Love + Adoration
Saturday, September 28, 2013 • 7:30 p.m.
First Free Methodist Church
Seattle Chamber Singers
Clinton Smith, conductor
Roxanna Patterson, viola
Richard Wagner (1813–1883)
Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde
Maurice Duruflé (1902–1986)
“Ubi caritas” from Quatre motets sur des thèmes grégoriens, Op. 10
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)
O Jesu Christ mein’s lebens Licht, BWV 118
Richard Strauss (1864–1949)
Serenade in E♭ Major, Op. 7
Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643)
Toccata from L’Orfeo
Carol Sams (*1945)
Rhapsody for Viola and Orchestra (world premiere)
Paul Mealor (*1975)
She Walks in Beauty
Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloé
About the Concert
Clinton Smith’s inaugural concert as OSSCS music director explores “love and adoration” in music spanning the centuries. The opening and closing pages of Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde are, Clinton notes, ”full of longing, rapture, anxious sighs, hopes and fears, laments and wishes, all things we experience when we fall in love.” Maurice Duruflé’s setting of Ubi caritas begins with the timeless words “where charity and love are, God is there.”
Clinton has chosen to begin and end the season with a Bach motet “to honor the history of OSSCS’s championing of Bach’s music.” The wind serenade by 17-year-old Richard Strauss pays homage to his father, a virtuoso horn player, while demonstrating the young composer’s love for the music of Mozart. In keeping with another OSSCS tradition, we premiere a new work by Carol Sams, a longtime friend of OSSCS and of George Shangrow. The family of Jim Lurie, an OSSCS violinist and violist, commissioned it as a birthday gift to Jim; violist Roxanna Patterson, another dear friend of OSSCS (and of George) takes the solo role.
Welsh composer Paul Mealor’s setting of Lord Byron’s famous “She Walks in Beauty” speaks of a woman’s stunning beauty, while Ravel’s virtuoso showpiece for orchestra and chorus comes from the finale of his ballet Daphnis et Chloé, which “depicts the two young lovers reuniting after Pan rescues Chloé from a band of pirates.”
About the Soloist
Violist Roxanna Patterson began her professional career at age 16 as a member of the Fort Worth Symphony and Forth Worth Opera Orchestras. She later attended the Shepherd School of Music (Rice University), played in the Houston Symphony and Houston Opera Orchestra, and served as concertmaster for the Houston Ballet Orchestra. Her teachers included Ron Patterson, Eudice Shapiro,Wayne Crouse and Karen Tuttle.
In 1979, Ms. Patterson moved to Monte Carlo with her husband, Ron Patterson. There she switched from violin to viola and the couple formed the unique violin-viola ensemble Duo Patterson. A chamber music enthusiast, she has performed extensively in this capacity, recording for Ante Aeternum Records (with the 2004 Duo Patterson release Czech Mates), CRI, Centaur and Vox, and appeared on European and American television.
Ms. Patterson has appeared in recital and as soloist with orchestras in France, Italy, Germany, England, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, and the U.S. She has performed in the festivals of Aspen, Marrowstone, Round Top, Flaine and Rasigere, France. In 1984 she received the first Special Award from the Princess Grace Foundation and was recently decorated by Prince Rainier of Monaco with Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Culturel.
Roxanna Patterson serves as principal violist of the New Hampshire Music Festival, viola coach of the Seattle Youth Symphony, teaches privately in Seattle, and is active in the film and computer-game recording industry.
Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde
Wagner was born May 22, 1813, in Leipzig, and died February 13, 1883, in Venice. He completed Tristan und Isolde during August 1859, but the opera did not premiere until June 10, 1865, in Munich. Hans von Bülow conducted the Prelude in Prague on March 12, 1859, and Wagner first paired the Prelude and Liebestod in a St. Petersburg concert performance on February 26, 1863. These excepts employ 3 flutes (one doubling piccolo), 2 oboes plus English horn, 2 clarinets plus bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, harp and strings.
In the summer of 1857 Wagner accepted an invitation from Otto and Mathilde Wesendonck to live with them in Zurich, where he began work on Tristan und Isolde. His goal: to produce “a thoroughly practicable work” more likely to be staged than his in-progress Ring cycle. Mathilde Wesendonck and Wagner became enamored with each other, providing further inspiration to the composer for his operatic tale of illicit love, but prompting Wagner’s wife to assume the worst and leave him. Wagner subsequently traveled to Venice and then Lucerne, where he composed Tristan’s second and third acts, respectively. In August 1860, he wrote to Mathilde, “I’ve overstepped whatever lies within the powers of execution.” His three years of toil had resulted in another opera with seemingly insurmountable production hurdles—five more years would pass before it finally reached the stage.
During the interim, Wagner presented excerpts from the opera in concert: first the instrumental prelude and later Isolde’s aria—minus the actual vocal line—that closes the opera. “Tristan und Isolde marked the end of all romanticism,” Richard Strauss would later write. “Here the yearning of the entire 19th century is gathered in one focal point.” This yearning is apparent from the very first measures of the Prelude, which feature the so-called “Tristan chord,” an unresolved dissonance that expresses tension and longing in a manner previously unimagined.
The chord returns repeatedly, but never resolves until the opera’s final scene. Isolde, mourning a dead Tristan, falls into a trance. “A light shines from his face,” Wagner explains, “and a song wells up which she alone can hear: the melody of their second-act love-duet. Her voice joins the great sweeping arch of the orchestral melody. As the music rises higher and higher and floods on to its magnificent climax, Isolde is swept on the crest of the song, past the sorrowing onlookers, to join Tristan in the vast wave of the world’s breath.”
“Ubi caritas,” Op. 10, No. 1
Maurice Gustave Duruflé was born January 11, 1902, in Louviers, France, and died in Louveciennes (near Paris) on June 16, 1986. He completed his Four Motets on Gregorian Themes, of which “Ubi caritas” is the first, for a cappella chorus in 1960. The Chorale Stéphane Caillat debuted it in Paris on May 4, 1961.
Best known for his breathtaking 1947 Requiem, the introspective French organist, pedagogue and (extremely perfectionistic) composer Maurice Duruflé began his musical education at the choir school in Rouen, where he absorbed the plainsong that later permeated his handful of often-revised, luminously “impressionistic” compositions. As a student at the Conservatoire de Paris, he won prizes for organ, harmony, fugue, accompaniment and composition. As professor of harmony there from 1943 to 1970, he helped influence the development of many famous French organists. In 1930 Duruflé became organist at St. Etienne-du-Mont, a position he later shared with his second wife, remaining in that post until 1975 when his performing career—which included touring with his wife as a virtuoso organ recitalist—ended as the result of a devastating automobile accident that largely confined him to bed until his death 11 years later.
The plainsong hymn “Ubi caritas” is traditionally sung at mass on the Thursday before Easter during the ceremonial washing of feet, which recalls Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet prior to the Last Supper. In Duruflé’s lustrous SATTB setting of the text’s first verse and refrain, adoration of Jesus and the love experienced and expressed by his followers—two millennia ago and today—gleam in the medieval chant and its related melodies like candle flames flickering among the alto and soprano parts amid the wreathing rainbow rising from the fragrant harmonic incense offered by the accompanying voices.
Johann Sebastian Bach
O Jesu Christ mein’s lebens Licht, BWV 118
Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany, on March 21, 1685, and died in Leipzig on July 28, 1750.
Bach probably composed this funeral motet (also, perhaps, the first movement of a now-lost cantata) during 1736 or 1737 and first performed it either at that time or in 1740. He then presented the motet some years later using a revised instrumentation (the original scoring involved only brass instruments, appropriate for performance at an outdoor graveside service).
The text of this profoundly prayerful piece consists of two verses of a hymn, probably by Martin Behm and likely dating from around 1608, that express love for and adoration of Christ, bringing hope and solace in the midst of sorrow. Like Duruflé’s motets, this work probably originated from an improvisation (in Bach’s case, on a tune ultimately derived from a plainsong melody, such as those at the heart of Duruflé’s music). Pulsing repeated-note figures and gently rising and falling motives sigh softly as instruments envelop the voices in a veil of misty teardrops that wash and sooth the soul. The supple chorale melody—in sustained soprano notes—swells and subsides, becoming the underlying current in an undulating contrapuntal stream and furnishing material on which Bach builds that stream’s containing instrumental shores as well as the three interlude islands around which flow the lines of the hymn.
Serenade in E♭ Major, Op. 7
Richard Georg Strauss was born June 11, 1864, in Munich, and died September 8, 1949, at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. He composed this serenade (for pairs of woodwinds, plus contrabassoon and 4 horns) in 1881. Franz Wüllner conducted the premiere in Dresden on November 27, 1882.
Franz Strauss—father of Richard Strauss—served as the principal horn player for Munich’s Bavarian Court Opera for nearly half a century, including the first performance of Tristan und Isolde, conducted by Hans von Bülow. Wagner and von Bülow each spoke highly of his magnificent playing, despite the fact that the elder Strauss made no attempt to hide his animosity toward both men or his hatred of Wagner’s music. Young Richard was therefore schooled in Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann and Brahms—but not Wagner. At age 17, however, he secretly studied Wagner’s Tristan score against his father’s orders, later recalling that he “positively wolfed it down as though in a trance.”
Around this time, Richard Strauss composed a serenade for 13 wind instruments, the instrumentation undoubtedly influenced by Mozart’s Gran Partita yet its harmonic language more indebted to Mendelssohn. In it listeners can detect only hints of the compositional voice that would emerge in Strauss’ later tone poems and operas—while the teenager had become mesmerized by Wagner’s music, he would not fully embrace it for another four years. Yet Strauss’ magnificent horn writing is already in evidence, no doubt influenced by his father’s mastery of the instrument.
The first performance of the serenade took place at Dresden’s Drei Raben restaurant in November 1882. Within two years the work attained widespread fame through performances by none other than Hans von Bülow, who—despite having savagely criticized Richard Strauss’ earlier piano compositions, possibly due to his animosity toward Franz Strauss—saw enough merit in the serenade to perform it on tour, and to commission Strauss to write another work for winds, the Suite in B♭, Op. 4. After a performance of that suite, Franz Strauss headed backstage to offer his gratitude to his old enemy, von Bülow, who was not similarly disposed to mend fences. “Like an enraged lion, he pounced upon my father,” Richard Strauss recalled in 1909, “exclaiming: ‘You have no occasion to thank me; I have not forgotten all the things you formerly did to annoy me. What I have done today, I have done because your son has talent, not on your account.’ ”
Toccata from L’Orfeo
Monteverdi was baptized in Cremona on May 15, 1567, and died in Venice on November 29, 1643. His opera L’Orfeo debuted in Mantua on February 24, 1607.
Monteverdi’s first opera, L’Orfeo, favola in musica, is the earliest surviving opera still regularly performed today. In five acts, it relates the Greek legend of Orpheus, his love for Eurydice and his attempts to rescue her from Hades. The opera opens with a toccata “to be played three times, with all the instruments, before the curtain is raised” that employs musical material also found in the opening chorus of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers, leading scholars to believe that this fanfare was the personal entry music of the Duke of Mantua, who commissioned both works.
Rhapsody for Viola and Orchestra
Carol Sams was born in Sacramento, California, on November 25, 1945, and currently resides in Edmonds. She composed this work, which receives its first performance tonight, as the result of a commission from the family of Hugh James Lurie, a longtime violinist and violist in Orchestra Seattle. In addition to solo viola, the work calls for 2 flutes (plus piccolo), oboe, 2 clarinets, bassoon, trumpet, timpani, vibraphone and strings.
A student of Darius Milhaud, Carol Sams is a well-known Seattle-area composer whose works—a number of them premiered by OSSCS, with whom she has enjoyed an association since the early days of the ensemble—have been widely performed around the Pacific Northwest, and throughout the United States and Europe. Her full-length opera The Pied Piper of Hamelin, commissioned by Tacoma Opera, premiered in 1993. Along with many songs, choral works and a symphony, “Kia” (as she is known to friends) has 12 operas to her credit. She holds a D.M.A. degree in composition from the University of Washington and an M.A. from Mills College. The composer has provided the following note about her newest work:
“The Viola Rhapsody came out of a dark period of my life: one in which my dear friend George Shangrow died, my husband was diagnosed with cancer, and all the questions that seem to come from bad patches came to me. ‘Why not me?’ ‘Why them?’ ‘Why so much suffering?’ ‘Why now and not later?’ So when I was asked for the viola piece—my last commission that was suggested by George—it seemed a good place to steer those questions. I wanted the piece to be about those questions, and I thought I knew what I wanted. Three versions later, I had my rhapsody. The beginning is all about questions, comfort without peace. The bassoonist’s lines at the beginning are all questions rising phrases. Then the answers by the strings seem comforting, but passive; soon after the vibraphone and then the strings begin a theme I call ‘wringing out, disjunct, worried without focus.’ But that morphs into a more solid statement of the idea, and from this idea morphs a new, more urgent swirling theme, first in the solo part, then in the orchestra. And suddenly, the piece becomes surprisingly graceful, some kind of a letting go of the initial moodiness, and the questioning phrase becomes shorter, until the soloist enters to expand that questioning motif to a full octave. This initiates a change in mood to joyfulness, and the piece ends with a full three-octave notated laugh—in the viola and in the orchestra too. The music gives a sense of shape to the life of emotions, something Hugh James Lurie is intimately acquainted with. It is also unashamedly romantic.
“I must mention the assistance I had from my dear friend Roupen Shakarian, who held my nose to the grindstone without the slightest sense of pushing, and got me to a place where I love what is in this piece. His help was absolutely lifesaving. (And my nose is intact.)”
She Walks in Beauty
Mealor was born on November 25, 1975, in St Asaph, Denbighshire, North Wales. He composed this a cappella choral work during 2010 for the Scottish ensemble Octavoce, which premiered it in June 2011.
After early composition lessons with John Pickard, Paul Mealor studied in Copenhagen with Hans Abrahamsen and at the University of York with Nicola LeFanu. For the past decade, he has taught at the University of Aberdeen. On April 29, 2011, Mealor rocketed to international fame when a television audience of 2.5 billion people heard his motet Ubi caritas performed at the wedding ceremony of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. Later that year, he received a commission to write the song “Wherever You Are” for the Military Wives Choir, whose recording entered the UK singles chart at No. 1 in December 2011.
For the CD A Tender Light, a collection of several of his choral works, the composer wrote about his 2010 composition She Walks in Beauty, a setting of an 1814 poem: “I fell in love with this poem when I was a schoolboy and knew that one day I would set it! Lord Byron combines opposites in perfect proportions to compare a woman with a starry night. She brings together these opposites in her beauty and creates a ‘tender light.’ My eight-part setting tries to capture Byron’s amazement at such beauty. Through a constantly changing aural focus of C and G major with added major and minor seconds, it attempts to convey the ‘opposites’ of light and darkness present in this woman’s beauty.”
Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloé
Ravel was born in Ciboure, France, on March 7, 1875, and died in Paris on December 28, 1937. He began work on the ballet Daphnis et Chloé in 1909, completing the score in 1912. The first performance took place in Paris on June 8 of that year. This suite likely debuted on April 30, 1914, in Paris. In addition to wordless chorus, the score calls for 3 flutes (2 doubling piccolo), alto flute, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, E♭ clarinet, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, snare drums, cymbals, triangle, tambourine, castanets, celesta, glockenspiel, 2 harps and strings.
The ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev is responsible for a number of works that today greet audiences far more often in the concert hall than in staged performances. Among these, of course, are the three great ballets of Igor Stravinsky—The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913)—as well as the remarkable ballet that premiered between those last two, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. Stravinsky himself called Daphnis “not only Ravel’s best work, but also one of the most beautiful products of all French music.”
Daphnis underwent a longer-than-intended gestation, in part due to the personalities and high standards of Ravel’s collaborators, who included choreographer Michel Fokine, designer Léon Bakst, dancers Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina, and conductor Pierre Monteux. In a 1909 letter, Ravel wrote: “I’ve had a really insane week: preparation of a ballet libretto for the next Russian season. Almost every night, work until 3 a.m. What particularly complicates matters is that Fokine doesn’t know a word of French, and I only know how to swear in Russian. Even with interpreters around you can imagine how chaotic our meetings are.”
Ravel initially envisioned a “great choreographic symphony in three parts a vast musical fresco,” completing a piano score by May 1910, but significant revisions followed, particularly to the General Dance that ends the ballet, forcing the premiere to be twice postponed. When Ravel delivered the final version of this scene, the corps de ballet objected to the irregular 5/4 meter, prompting Ravel to suggest they chant “Ser-gei-Dia-ghi-lev” to keep track of the pulse.
“The work is constructed symphonically,” Ravel explained, “out of a small number of themes, the development of which ensures the work’s homogeneity.” As the ballet opens, Daphnis and Chloe fall in love; in a central episode, pirates abduct Chloe, and the god Pan rescues her; the final scene reunites the young lovers and ends in celebration. During the aforementioned delays, Ravel excerpted “symphonic fragments” for concert performance from the ballet’s central episode, later creating a second suite from the final scene, and describing the action as follows:
“No sound but the murmur of rivulets of dew trickling from the rocks. Little by little, day breaks. Bird songs are heard. Herdsmen arrive searching for Daphnis and Chloe. They find Daphnis and awaken him. In anguish, he looks around for Chloe, who at last appears. They throw themselves into each other’s arms. Daphnis and Chloe mime the story of the nymph Syrinx, who was beloved of the god Pan. Chloe impersonates the young nymph wandering in the meadow. Daphnis appears as Pan and declares his love. The nymph repulses him. He grows more insistent. She disappears among the reeds. In despair, he plucks some reeds and shapes them into a flute and plays a melancholy tune. Chloe returns and dances to the melody of the flute. The dance grows more and more animated and, in a mad whirl, Chloe falls into Daphnis’ arms. A group of young girls enters. Daphnis and Chloe embrace tenderly. A group of young men invade the stage. Joyous tumult. General Dance.”
Ravel uses a wordless chorus throughout the ballet—including the final scene represented in this suite—as yet another evocative timbre in his seemingly inexhaustible instrumental palette. Although he prepared orchestral cues to replace the choral passages when absolutely necessary in smaller theaters, Ravel considered the chorus indispensable. When Diaghilev mounted a London production sans chorus, the composer wrote a scathing letter to The Times, calling the omission of the choral parts “disrespectful towards the London public as well as the composer.”