NOTES BY ROBERT STEVENSON
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
The Requiem, Op. 48, composed by Gabriel Fauré in 1886-1887 in memory of his father who died in 1885, was his masterpiece. Roger Wagner, who has recorded it twice, is everywhere recognized as one of its supreme interpreters.
In contrast with such other famous composers of Requiems as Mozart, Berlioz, Verdi, and Dvo?ak, Faure stresses throughout the word requiem, "peace." This is the first word sung by the Chorus at the beginning of the Introit and the final word sung in the concluding antiphon, In Paradisum. It is the culminating word in the only two lines that he consented to set from the dread Dies irae in the section for soprano soloist, Pie ]esu. It also appears prominently in two other sections of the seven that complete his text, the Agnus Dei and Libera me.
Nadia Boulanger when analyzing this unique masterpiece-unique because equally suitable for the concert hall and in the sanctuary-expressed herself thus in the 1922 number of La revue musicale dedicated to Fauré: "Without doubt he knew the burden of grief. But somehow in an age all too prone to flaunt its sorrows, he faced the ultimate issues of life and death confident in the goodness of the Eternal, never preaching the terrors of the Beyond. His religion belonged to the traditions of St. John or St. Francis of Assisi, rather than to those of St. Bernard or Bossuet. His music never menaces or threatens, but instead speaks in the familiar words according to St. John, Let not your hearts be troubled."
In conformity with the consoling sentiments of his chosen texts, Faure's voices move in comfortable, natural ranges. He does not strain even his soprano soloist with any higher note than F, nor the baritone soloist who sings in both the offertory and the Libera me with anything outside the D-D octave. Only in the offertory O Domine ]esu Christe does he attempt any contrapuntal feats Such as canons between altos and tenors, followed by basses.
So sensitive is Fauré to orchestral color that he reserves the entry of violins to the third number, the Sanctus, even then requiring mutes; the fifth number, Agnus Dei, in which they unite with violas in an affecting descant melody to the tenor voices; the "Dies illa" interlude in the sixth number, Libera me: and the last number, In Paradisum, in which, again muted, they join with harp to waft the hearer aloft. He uses trombones and timpani with equal discretion, reserving them for the Libera me, and confines trumpet outbursts to the Libera me and the Hosanna of the Sanctus. But his very reticence makes their infrequent entrances the more telling.
The text of the seven numbers translated into English reads as follows:
I. Introit and Kyrie. (4 Esdras II, 34-35) Eternal rest give to them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them. (Psalms 64, 2-3) To You we owe our hymn of praise, O God in Sion; to You must vows be fulfilled in Jerusalem. Hear my prayer; to You all flesh must come. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.
II Offertory. 0 Lord, Jesus Christ, King of Glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell and from the deep lake; deliver them from the lion's mouth, that Tartarus not swallow them up, that they fall not into darkness. We offer You, O Lord, sacrifices and prayers of praise; receive them in behalf of those souls we commemorate this day. Grant them, O Lord, to pass from death to that life which You promised of old to Abraham and to his seed. Amen.
III Sanctus. Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are filled with Your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
IV Pie ]esu. Blessed Jesus, grant them rest; grant them eternal rest.
V Agnus Dei. Lamb of God, You Who take away the sins of the world, grant them rest. May eternal light shine upon them, O Lord, with Your saints forever, for You are gracious. Eternal rest give them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them.
VI Libera me. Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death on that awful day when heaven and earth shall be shaken, when You come to judge the world by fire. I fear and tremble at the coming judgment. That day shall be a day of wrath, of ruin, and of misery, a day of grandeur and of great bitterness. Eternal rest grant them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on them. Deliver me, O Lord, deliver me.
VII In Paradisum. May the angels take you into paradise, may the martyrs come to welcome you on your way, and lead you into the holy city, Jerusalem. May the choir of angels welcome you, and with Lazarus, once a beggar, may you have eternal rest.
L' Autumno (Autumn) Concerto
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice and died in Vienna. His contacts with Austrian nobility were so favorable that he dedicated his four "Seasons" Concertos, with eight others in his Op. VIII (first published at Amsterdam around 1725), to Count Morzin, a collateral relative of the Count Morzin that hired Haydn in 1759.
Altogether Vivaldi wrote at least 48 operas between 1713 and 1739, 59 secular cantatas, and 60 sacred works. However it is his 443 concertos (usually for solo instrument), on which his reputation today principally rests. Himself in early life a touring violin virtuoso of the first water, he wrote no less than 220 that still survive for solo violin with orchestra. No composer in music history ever exceeded that record. Among the concertos that immediately became best known in his lifetime were those with titles such as "Repose" (Pincherle 248), "Unrest" (P. 208), "The Tempest at Sea" (P. 261 and P. 415), and especially the four "Seasons."
The choice of "Autumn" for the opening concert in the Master Chorale's 1974- 1975 season is especially happy for two reasons. It serves as an admirable vehicle for the new concertmistress Dorothy Wade and at the same time sets the tone for a season that is to culminate with Haydn's great The Seasons oratorio.
Each of the Vivaldi "Seasons" concertos begins with an explanatory sonetto dimostrativo, the poetry of which was probably written by the composer himself. To show how the sonnets match the music, Vivaldi used capital letters indicating which lines fit which passages in the music. The sonnet that precedes L' Autumno develops seven ideas, each appropriately illustrated in the score: (A) Peasants dance and sing to celebrate a fine harvest; (B) They drink too much wine; (C) They fall asleep; (D) Gentle breezes fan them while they sleep; (E) Dawn breaks while the hunter rushes to the chase with horns, guns, and dogs; (F) The wild beast in flight is hotly pursued; (G) Frightened by the dogs' howling and the sound of guns, the tired beast is shot; too weak to continue flight, he dies.
The events marked (D) occupy the second movement, the rest being depicted in first and last movements. To the solo violin Vivaldi entrusts the most picturesque scenes. After the opening orchestral ritornello in the first movement marked Peasants Dance, the solo violin enters with a wide reeling passage headed L'Ubriaco (The Drunkard, corresponding to Letter B in the prefatory sonnet). More peasants' dance assigned the orchestra, then Letter C for solo violin, now asked to play p e larghetto (soft and rather slow) ending with a fermata, whereupon the orchestra rushes in allegro motto to finish the first movement with the peasant dance ritornello.
In the last movement, constructed along the lines of the first, the orchestral ritornello in boisterous 3/8 imitates the sound of hunting horns and guns. The first solo violin passage illustrates Letter F. The orchestra later on has some characteristic music illustrating the pursued beasts' fright (marked Cia Sbigottita).
Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny)
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
The choral masterpieces of Brahms- his German Requiem, Op. 45, Rinaldo with tenor solo, Op. 50, the Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53, the Song of Destiny, op. 54, up through the Song of the Fates, Op. 89-are all middle-period works written after his settlement at Vienna in 1861. Critical opinion has uniformly favored the Song of Destiny, the blank verse text of which is by Friedrich Holderlin (1770-1843), as "the most perfect of his smaller works" (Erb), a work that "set the pattern of the short choral ballad" (Fuller Maitland), and a work whose "technical beauties, rounded symmetry, balanced design, pellucid clearness of style, sweetness and charm of melody, and marvellous cadences where chord melts into chord like color into color at sunset" (Hadow) cannot be overpraised.
The Song of Destiny consists of three continuous sections, the first in E flat marked "slow and filled with longing," the second in C minor marked fast, the third in C major (without chorus), which recapitulates musical ideas from the first section, again marked "slow." The divisions of the text correspond with the musical sections. In the first section, the poet pictures the happiness of those departed this life who now dwell in Elysian fields fanned by soft breezes, ever joyful in the flowery prospects that greet them on all sides. In the second section, the poet contrasts this after-life contentment with the constant troubles that beset mortals below on their thorny pathway. Blindly struggling, they are often cast down, like water rushing off a mountainside.
Brahms's score calls for paired flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, and trumpets, three trombones, kettledrums, strings, and four-part mixed chorus. Throughout the first suave section, even when they are playing pizzicato (plucking), the first and second violins constantly use mutes. Though never spectacular in Berlioz's way, nonetheless Brahms's instrumentation proves everywhere perfectly adequate to the musical concept. During the final section (without chorus) he beautifully interlocks arpeggiated strings and woodwinds in a delicious accompaniment. By reiterating at the close the opening espressivo string theme backed by throbbing kettledrums, he endows Holderlin's conception with a unity that the poet's lines alone fail to catch. Thanks to Brahms, "Our little life is rounded by a sleep" thus becomes the framework for the entire musico-poetic concept.
The Tender Land Suite
Aaron Copland, (b. 1900) arranged by Roger Wagner
like all the other music heard at this concert except Vivaldi's Autumn Concerto, The Tender Land Suite was repeatedly programmed during the May-June 1974 Russian tour of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Copland (Brooklyn born) composed The Tender Land to a libretto by Erik Johns, whose pen name is Horace Everett. In its guise as a three-act opera commissioned for the 30th anniversary of the league of Composers by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, it was first performed by the New York City Opera Company under Thomas Schippers' direction April 1, 1954.
The story is set on an American Midwest farm during the early 1930's. Laurie who is about to graduate from high school falls in love with a vagrant harvester. They plan to elope at daybreak of her graduation day. But shortly before dawn Martin is persuaded by his harvester companion against accepting the responsibilities of marriage and steals away without risking a good-bye. Heartbroken, Laurie walks out into the "tender land" of the cornfields alone, seeking whatever solace is to be gained there.
The excerpts sung by the chorale come from Acts II and I. "Stomp your foot" is music for a party-dance held the night before Laurie’s graduation. At the moment, all youthful hopes are still at their peak. Copland's music aptly captures the hilarious mood. The second excerpt, "The promise of living," concludes Act I.
To introduce this medley, Roger Wagner has arranged a fanfare evoking memories of the four corners of America. At the close of "The promise of living" the chorale sings America the beautiful, the music of which was composed in 1882 by Samuel Augustus Ward (1848-1903). Ward was born in Newark, New Jersey, where in 1889 he founded the Orpheus Club directed by him until his death. He also ran a music store there, selling pianos, organs, and supplies. Katherine Lee Bates (1859- 1929), author of the words was professor of English literature at Wellesley College. She wrote the poem on which her fame rests in 1893 after visiting the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago and Pike's Peak in Colorado. Ward's tune became irrevocably associated with her poem during World War I. Many now prefer America the Beautiful to the Star-Spangled Banner because of its peaceful sentiments, greater ease of singing, 4/4 instead of ¾ meter, all-American origin, and for other reasons.