Saturday, February 4, 2017 • 7:30 p.m.
First Free Methodist Church (3200 3rd Ave W)
Tickets will be available at the door, beginning at 6:30 p.m this evening.
Seattle Chamber Singers
Nikolas Caoile, conductor
Phoebe Rawn, flute
Melissa Schiel, mezzo-soprano
Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884 –1920)
Poem for Flute and Orchestra, A. 93
Franz Schubert (1797 –1828)
Incidental Music to Rosamunde, D. 797
Johannes Brahms (1833 –1897)
Schicksalslied, Op. 54
About the Concert
Johannes Brahms found himself “stirred to his depths” by Friedrich Hölderlin’s poem “Hyperion’s Song of Destiny,” which contrasted the blissful existence of the gods with the perils of human suffering. Franz Schubert — an unrivalled master of lieder and chamber music — longed to become a successful composer for the stage. His operas failed to gain favor and his incidental music did not fare much better: the play Rosamunde, Princess of Cypress closed after two performances, but contains some of Schubert’s most remarkable music for the theater.
About the Guest Conductor
Conductor, pianist and music educator Nikolas Caoile currently serves as music director and conductor of the Wenatchee Valley Symphony Orchestra, and as director of orchestras at Central Washington University, where he was recently appointed associate chair and graduate coordinator. From 2012 to 2016, he served as the conductor and artistic director of the Salem Chamber Orchestra, and has appeared as guest conductor with the Lake Union Civic Orchestra, Northwest Mahler Festival Orchestra, Rainier Symphony, Yakima Symphony, Gig Harbor Symphony, Lake Avenue Orchestra and Olympia Symphony.
Mr. Caoile made his New York City debut in 2009 conducting the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas in collaboration with Christopher Wheeldon’s Morphoses Dance Company at New York City Center. He has participated at the Cabrillo Festival for Contemporary Music, where he worked with Marin Alsop and Gustav Meier. During the 2016–2017 season, he will conduct the Auburn Symphony, OSSCS and the Idaho All-State Orchestra.
A passionate believer in music education for all ages, Mr. Caoile has led numerous educational and community-engagement concerts, including many regional honor orchestras in Washington, Montana, Alaska, Arizona, Oregon and Indiana. In 2016, Mr. Caoile received the Outstanding Orchestral Achievement Award from the Washington Chapter of the American String Teachers Association. He regularly presents clinics at National Association for Music Educators Regional and State Conferences and has served as a pre-concert speaker for the Seattle Symphony. He frequently appears throughout the Northwest as a collaborative pianist with violinist Denise Dillenbeck, flutist Sarah Tiedemann, mezzo-soprano Melissa Schiel and cellist John Michel.
Born in Portland, Nikolas Caoile now resides in Ellensburg with his wife, Melissa Schiel, and their son, Kieran. He holds degrees in conducting and composition and completed his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Michigan. His principal teachers are Kenneth Kiesler, Gustav Meier and Peter Erös. He also enjoys playing golf, cooking and working New York Times crosswords. Learn more: nikolascaoile.com
About the Soloists
Flutist Phoebe Rawn, winner of the 2016–2017 OSSCS Concerto Competition, began studying flute with Alicia Suarez and is currently a student of Zart Dombourian-Eby of the Seattle Symphony. Now in 10th grade at Garfield High School, she is a member of the Garfield Symphony Orchestra, plays flute and piccolo in the Seattle Youth Symphony, and studies music academics at the Seattle Conservatory of Music. During the past year, Phoebe won the Horsfall Flute Competition, was a finalist for the KING-FM Young Artist Awards, and had the opportunity to perform with the Cascade Symphony Orchestra as a winner of their Rising Star Competition. She attended the Interlochen Arts Camp last summer on an orchestral scholarship, where she played in the World Youth Symphony Orchestra and studied with Philip Dikeman and Alexa Still. When not playing flute, Phoebe enjoys reading, drawing, listening to music and playing with her two teenaged cats, Felix and Leo.
Mezzo-soprano Melissa Schiel has distinguished herself as a pre-eminent stage performer, recitalist and pedagogue. She has performed with Opera Ontario, Aspen Opera Theater Center, Tanglewood Music Center, Boris Brott Festival and Mountain View International Festival of Song. She premiered the role of Estelle Oglethorpe in Later the Same Evening, a 2007 opera by John Musto inspired by the art of Edward Hopper in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. On the concert stage, Ms. Schiel has sung Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem, Bruckner’s Te Deum and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Her operatic roles include Dorabella (Così fan tutte), Olga (Eugene Onegin), Oberon (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), the Fox (The Cunning Little Vixen), Maddelena (Rigoletto), Zita (Gianni Schicchi), Dinah (Trouble in Tahiti), Dritte Dame (Die Zauberflöte), the Old Lady (Candide), Berta (Il barbière di Siviglia) and Mrs. Herring (Albert Herring). This season she sings Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Yakima Symphony. She is currently Professor of Voice at Central Washington University. Learn more: cwu.edu
Charles Tomlinson Griffes
Poem for Flute and Orchestra, A. 93
Griffes was born in Elmira, New York, on September 17, 1885, and died in New York City on April 8, 1920. Composed in 1918, this work received its first performance on November 16, 1919, with Georges Barrère as soloist and Walter Damrosch conducting the New York Symphony Orchestra. In addition to solo flute, the score calls for 2 horns, harp, percussion and strings.
After initial training at Elmira College, in 1903 Charles Tomlinson Griffes journeyed to Berlin, where he studied at the Stern Conservatory and privately (his teachers included Engelbert Humperdinck, of Hänsel und Gretel fame). Upon returning to the United States in 1907, he joined the faculty of the Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York, as director of music. His duties at school for boys left little time for composition, to which he turned his attention largely during summer vacations and school holidays.
Aside from two youthful orchestral works composed in Berlin, piano and vocal music dominated Griffes’ early output. By 1911, he began to eschew Germanic influences in favor of the Impressionism pioneered by Claude Debussy and so-called “Orientalism” that incorporated Western impressions of music from the Middle East and Asia. In 1912, he composed one of his best-known works, The Pleasure-Dome of Kubla Khan, for piano, revising it in 1915 and transforming it into an orchestral work in 1916. As he shifted his attention to orchestral music, seeking out performances from conductors Walter Damrosch, Leopold Stokowski and Pierre Monteux, Griffes wrote a Poem for flute and small orchestra for his friend Georges Barrère.
A virtuoso flutist, Barrère had at age 18 performed the famous flute solos in the premiere of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. In 1905 he accepted an invitation from Damrosch to join the New York Symphony Orchestra (which would merge with the New York Philharmonic in 1928), a position he held for four decades. Barrère premiered the Poem in November 1919, with Damrosch conducting.
At its initial performance, the Poem earned sustained applause from concertgoers and high praise from New York critics, with the Times calling it “a composition of real charm and individuality, in a truly idiomatic utterance,” the Sun deeming it “rhapsodic and oriental, written with verve and virtuosity” and the Herald ranking it “among the best works produced by a native composer.”
Two weeks later, Monteux debuted the orchestral version of The Pleasure-Dome of Kubla Khan with the Boston Symphony, with a repeat performance at Carnegie Hall on December 4 that drew even more plaudits for the composer. Griffes had planned to hear Stokowski conduct four of his works with the Philadelphia Orchestra on December 19, but the onset of pneumonia prevented him from traveling. Hospitalized a short time later, he never recovered and succumbed to complications of the illness on April 8.
“The loss is great,” wrote Robert Aldrich in an appreciation of Griffes for The New York Times, calling him “one of the most gifted of the younger American composers.” Aldrich singled out the Poem, praising it as “music of rare charm and individuality, gray in mood and in orchestral color till it merges into a dance movement of strange tonality with the suggestion of Oriental rhythm and Oriental coloring in the orchestra.”
Incidental Music to Rosamunde, D. 797
Schubert was born January 31, 1797, near Vienna, where he died on November 19, 1828. He composed incidental music for the play Rosamunde, Fürstin von Zypern during early December of 1823. The play (and its music) premiered at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien on December 20 of that year. In addition to chorus and a solo mezzo-soprano, Schubert’s score requires pairs of woodwinds, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani and strings.
Over the course of his 31 years, Schubert produced an immense treasury of music — encompassing hundreds of Lieder (German art songs, a form he elevated to unrivaled heights), volumes of chamber music and seven complete symphonies (plus sketches of others), much of which remained unknown to the public until long after his death — yet he longed to become a successful composer for the stage. Unfortunately his operas and other theatrical works (many of them left incomplete or unperformed) failed to gain favor with Vienna’s musical establishment.
During March and April 1823 Schubert composed a one-act singspiel, Die Verschworenen (“The Conspirators”), followed that summer by a three-act opera, Fierabras, written concurrently with the song cycle Die schöne Müllerin. Although Schubert expected the Kärtnertor-Theater to mount a production of his new opera, the failure of Carl Maria von Weber’s Euryanthe spoiled any chances for Fierabras to reach Viennese audiences.
Meanwhile, Schubert became bedridden due to effects of syphilis, which he had contracted earlier that year and which would plague him for the remainder of his all-too-brief life. By the end of November, he wrote to a friend about “the state of my health (which thank God) seems to be firmly restored at last”; resuming work, he turned his attention to creating incidental music for the four-act play Rosamunde, Fürstin von Zypern (“Rosamunde, Princess of Cypress”) by Helmina Christiane von Chèzy.
Schubert might have thought twice about working with von Chézy, as it was her inane libretto for Euryanthe that had largely been responsible for its failure. The plot for Rosamunde was no more promising: When her uncle poisons her parents (the king and queen of Cyprus), three-year-old Rosamunde is spirited away to be raised in hiding by a foster mother, Axa. Her parents have left instructions that when she reaches age 16 she be informed of her true heritage so that she can claim the throne and marry Alfons, prince of Crete. Before learning any of this, Rosamunde falls in love with Alfons of her own accord. Fulvio, her uncle, refuses to give up the throne, unsuccessfully attempts to woo Rosamunde, then sends her a poisoned letter that an emissary fails to deliver. In the end, Fulvio has a change of heart and dies after touching the fatal letter, allowing Rosamunde and Alfons to rule Cyprus.
With only three weeks until the play’s December 20 premiere, Schubert worked speedily (as was his custom), creating 10 separate numbers: three entr’actes, two ballets, three choruses, a vocal solo and an instrumental interlude. Rosamunde lasted just two performances, with reviewers reserving most of their positive comments for Schubert’s contributions.
Possibly due to lack of time, Schubert did not compose an original overture to Rosamunde, but instead recycled one from an earlier work. The composer’s friend Gustav von Schwind, who attended the premiere, identified it as the overture to the opera Alfonso und Estrella, written the previous year, but his description of a theme “partly entrusted to the flute” more aptly refers to the 1820 overture to Georg von Hofmann’s melodrama Die Zauberharfe (“The Magic Harp”). In any event, a piano arrangement of selections from Rosamunde published during Schubert’s lifetime included the Zauberharfe overture, which has since become known almost universally as the “Overture to Rosamunde” and remains the most familiar of all of the music associated with von Chèzy’s play.
The first entr’acte opens Act II, its B-minor tonality (but no other evidence) suggesting to some a possible link to Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony. We hear next a “Chorus of Spirits” from Act III for male voices, horns and trombones (originally performed offstage), followed by ballet music from Act II that reprises material from the first entr’acte before modulating to B major and closing with a G-major dance. Scored for pairs of clarinets, bassoons and horns, the “Shepherds’ Melodies” from Act IV leads directly to an equally bucolic “Shepherds’ Chorus.”
The third entr’acte, a five-part Andantino, begins Act IV, as (according to Schwind) “Rosamunde is discovered in an idyllic valley tending to her flocks”; Schubert reused the opening melody in his A-minor string quartet (now known as his “Rosamunde” Quartet) composed early the following year. In the “Romance” from Act III, which fluctuates between F minor and F major, Axa sings to Rosamunde (accompanied by woodwinds and low strings).
The second entr’acte opens Act III, finding Rosamunde in prison, while a second ballet closes the play — but our performance concludes with the hearty “Hunters’ Chorus” from Act IV.
Schicksalslied, Op. 54
Brahms was born in Hamburg on May 7, 1833, and died in Vienna on April 3, 1897. He began sketching his “Song of Destiny” in 1868, completing a preliminary version by May 1870 and conducting the work's premiere in Karlsruhe on October 18, 1871. In addition to SATB chorus, Brahms employs pairs of woodwinds, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani and strings.
This powerfully dramatic work for four-part chorus and orchestra has as its text German lyric poet Friedrich Hölderlin's 1798 poem “Hyperions Schicksalslied,” originally part of the novel Hyperion, or The Hermit in Greece. While visiting some friends at Wilhelmshaven in 1868, Brahms discovered Hölderlin's poem in a book of verse and was “stirred to his depths.” The poem has three verses that form two parts, the first (verses one and two) describing the blissful immortality of the gods, and the second (verse three) contrasting this serenity with the tumultuous sufferings of human beings. Brahms struggled over the course of three years to arrive at a satisfactory manner in which to conclude his setting of this text, finding that the despair in which the poet ends his work clashed with the composer's desire to glimpse dawn's hopeful glow beyond the poem's desolate darkness. Moreover, the text's bipartite intellectual architecture was at odds with his inclination to shape the music into a balanced ternary form that pleased him structurally.
The solution to this conundrum was Brahms' recapitulation, in the orchestral coda, of music from the work's warmly radiant instrumental introduction, with its gently pulsating timpani triplet figures. Altos first meet the blissful gods in the realm of eternal light, but the other voices soon join them in softly glowing harmonies. As the two-verse initial section ends, an ominously unsettling woodwind chord shakes the E♭-major tonality of the first section into the tempestuous C minor of the second part, in which the entire chorus cries out in agonized defiance against the blindness, suffering and rootlessness that characterize the human condition. Its chords crash against our ears like a cataract hurtling from one cliff to another while the strings seethe and swirl and the triple meter's shifting accents further unsettle those who can find no resting place. The chorus finally staggers into the silence of the unknown depths, but the music of the orchestra's opening returns, this time in C major, to provide a measure of solace — will the gods have mercy upon tormented mortals after all?