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September, 2017 Program Notes and Translations

Fall 2017 concert program notes and translations

Hours of the Day (Click here for lyrics and translations)


Lili Boulanger: Hymne au soleil
Kathleen Wnuk, Mezzo-Soprano

Among the most skilled young composers in turn of the century France, Lili Boulanger was born in 1893 into an exceptionally musical family, her sister, Nadia, being the twentieth century's most famous music pedagogue and her father and mother accomplished musicians in their own right. In 1913, Boulanger became the first woman to win the Prix de Rome, a recognition that led, among other opportunities, to a stable contract with the music publishing house, Ricordi. Plagued by ill-health from a young age after a bout of pneumonia, Boulanger died young at the age of 24, only a few years after her studies in Rome. She left behind a body of work characterized by a high level of craft, honest sense of harmony and careful handling of texts, the latter often politically tinged. Boulanger composed Hymne au soleil in 1912, an evocative setting of Casimir Delavigne's elemental, glimmering limn of solar awakening. The opening monolithic choral and orchestral music leads to a contrasting, ethereal middle section featuring a paean before the opening music returns in satisfying triumph.

Henry F. Gilbert: Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun
Warren Campbell, Tenor

Henry F. Gilbert lived and worked for his entire life in the area surrounding Boston, born in 1868 in Somerville and dying in 1928 in Cambridge. Having studied at an early age with piano virtuoso and composer, Edward MacDowell, Gilbert never received a complete formal education in music. He did, however, work as a freelance violinist and at various times in the music publishing industry. His lack of formal education did not impede his eventual recognition as a skilled and effective composer, as he even gained recognition from the Russian composer, Alexander Glazunov. Best known for his music influenced by American musical idioms (e.g. ragtime), Gilbert is often identified with the directness of Walt Whitman, who composed the text Gilbert set in Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun. In this setting, Gilbert's music flows and turns in mimicry of Whitman's unpretentious, if somewhat reactionary, consideration of the grandeur of nature and the vitality it offers to the human spirit.


Amy Beach: Dusk in June

Amby Beach has been called the dean of American women composers, a title that points not only to her considerable achievements as a pianist and composer, but also to her status as the first native born American woman composer to achieve a high degree of success. Born in New Hampshire in 1867, her family moved to Chelsea, Massachusetts when she was young. A precocious young talent, her parents elected to find her training in Boston rather than Europe, a choice that would bring her exposure to Boston's cultural elite and help place her in the so-called Second New England School of composers that included the likes of George Chadwick, Edward MacDowell and Harvard's John Knowles Paine. Following the death of her husband in 1910, Beach sojourned in Europe to augment her career as a composer and restart her suppressed career as a pianist. She would return to the United States, touring and splitting her time between New Hampshire and Cape Cod, composing many of her later works at the MacDowell Colony (named for the aforementioned composer). It was not long after her return from Europe that she composed "Dusk in June," a short choral setting of a text by Sara Teasdale for divided sopranos and altos. Not quite a lullaby, not quite an apostrophe, Beach's innate sense of luscious harmony and line are on full display here in this rumination on an urge to join in the sights and sounds of twilight.

Billy Joel: Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)
Lisa Skowronek and Jessica Speece, Soprano
Sara Karwacki, Alto

American singer and songwriter, Billy Joel, is among the most recognizable American musicians whose careers center around the late 1970s to early 1990s. His first wide success in 1977's single, "Just the Way You Are," won him two Grammy awards and proved to be the vault for a prolific career as a performing and recording artist. Often inhering in evocative and provocative themes of Americana, his songs are tightly composed and stylistically representative of "piano rock." His early piano studies provided him a base to explore composition, and having found himself in a more classically oriented place at the turn of the 21st century, he released Fantasies and Delusions, an album of piano music in classical idioms. Shades of this type of inclination are found in other of his songs, including "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)," which lent itself to adaptation in other settings than pop concerts, spurring England's famous The King's Singers to commission an arrangement of the song for chorus. Joel's keen sense of the voice offers this arrangement the tight feel of 19th century choral music, with sentimental lyrics and the beautiful sonorities for which the songwriter is known.

Augusta Read Thomas: Silent Moon
Kenneth Mok, Violin
Lauren Bernard, Cello

I: Still: Soulful and Resonant
II: Energetic: Majestic and Dramatic
III: Suspended: Lyrical and Chant-like — "When twofold silence was the song of love."

Composer Augusta Read Thomas (b. 1964, New York) is among the most accomplished and highly-regarded American composers alive today. Her works have been performed throughout the world, played by the foremost ensembles and conductors of our day, and have been recorded on more than seventy-five albums. Her music is characterized by its sparkling harmony and tight control of melody, giving her works an instantly apparent high quality. She has composed works for numerous combinations of ensembles, from full orchestra to a cappella choral music. Thomas composed Silent Moon in 2006 for violin and viola (later adapted for violin and cello) on a commission from Almita and Roland Vamos, and of the work, the composer says, "Silent Moon is a reference to the break in the stillness of winter that is indicative of a gathering energy. [...] This is a time for stillness. The quality of this moon's energy is vivid."


Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre: Le sommeil d'Ulisse (6. Simphonie)
Holly Ahearn, Soprano
Ruth Levitsky, Flute
Kenneth Mok, Violin
Peter Chew, Viola
Lauren Bernard, Cello

French Baroque harpsichordist and composer Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729) gained early notice as a prodigious keyboard player in the court of Louis XIV, which led to her entering the entourage of Madame de Montespan for three years before marrying in 1684. Gaining renown as a performer and teacher in Paris, she expressed herself in composition, at first through dramatic works and music for the keyboard in the tradition of many French composers at this time. Le sommeil d'Ulisse comes to us from a collection of Cantates françoise, some on antiquarian tales. This movement, a supplication to the goddess Minerva, is a fine example of de la Guerre's remarkable ability to balance expressiveness with careful handling of the forms she worked in, to highly effective ends. The aria is a familiar da capo aria, in which an opening section is contrasted by a pictorial middle section ("volez!" receives a florid, "flying" treatment!) that is then balanced by a return to the opening music.

Ethel Smyth: Nacht (Sleepless Dreams)

The music of Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) is alternately very dark or with ebullient energy, a range of expression that in some ways mirrors the times in which she lived. Born in England but educated at the Lepizig Conservatory, Smyth considered Germany to be her spiritual home, and, like many German composers of the mid- to late-nineteenth century, Smyth was very interested in composing opera. It was an aspiration not out of her reach, even from early on, as she cut her teeth in vocal forms, seemingly in preparation for her ultimate goals. Originally published in Germany in German translation by the composer Franz Schrekerm Nacht (Sleepless Dreams) is a choral setting of poetry by English poet, D. G. Rossetti. Preceding her most overtly feminist and political opera in The Boatswain's Mate, the music of Nacht plays like an opera chorus, with its introductory instrumental music giving way to a male-voice tutti and followed by a full chorus to close. Listen as the music opens up, wedgelike, in the tradition of Beethoven's "Prisoner's Chorus" from Fidelio or Wagner's "Prayer" from Lohengrin.

Johannes Brahms: In stiller Nacht
Hugh O'Donnell, Guest Conductor

Perhaps the first works to come to mind at the mention of Brahms's name are his works for large forces like the concerti, symphonies, and large choral works, or maybe his chamber music and works for piano. But Brahms also showed interest in folk music and, as relatedly, in vocal music for chorus and solo voice. Brahms twice arranged the text and tune of "In stiller Nacht," once in his Deutsches Volkslieder for chorus published in 1864, and again as the last song in the like-named collection for voice and piano from 1894. The origins of the tune are somewhat obscure, with Brahms's contemporaneous biographers assigning its creation wholly to Brahms himself. The text was later determined as a 19th century revision of Friedrich von Spee's poem, "Bei stiller Nacht," which had entered the folk tradition and eventually came to be known as "Todtenklage." More recently, Brahms scholar George Bozarth has collected documentary evidence that places the tune in a folk tradition, received by Brahms in correspondence with Friedrich Arnold, a collector and arranger of folk songs, who had written down the "Todtenklage" and its melody in his arrangements of folk songs. Brahms so impressed Arnold with suggestions for revisions in the accompaniment of "In stiller Nacht" tune that the latter acceded to the authority of Brahms's setting of the tune, and today it is best known in Brahms's hand. The tune suits perfectly Brahms's contrapuntal style, and in this choral arrangement single voices move only so far as they must, the result being a stirring, lilting setting, perfectly redolent of the text's serene depiction of the night and an emotional state in which the owner of the present poetic voice finds themselves.

Joseph Haydn: Symphony no. 45 in F-sharp minor, Hob. I:45 "Farewell"
Movement IV, Adagio

Among Joseph Haydn's (1732-1809) symphonies, numbering more than one hundred, several have been dubbed with descriptive titles--dubious or not--most often referring to some notable aspect of the work. In the "Military" Symphony, Hob. I:100, the name derives from the opening drum roll; in the "Surprise" Symphony, Hob. I:94, it is the startling tutti entrances of the full orchestra between simple statements in the strings. The "Farewell" Symphony, Hob. I:45 in F-sharp minor takes its name from its closing section, an Adagio that closes the symphony in a peculiar fashion, with the different orchestra players instructed to leave the stage in turn as their parts conclude. The story of the symphony comes from Haydn's time at Prince Nikolaus Esterházy's "Ersterháza" not far from Eisenstadt, Austria, where Haydn was employed for nearly thirty years. Around the time of the symphony's composition (1772), Niklaus had expanded his summer stays at Esterháza to a bloated ten months, occasioning Haydn to create a work that demonstrated the need for his musicians to return to their homes and families in Eisenstadt. Aside from its gimmick, the full symphony is one of Haydn's most striking, with an abundance of ear worms and heart racing rhythms. Listen as the orchestra begins in full, and over the course of several minutes winds down until only two players are left.


Night (cont.)

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Endymion's Dream, op.
Marie Coste, Selene (Soprano)
Matthew Hennek, Endymion (Tenor)

In his day, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) was seen as among the most promising composers in England. The son of Sierra Leonean doctor, Daniel Hugh Taylor, and the Englishwoman, Alice Hare Martin, he was raised by his mother in Croydon, England. He took up the violin from an early age, eventually entering the Royal College of Music to study violin and composition. While at the College, he completed a number of compositions and was the peer of a number of the most prominent English composers of the early twentieth century, including Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst. Coleridge-Taylor's daughter, the conductor Avril Coleridge-Taylor, recalled later in her life that, finding himself unable to fulfill a request for an orchestral work for the Three Choirs Festival in 1898, England's elder statesman of music, Edward Elgar, wrote to the organizers, "I wish, wish, wish you would ask Coleridge-Taylor to do it...[he is] far and away the cleverest fellow going amongst the young men." Having only recently left the Royal College of Music, Elgar's support likely aided Coleridge-Taylor's early success, though the opportunities that arose would have come to nothing if it weren't for the younger composer's clear command of musical materials. Soon after his Three Choirs debut, Coleridge-Taylor composed Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, a work that won wide recognition and spurred three more works on the story. At the peak of its popularity, the Wedding Feast rivaled both Handel's Messiah and Mendelssohn's Elijah in frequency of performance. Coleridge-Taylor would go on to write several cantatas, both secular and sacred, of which Endymion's Dream is among the former. With a libretto by C. R. B. Barrett, the work is categorized as a secular cantata, though the composer himself subtitled the work an "idyll," a designation usually referring to the pastoral characteristics of such a secular composition. In this version of the timeless Endymion myth, the titular character (often portrayed as the sun descending into the seas at night) has gone to sleep, at which point a chorus enters to set the scene for the entrance of Selene, a lunar goddess renowned for her cool intellect and detachment. We discover--unexpectedly if we believe the chorus--her humanity in a distant love for Endymion. As the two profess their love to one another, the chorus worries on the fate of the universe, seemingly hanging in the balance as the gods above threaten.


Alexander Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Mike Jacobs, English Horn

A member of the cohort of late 19th century Russian composers affectionately called The Five (or Mighty Five, or Mighty Handful), Alexander Borodin's primary profession was not music composition; he was by trade a chemist. Born into relative privilege as the illegitimate son of a Georgian prince, Borodin took the name of a serf and, due to his biological father's affection for his mother, was given a comfortable life and good education. Borodin would go on to attain a medical doctorate and take a position as a professor of chemistry, finding time as a composer only when on leave from his regular work. The result is that the composer's output is relatively small, and In the Steppes of Central Asia is among his few works for larger ensembles. Though he never quoted folk music as his musical colleagues had, In the Steppes of Central Asia hints at folk music characteristics, with simple melodies adorned by improvisatory ornamentation, at times evocative of east Asian traditional music. This in-between-ness has something of an autobiographical tinge, projecting both the duality of the comopser's geographic origins between Europe and Asia and his double life as scientist and composer.

Augusta Read Thomas: The Rewaking

(See note on Silent Moon for biographical information on the composer.)
The Rewaking is a setting of poetry by Puerto Rican-American poet, William Carlos Williams, written in 1961. Commissioned and premiered by the Cornell University Glee Club in 2005, today's performance is an adaptation for SATB. The piece exhibits Thomas's special attentiveness to the challenges and needs of the performing forces for which she writes. While many contemporary composers fail to account for the challenge of voices to accurately perform particularly dissonant entrances or overly acrobatic lines, Thomas succeeds here in writing music that is distinctly of its time, interesting and creative, without asking an impossible feat. The piece begins with sinewy and undulating lines sliding between syllables, before the sound vividly opens up to reveal beautiful warmth as "the very sun itself is revived."

Return of Day

Franz Joseph Haydn: The Seasons, Hob. XXI:3, no. 11 "Sie steigt herauf, die Sonne"
Nell Pepper, Mezzo-Soprano
Warren Campbell, Tenor
Kadeem Gilbert, Baritone

Though less frequently performed than his instrumental works, the vocal music of Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) constitutes a significant and impressive portion of his oeuvre. His best known works in this arena are likely the Lord Nelson Mass in d minor, Hob. XXII:11 and The Creation, Hob. XXI:2, though he composed a total of fourteen masses, more than twenty five dramatic works, as many secular vocal works, and six oratorios. The Creation belongs in the latter group, as does The Seasons. These astounding works are filled with imagistic orchestral writing, demanding vocal runs, and Haydn's hallmark wit and charm, all within carefully constructed larger structures. "Sie steigt herauf, die Sonne" from The Seasons (text by Gottfried van Swieten) begins with an increasingly tense ascent, primarily in strings and vocal soloists, building anticipation before the full orchestra and chorus break through, proclaiming the sun's "burning majesty." What follows is a repeating joyful chorus, bisected by a prayer-like middle section featuring the soloists. Throughout, Haydn's masterful string writing and careful use of woodwind and brass instruments gives the work its charged atmosphere, a euphoric buzz persisting, even in slower sections where energy waits to burst forth, again. In its final push, the chorus and orchestra pair together in counterpoint to prepare final, brass-heavy heraldry of day.

Lyrics with Translations

Lili Boulanger - Hymne au soleil

Du soleil qui renaît bénissons la puissance.

Avec tout l'univers célébrons son retour.

Couronné de splendeur, il se lève, il s'élance.

Le réveil de la terre est un hymne d'amour.

Sept coursiers qu'en partant le Dieu contient à peine,

Enflamment l'horizon de leur brûlante haleine.

O soleil fécond, tu parais!

Avec ses champs en fleurs, ses monts, ses bois épais,

La vaste mer de tes feux embrasée,

L'univers plus jeune et plus frais,

Des vapeurs de matin sont brillants de rosée.

We bless the power of the reborn sun.

With all the universe we celebrate its return.

Crowned in splendor, it rises, it flies.

In waking, the earth is a hymn of love.

Seven coursing steeds that God only just holds back

Inflame the horizon with their burning breath.

Oh, life-giving sun, you appear!

With its fields in bloom, its mountains, its thick forests,

The wide sea alight by your fires,

The universe, younger and fresher,

With morning vapors are glistening with dew.


Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre - Le sommeil d’Ulisse

Venés Minerve bien faisante,

Vous qui prenés soin de ses jours;

Hatez vous Dées se puissante,

Volez à son secours.

Quand il vit la troupe immortelle

Sur il lion se partager,

A vos leçons toujours fidele,

Sous vos loix il sout se ranger.

Come, benevolent Minerva,

You who take care of his days;

You, oh powerful Goddess,

Fly to his rescue.

When he saw the immortal troup

On the lion divided,

To your guidance always faithful,

Under your laws he stands.

Ethel Smyth - Nacht

Banges Dunkel, von fernen Gestirnen durchglänzt –

O Nacht der sehnsücht’gen Jugendträume!

Was pochst du, Herz, angstvoll und wild, warhlich—

Den Pulsen der Braut gleich,

Deren Herz entgegenschlägt dem goldenen Reif?

Was braust um meine Stirn wie Frühlingssturm—

Und warum weicht, verscheucht von hoffender Freude,Die Sorge, und der Schlaf tritt heran—

Leise, und sieht mich an mit lockenden Augen?

O Nacht, hold wundersam—o tiefe Nacht!

Wäre die Lieb’ wie du:

Ein Hain dunkler Bäume, ruheatmend,
erfüllt von traumhaft leiser Musik!

insame Nacht—o stille Nacht!

Ist mir doch,—als starrte aus deinem Dunkel mich an ein grauses Antlitz,

Die leidvollen Züge verwüstet von Tränen.


Trans. Franz Schreker

Girt in dark growths, yet glimmering with one star,

O night desirous as the nights of youth!

Why should my heart within thy spell, forsooth,

Now beat, as the bride’s finger-pulses are

Quickened within the girdling golden bar?

What wings are these that fan my pillow smooth?

And why does Sleep, waved back by Joy and Ruth,

Tread softly round and gaze at me from far?

Nay, night deep-leaved! And would Love feign in thee

Some shadowy palpitating grove that bears

Rest for man’s eyes and music for his ears?

O lonely night! art thou not known to me,

A thicket hung with masks of mockery

And watered with the wasteful warmth of tears?


Original poem, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1869)

Johannes Brahms - In stiller Nacht

In stiller Nacht, zur ersten Wacht,

Ein’ Stimm’ begunnt zu klagen,

Der nächt’ge Wind hat süß und lind

Zu mir den Klang getragen;

Vor herbem Leid und Traurigkeit

Ist mir das Herz zerflossen

Die Blümelein, mit Tränen rein

Hab’ ich sie all begossen.

Der schöne Mon will untergon,

Für Leid nicht mehr mag scheinen,

Die Sterne lan ihr Glitzen stahn,

Mit mir sie wollen weinen.

Kein Vogelsang noch Freudenklang

Man höret in den Lüften,

Die wilden Tier’ traur’n auch mit mir

In Steinen und in Klüften.

In the quiet night, at first watch,

A voice begins to lament;

The night wind sweetly and gently

Carried the sound to me.

With bitter pain and sorrow

My heart is melted;

With pure tears I have watered

All the little flowers.

The beautiful moon will set;

For sorrow it does not wish to shine;

The stars cease their gleaming;

They want to weep with me.

No birdsong nor joyous sounds

Can be heard in the air;

Even the wild beasts grieve with me

In rocks and in gorges.

Trans. George Bozarth


Franz Joseph Haydn - The Seasons

Sie steigt herauf, die Sonne,

Sie naht, sie kommt, sie strahlt,

Sie scheint in herrlicher Pracht,

In flammender Majestät!


Heil! O Sonne, Heil!

Des Lichts und Lebens Quelle, Heil!

Heil, o Sonne, Heil!

O du, des Weltalls Seel und Aug,

Der Gottheit schönstes Bild!

Dich grüßen dankbar wir!


Wer spricht sie aus, die Freuden alle,

Die deine huld in uns erweckt?

Wer zählet sie, die Segen alle,

Die deine Mild’ auf uns ergießt?

Die Freuden, o wer spricht sie aus?

Die Segen, o wer zählet sie?


Dir danken wir, was uns ergötzt.

Dir danken wir, was uns belebt.

Dir danken wir, was uns erhält.

Dem Schöpfer aber danken wir,

Was deine Kraft vermag.


Heil! O Sonne, Heil!

Des Lichts und Lebens Quelle, Heil!

Heil, o Sonne, Heil!

Dir jauchzen alle Stimmen,

Dir jauchzet die Natur!

The sun ascends,

It nears, it comes, it beams

It shines in full radiance,

In glowing majesty!


Hail! Oh, sun be hailed!

Oh, source of light and life, be hailed!

Hail! Oh, sun be hailed!

Oh, you soul and eye of the universe,

The bright and godlike star!

With joyful thanks be hailed!


Who may speak out, the raptures all,

That from thy sight in us arise?

Who may recount all blessings,

That on us from thy bounty flow?

The raptures, oh who speaks them out?

The blessing, oh who numbers them?


To thee we owe, what brings delight.

To thee we owe, what cheers the heart.

To thee we owe, what gives support.

But to the Lord our god, we owe

What power to work is thine.


Hail! Oh, sun, be hailed!

Oh, source of light and life, be hailed!

Hail! Oh, sun, be hailed!

In shouting praise resounds

Thy name through nature!