Late during November 1791, Mozart became seriously ill and remained bedridden for the last two weeks of his life. Death finally snatched him about two months short of his 36th birthday.
For this dramatic and lavishly scored Kyrie, Mozart employs the darkly solemn key of D minor, to which he would return for his famous Requiem near the end of his life. The autograph score of the Kyrie no longer survives, but the work’s use of clarinets (not available in Salzburg) led Otto Jahn, writing about a century after the composer’s death, to conclude that Mozart probably produced it sometime between November 1780 and March 1781, when the 25-year-old Mozart was in Munich for the first performances of his opera Idomeneo. With his musical imagination fired by the fine Munich orchestra, Mozart might very well have set this single movement of the traditional Latin Mass using the same forces as he employed in Idomeneo in order to impress the Elector with his skill as a composer of sacred music. More recently, scholars have suggested that—because of its scoring and compositional style—the work may date from as late as 1788, when Mozart wrote several fragments of sacred music in hope of being appointed Kapellmeister of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
A somewhat melancholy “sighing” motive—marked by nervous repeated-note figures that contrast with sinuous string passages—appears in the Kyrie’s brief orchestral introduction and recurs throughout the work, along with chromatic lines typical of Mozart’s style. The composer sets the “Christe eleison” text rather briefly in the center of his composition, in combination and alternation with the “Kyrie eleison” rather than in a separate section, as was customary at the time. The Kyrie expires softly, seemingly awaiting the evidence that the Lord is indeed merciful.
Te Deum in C Major, WAB 45
Joseph Anton Bruckner was born in Ansfelden, Upper Austria, on September 4, 1824, and died in Vienna on October 11, 1896. He began work on his Te Deum in 1881, completing it on March 7, 1884. Two months later, on May 2, a performance took place in Vienna with two pianos substituting for the orchestral forces. Hans Richter conducted the first full performance on January 10, 1886. In addition to SATB soloists and chorus, Bruckner utilizes pairs of woodwinds, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, organ and strings.
After age 40, the humble, deferential, highly self-critical Austrian organist and composer Anton Bruckner became—in many ways—a daring musical innovator with a strong sense of his unique stylistic “voice.” He at first intended to serve, like his organist father, as a village schoolmaster, but eventually gained musical prominence in Vienna, particularly as a virtuoso organist and improviser (interestingly, he wrote almost no works specifically for the organ).
Bruckner’s music synthesized elements of Palestrina’s polyphony, Bach’s counterpoint, Beethoven’s symphonic structures, Schubert’s singing sweetness, Liszt’s thematic development, and the orchestral breadth and color along with the adventurous harmonic experiments of Wagner. He produced symphonies, motets, masses and other sacred choral works that consistently expressed his profound Roman Catholic religious faith.
The oldest of 11 children, Bruckner received his earliest musical instruction in organ and violin from his father, whom he assisted as an organist and as a teacher. After the elder Bruckner’s death, the family moved to Ebelsberg, a small village near the great Augustinian monastery of St. Florian, where the 13-year-old Bruckner was accepted as a choirboy and where he received an excellent musical and general education. In 1848, he became an organist there after training and working as a teacher in Linz for some years. Recovery from an 1867 nervous breakdown probably caused by overwork, and which resulted in a three-month confinement in a sanatorium, led him to consider a move to Vienna, where he began to teach music theory at the Vienna Conservatory in 1868. He also taught organ performance, but concentrated on the composition of grand, groundbreaking symphonies, of which he wrote 11—nine numbered works, plus two early student works that remained unperformed during his lifetime.
In 1875 Bruckner accepted a post at the University of Vienna, but—although he did have supporters who attempted to popularize his music—he was unhappy in that city, whose musical life was dominated by an antagonistic critic. The composer never married, although he very much wanted to do so and over the course of his life proposed to a substantial number of teenage girls, possibly because he hoped that their assumed chastity and purity would make them suitable spouses. After five years of declining health and perceived financial stress (he was by no means poor), Bruckner died in Vienna at the age of 72. His body was buried beneath the organ that he played at his beloved St. Florian’s.
Bruckner himself ranked his splendorous Te Deum as his favorite work—and possibly his greatest: “When God finally calls me and asks, ‘What have you done with the talent I gave you, my lad?’ I will present to him the score of my Te Deum and I hope He will judge me mercifully.” Gustav Mahler, who described Bruckner as “half simpleton, half God,” crossed out on his copy of the score the notation “for chorus, solos and orchestra, organ ad libitum,” and wrote “for the tongues of angels, heaven-blest, chastened hearts, and souls purified in the fire!”
Bruckner began work on the Te Deum during May 1881 and—after turning his attention for over two years to his highly successful Symphony No. 7, with which the Te Deum shares musical material—he completed the composition during March 1884, dedicating the piece “to God in gratitude for having safely brought me through so much anguish in Vienna.” It was first published in 1885 by Theodore Rättig, from whom Bruckner received the only money he ever earned as a composer.
The text of the Te Deum, an early Christian hymn of praise possibly dating from the 4th Century, is often credited to the bishop (and composer of liturgical verse) Nicetas of Remesiana. The title comes from the text’s opening Latin words, “Te Deum laudamus” (“Thee, O God, we praise”), and its musical performance traditionally takes place on occasions of special rejoicing. It remains in regular use among Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Anglicans. Bruckner’s setting is in five movements, all in 4/4 meter and arranged in an “arch” of keys (C major–F minor–D minor–F minor–C major).
Like much of his music, both choral and symphonic, the Te Deum appears to have been composed as if Bruckner were writing for an organ. The repeated eighth-note figure with which the orchestra introduces and then accompanies the choir (which primarily sings homophonically, sometimes in as many as eight parts, and often in octaves) undergirds the composition as a whole. In the second and fourth sections, the vocal soloists are joined by a decorative solo violin; in the fifth section, the choral double fugue (a fugue featuring two distinct musical themes) that appears at “In te, Domine, speravi” ranks among the finest examples of contrapuntal art. While the musical lines to which these words are set seem confounding beyond all hope, the convolutions gradually resolve into a spectacular sunburst of homophony with the soprano voices sparkling in the highest musical heavens and leading listeners into a glorious eternity.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 3 in E♭ Major, Op. 55 (“Eroica”)
Beethoven was born in Bonn on December 16, 1770, and died in Vienna on March 26, 1827. He began sketching his third symphony in 1802, but composed most of the work during the latter half of 1803, completing it in early 1804. The first public performance took place at Vienna’s Theater an der Wein on April 7, 1805, with the composer conducting. The score calls for pairs of woodwinds, 3 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings.
By April 1802, Beethoven’s hearing loss prompted the composer to seek rest and relaxation in the village of Heiligenstadt, near Vienna. Outwardly, Beethoven appeared content, but by October 1802 the inner psychological turmoil caused by his increasing deafness compelled him to write a letter known as the “Heiligenstadt Testament.” Addressed to his brothers, the document angrily decries the composer’s “wretched existence” and explains how his loss of hearing has caused him to live life as outcast, unable to carry on a simple conversation. And it reveals thoughts of suicide: “Only my art,” Beethoven explains, “held me back. Ah, it seemed to me impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I felt was within me.”
Beethoven never delivered the Heiligenstadt Testament to his brothers, keeping it private until his death. In retrospect, as composer William A. DeWitt writes, the document helps “to explain, psychologically, Beethoven’s sudden and drastic stylistic change around 1803. Immediately following Heiligenstadt, Beethoven’s music suddenly becomes more daring. The learned rules of his teachers were cast aside as he struck out on a new path with [his third symphony] as the frontispiece of this change. Within weeks, perhaps days, of signing the will, Beethoven jotted down the first sketches of the Sinfonia Eroica.”
As with his piano concertos, Beethoven’s first two symphonies had recalled those of Mozart and Haydn. There were innovations, certainly, but nothing that radically challenged the concertgoers of the day like his monumental third symphony would. Two centuries later, in a world in which Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is now 100 years old, it is difficult for modern listeners to understand the revolutionary nature of the Eroica symphony and just how strange it must have sounded to its first audiences—a fact often obscured by discussion of the work’s original dedicatee.
Ferdinand Ries, a friend and student of Beethoven, provided the following account in an 1838 biography: “In writing this symphony Beethoven had been thinking of Buonaparte, but Buonaparte while he was First Consul. At that time Beethoven had the highest esteem for him and compared him to the greatest consuls of ancient Rome. Not only I, but many of Beethoven’s closer friends, saw this symphony on his table, beautifully copied in manuscript, with the word ‘Buonaparte’ inscribed at the very top of the title page and ‘Luigi van Beethoven’ at the very bottom. I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, ‘So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, he too will tread under foot all the rights of man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!’ Beethoven went to the table, seized the top of the title page, tore it in half and threw it on the floor. The page was later recopied and it was only now that the symphony received the title Sinfonia Eroica.”
The actual story about Beethoven’s feelings toward Napoleon, however, is more complex. Around 1797, the composer had produced a couple of anti-Napoleonic songs and as late as 1802 Beethoven replied to a suggestion that he compose a sonata in honor of Napoleon: “Has the devil got hold of you all, gentlemen? Perhaps at the time of the Revolutionary fever—such a thing might have been possible, but now you won’t get anything from me.” Before long, his sentiments changed and he considered dedicating his new symphony to Napoleon—until the composer’s patron, Prince Lobkowitz, offered 400 ducats in exchange for exclusive performing rights for a six-month period. Beethoven thus opted to include Bonaparte’s name in the title of the work, perhaps, as Maynard Solomon suggests, in order “to smooth Beethoven’s entry into the French capital,” as he had planned a concert tour to Paris (which never came about). Even after removing Bonaparte’s name form the score, he penciled “written about Napoleon” back onto the title page and continued to express varying opinions about the Frenchman. In the end, Beethoven simply labeled his new work a “Heroic Symphony,” inscribing it “to the memory of a great man”—leaving open for debate the question of whether this “great man” was Napoleon or a generic hero.
The symphony’s massive opening movement is of a scale and length previously unknown to listeners of the day. Eschewing a traditional introduction, two bold chords sound, then Beethoven launches into the principal theme, constructed out of a simple major triad. Throughout the movement, meter and tonality are questioned via the use of misplaced accents and striking dissonances. Beethoven takes the unorthodox step of introducing a new theme (unheard during the exposition) in the development section, at the end of which—over a hushed string tremolo setting up the recapitulation—he has one of the three horns quietly intone the opening theme. Ries recalled hearing this for the first time at the work’s initial rehearsal: “I was standing next to Beethoven and, believing that [the horn player] had made a wrong entrance, I said, ‘That damned hornist! Can’t he count? It sounds frightfully wrong.’ I believe I was in danger of getting my ears boxed. Beethoven did not forgive me for a long time.” The lengthy recapitulation incorporates the new theme from the development section and concludes with two chords that mirror the opening of the work.
The slow movement takes the form of an epic funeral march, beginning and ending in C minor, with a major-key central episode. At the beginning, cellos and basses imitate a military drum while violins present the solemn principal theme. Oboe plays an important solo role throughout, especially in the sunnier trio. With the return to C minor, Beethoven does not merely repeat the music of the opening section, but rather develops the material by means of an impassioned fugue. At the movement’s conclusion, the opening theme disintegrates in the violins, the notes breaking apart and receding into the distance. Controversy persists about the meaning of this funeral march and whether it represents the death of Napoleon’s republican ideals, mourns the actual death of a significant person in Beethoven’s life, or whether the work as a whole depicts the life, death and rebirth of the classical hero.
The third movement, a lightning-quick scherzo, returns to E♭ major. Beethoven had written a scherzo—literally “‘joke,” and usually in 3/4 like a Haydn or Mozart minuet, but much faster—for each of his first two symphonies, but neither was like this one: faster than the wind, with offbeat accents blurring the distinction between strong and weak pulses, often throwing the meter itself into question. Beethoven heightens tension by sustaining a quiet dynamic through much of the movement, a strategy that renders the loud outbursts even more alarming. The tempo slows slightly at the trio—at which point we realize at last why Beethoven calls for three horns instead of the usual (at the time) two. The scherzo material returns, although with some important changes, including a brief—albeit shocking—change from triple meter to duple meter.
The finale begins with a furious outburst before settling down to a set of variations on a theme that Beethoven used on three other occasions—in fact, the first several variations come more or less verbatim from his incidental music for The Creatures of Prometheus. At first, Beethoven presents only the bass line of the eventual theme, treating it to its own variations with generous doses of Haydnesque humor. Playfulness eventually gives way to a grand fugue, a Turkish march and another fugue, before the proceedings come to a full stop. The music resumes at a slow tempo, building from quiet repose to scale monumental heights before subsiding once again. Suddenly, almost without warning, the tempo switches to Presto and the race is on to the work’s joyous conclusion.