JAMES CONLON conductor
RODRICK DIXON tenor
MAY FESTIVAL YOUTH CHORUS James Bagwell, director
MAY FESTIVAL CHORUS Robert Porco, director
Regina Coeli in C Major, K. 276 [K. 321b]
Soloists: Lauren Peter, Amy Perry
Matthew Swanson, Armando Linares
Sea Dream Elegies WORLD PREMIERE
Between Calm and Thunder
A Thousand Splintered Shards
For Whom Does Your Heart Despair?
The Dance of Moon and Sea
Prayer WORLD PREMIERE
Ave verum corpus, K. 618
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Regina Coeli in C Major, K. 276 [K. 321b]
Composed in 1779 or 1780.
On September 27, 1778, Mozart left Paris, where he had failed to obtain the permanent position he so much desired, to return, humiliated, to his “slavery,” as he injudiciously called it, in provincial Salzburg. His father, Leopold, drew up a petition for his son to be reinstated as a musician in the service of the Archbishop, which Wolfgang signed when he returned home in January 1779:
I most submissively beg that I may be graciously assigned the post of Court Organist in your Exalted Service; to which end, as for all other high favors and graces, I subscribe myself in the most profound submission, Wolfgang Amadé Mozart.
The archiepiscopal reply came six weeks later:
Whereas We by these presents have graciously admitted and accepted the supplicant as Our Court Organist, he shall carry out his appointed duties with diligent assiduity and irreproachability, and shall as far as possible serve the Court and the Church with new compositions made by him.
Mozart settled into a bored routine of accompanying church services, little inspired even by composition. The two final years in Salzburg are among the leanest that he experienced creatively, though even they yielded up three symphonies (Nos. 32, 33 and 34), two sonatas for organ and strings (K. 328 and 336) and the wonderful Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola. The most significant sacred work he produced at the time was the Mass in C Major, “Coronation,” (K. 317), to which the Regina Coeli, K. 276 (given the later number 321b in Alfred Einstein’s revisions of Köchel’s catalog) may have been conceived as a musical pendant. Mozart had twice earlier set the words of this Marian antiphon: C Major (K. 108, May 1771) and B-flat Major (K. 127, May 1772). Each of the four Marian antiphons—Alma Redeptoris Mater, Ave Regina Caelorum, Regina Coeli and Salve Regina—is specific to one of the four seasons of the church year, with Regina Coeli’s verses of rejoicing and resurrection making it appropriate for the festive post-Easter time from Holy Saturday to Pentecost (or Whitsuntide). Mozart’s brilliant setting for soloists, chorus, organ and orchestra, with its joyous shouts of “Alleluia,” perfectly captures the jubilant spirit of the words. “It has the same blend of sacred and secular as the greatest creations of the architect Fischer von Erlach,” wrote Alfred Einstein in comparing Mozart to the builder of Vienna’s magnificent Karlskirche and Schönbrunn Palace. “This music would burst asunder the little holy shrine churches of the Rococo; it has grown too much in scope and breadth.”
TEXT & TRANSLATION
Regina Coeli, laetare, Alleluia.
Bright Queen of heaven! rejoice. Alleluia.
Quia quem meruisti portare, Alleluia,
For He, whom you deserved to bear, Alleluia,
Resurrexit sicut dixit. Alleluia.
Is, as He prophesied, arisen. Alleluia.
Ora pro nobis Deum. Alleluia.
Pray for us. Alleluia.
JULIA ADOLPHE (b. 1988)
Poems by Nahal Navidar (b. 1983)
Sea Dream Elegies
Composed in 2015–16 on commission from the Cincinnati May Festival. The work is receiving its world premiere this evening by the Cincinnati May Festival Chamber Choir, conducted by James Conlon.
Among the greatest distinctions for a composer is the performance of a major work by one of the world’s leading orchestras. Julia Adolphe registered that honor at age 25, when her Dark Sand, Sifting Light was one of three pieces by young composers chosen for the New York Philharmonic’s 2014 “NY Phil Biennial.” In addition to glowing reviews of the work, Adolphe also took from that experience a 2016 Lincoln Center Emerging Artists Award and a commission for a concerto for the Philharmonic’s Principal Violist, Cynthia Phelps, which she will premiere at a subscription concert in November 2016 with the orchestra’s Music Director-Designate Jaap van Zweden. The New York performances are a homecoming for Adolphe, who was born there in 1988. She received her baccalaureate from Cornell and took her master’s degree at the Thornton School of Music at USC, where she is currently pursuing a doctorate; her teachers include Stephen Hartke, Steven Stucky and Donald Crockett. Julia Adolphe is also an active writer, teacher and producer: in 2014, the website NewMusicBox published her articles on teaching music in an all-male maximum security prison; in 2013, she was co-producer of The Prodigal Son, conducted by James Conlon, for the LA Opera Britten Centennial; and she also served as the Primary Research Assistant for Conlon’s Orel Foundation, which is dedicated to reviving music suppressed during the Third Reich. In addition to her orchestral compositions, Adolphe has written choral music, chamber works, songs and a one-act opera titled Sylvia, which was developed in 2012 at the Lost Studio Theatre in Los Angeles, excerpted for performance at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust as part of the Yom HaShoah Commemoration, and heard complete at New York City’s Bargemusic in March 2013; she is currently collaborating with poet and librettist Nahal Navidar on So Donia Speaks, a chamber opera set in present-day Iran that is in development at Boston Court in Los Angeles and National Sawdust’s Ferus Festival in New York. In addition to her Lincoln Center Award, Julia Adolphe has received the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Theodore Front Prize from the International Alliance for Women in Music, Jimmy McHugh Composition Prize, John James Blackmore Prize, John S. Knight Prize, and grants from New Music USA, American Composers Forum and League of American Orchestras.
Playwright, poet and librettist Nahal Navidar was born in Tehran, Iran in 1983, raised in upstate New York, and completed her bachelor’s degree in English and theater at the University of Albany in 2005. Navidar met composer Julia Adolphe at USC when she was working on her Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing degree there; their collaborations include Sea Dream Elegies and the chamber opera So Donia Speaks. Navidar’s plays have been performed and developed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., University of Albany, and theaters from Los Angeles and San Francisco to New York and Valdez, Alaska. Her full-length play Pairi Daiza was featured in Ensemble Studio Theatre LA’s Diversity Showcase, read at the 2015 Williamstown Theatre Festival, and was a finalist for the 2015 Bay Area Playwright’s Festival in San Francisco. Her upcoming projects include a full-length play about Middle Eastern identity in a post-9/11 world, which will be developed in July 2016 at Silk Road Rising in Chicago. Nahal Navidar, a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, said that her work, with her multi-cultural background, is “motivated by the exploration of social issues while employing magical elements to awaken the expanse of human emotion.” Her plays investigate issues of cultural identity and often feature characters who feel misplaced and yearn for a proverbial home. In 2005, while teaching speech and drama in the Micronesian Islands, she founded the Fabulous Invalid Theatre Company on Saipan to promote the diverse voices of the Marianas.
Julia Adolphe and Nahal Navidar collaborated closely on Sea Dream Elegies, and have kindly shared their thoughts on the work.
Sea Dream Elegies utilizes nautical imagery to represent the journey from love and comfort, pain and loss, to peace and acceptance. Each movement shifts between the varied mercurial temperaments of the sea to evoke the emotional state of the protagonist. Within the ocean’s ability to captivate, entice, torment, overwhelm, and finally, to soothe, each movement offers an evolving perspective from the protagonist. In the action of gathering the smooth sea glass—once a whole bottle filled with dreams, once tiny bits of painful shards—the emotional arch of the piece is realized as dreams are reborn in an unexpected form offering strength and resilience.
The music paints the changing landscape of Navidar’s sea dreams. The bright sound of the oboe captures the sunlight shimmering on the water’s surface while the cello evokes the depths and darkness of the turbulent ocean. The vocal writing similarly reflects the duality of nature, capable of great creation and destruction. The chorus shifts from the calm, tonal stability of the first movement [Between Calm and Thunder] to agitated clusters and dissonances in the second movement [A Thousand Splintered Shards]. The third movement [For Whom Does Your Heart Despair?] features a solo voice, perhaps an angel or voice from beyond, with music evocative of religious chant. In the final movement [The Dance of Moon and Sea], the chorus sings a hymn-like melody while the oboe and cello trace the paling colors of the evening sky.
I. Between Calm and Thunder
The space between calm and thunder
Is of no concern
As ocean waves swell and sweep.
We watch the glint and luster
Of dancing sunshine
On the placid sea.
The surging wave swallows our glass jar
Filled with hopeful dreams.
The salty breeze whispers a cosmic hymn:
Hush, hush, hush,
And your eyes deliver a universe of love
As the ocean wave recedes.
II. A Thousand Splintered Shards
Palm leaves quake
In the howling wake
Of the mournful wind.
Frightened sand unsettles in search of comfort
beneath our feet.
A noxious wave engulfs us out to sea.
Into the raging rush you ease
A shadow as you drift away from me.
Withered and wilted I lie
Among a thousand splintered shards.
Close my eyes to the shivering light
As the shoreline whispers echoes
Of our abandoned dreams.
III. For Whom Does Your Heart Despair?
For whom does your heart despair
When I offer thee Creation?
Listen to the beating rain around you
As flowers grow and bloom
The storm will fade
As will your pain.
For whom does your heart despair?
Let My love in.
Give thy heart peace
Peace through the storm.
I will give thee love and peace.
IV. The Dance of Moon and Sea
The tender shore embraces
The beaming fire orb
Whose dancing light awakens
My tired, breathless soul.
Rays catch the deep-cast colors
Where sea-glass crowns the shore
As the sun descends into the sky
Delivering the moon.
The moonlight cools my skin
As I walk the speckled shore
Gathering polished sea-glass
Worn smooth through the turbulent storm.
The ocean whispers a lullaby
To the breezy sleeping palm.
A calm stillness lives between
The dance of moon and sea.
I hold the glass in hopeful prayer
Renaming all my dreams.
ALVIN SINGLETON (b. 1940)
Composed in 2016 on commission from the Cincinnati May Festival. The work is receiving its world premiere this evening by the Cincinnati May Festival Chamber Choir, conducted by James Conlon.
Alvin Singleton, born in 1940 in Brooklyn, New York, received his undergraduate training in composition and music education at New York University (B.M., 1967) and later studied composition with Mel Powell and Yehudi Wyner at Yale (M.M.A., 1971); he continued his studies at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome with Goffredo Petrassi on a 1971 Fulbright Fellowship. Singleton settled in Graz, Austria as a freelance composer in 1973 and had his works performed at several leading festivals while living in Europe during the following decade. Since returning to this country, he has served as Composer-in-Residence with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (1985–1988), Spelman College in Atlanta (1988–1991), Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1996–1997), Ritz Chamber Players of Jacksonville, Florida (2002–2003) and the cultural organization Eurynome Corporation of Tirana, Albania (2008); he has also been Visiting Professor of Composition at the Yale University School of Music. Among Singleton’s distinctions are a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship, Kranischsteiner Musikpreis of the City of Darmstadt (Germany), Musikprotokoll Kompositionpreis of the Austrian Radio, Mayor’s Fellowship in the Arts Award from the City of Atlanta, and commissions from the Serge Koussevitsky Music Foundation, American Composers Orchestra and many other noted orchestras, chamber ensembles and foundations. In 2014, Alvin Singleton was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Lorain, Ohio-born composer, educator, critic, conductor and author Carman Moore (b. 1936), who studied at Oberlin, Ohio State and Juilliard, co-founded the Society of Black Composers, taught at Yale, Queens College, Brooklyn College, Carnegie Mellon University and New York University, and written for The New York Times, The Village Voice, Saturday Review and other leading publications, has long been associated with the music of Alvin Singleton. (He provided the text for Singleton’s 2005 “choral ballet,” Truth.) At Singleton’s request, Moore prepared the following program note for Prayer, commissioned for the 2016 Cincinnati May Festival:
Prayer is one of the composer’s most original and sophisticated works. The typical African-American church service seems to be a source for this piece with its interplay of sections and colors, yet the work in form and rhythmic choices is clearly ‘classical’ and never breaks out into easy imitations of, for example, gospel music.
The work opens with the choir singing the spiritual ‘My Lord, What a Mornin’’ in octaves, sung flat-out a cappella, as might happen in church. The instrumental section following this opening feels very much like a thoughtful response by the congregation. Instruments seem to behave like individual churchgoers, colorfully dressed and answering various episodes with individual thoughts. As for any fears that the mighty organ might drown out the proceedings, Singleton puts that to rest by employing it almost like another choir or section of the choir. The trumpet soloist does not blast us into heaven, it tends to sing and, we find out later, is preparing us for the spiritual ‘Where Shall I Be When the Firs’ Trumpet Soun’?’ Even the tenor soloist behaves much like just another (but still important) instrument.
The composer has chosen to not only feature spirituals, but also to set a poetic text called A Christian Prayer, whose main message, almost like some modern-day Kyrie, calls out ‘save us … teach us …’ and extols the importance of humility and the defeat of violence. Singleton has always been a composer who has simultaneously answered the call to carry out what he feels is his duty to his fellow humans while using the finest of his art to do so, and Prayer finds him at the top of his game.
My Lord, what a mornin’,
When the stars begin to fall.
O Lord, my Lord.
Save us from weak resignation to violence.
Teach us that restraint is the highest expression of power.
It’s me, it’s me, it’s music, O Lord,
Standin’ in the need of prayer.
Teach us that restraint is the highest expression of power,
That thoughtfulness and tenderness are the mark of the strong.
Save us … Teach us …
Help us to love our enemies,
Not by countenancing their sins,
But remembering our own.
O, my Lord, what a mornin’ …
Help us … Save us … Teach us …
Where shall I be when de firs’ trumpet soun’,
O, Brethren. O, Sistern.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Ave verum corpus, K. 618
Composed and premiered in 1791.
As the time for the delivery of the Mozarts’ sixth child in their nine years of marriage drew near in the summer of 1791, Constanze was becoming increasingly uncomfortable in the city heat of Vienna. Late in May, Wolfgang took the coach to the nearby village of Baden, where he arranged a stay for Constanze through Anton Stoll, a local schoolteacher and the choir director of the parish church, who had often performed Mozart’s sacred music for his congregations. With plans made and the pledge from Stoll that he would look after the young woman, Constanze left Vienna for Baden June 4. Wolfgang, busy in the city with preparations for Die Zauberflöte, visited her the following week, and again between June 15 and 23. On this second visit, Stoll asked him to write a new Eucharist hymn for his choir for the Feast of Corpus Christi on June 23. In gratitude for the kindnesses the director had extended to him and his wife, he responded with the luminous motet for chorus, strings and organ, Ave verum corpus (K. 618). Wolfgang returned to Baden on July 9 to take Constanze back to Vienna, where their last child, Franz Xaver, was born on July 26.
The radiant Ave verum corpus is among Mozart’s best-known vocal works and is one of the most perfect musical miniatures ever created. Though modest in its length, technical demands, instrumental complement and texture, as befit the limitations of the little parish church for which it was written, this motet is illuminated by the rich and wondrous harmonic suavities, flawless compositional command and achingly beautiful purity that mark the music of Mozart’s full maturity. Wrote John N. Burk, “The last works of Mozart, like those of Beethoven, sometimes give us the sense that the utmost in beauty can be the utmost in melodic simplicity. Such beauty needs no adornment; it is a kind of expressive perfection arrived at by a refinement of sensitivity to the detail of the phrase.” In his classic study of the composer, Alfred Einstein concluded that the Ave verum corpus, like the best of Mozart’s church music, does not impress by its grandeur and the lofty dignity of its expression, “but by its humanity, by its appeal to all devout and childlike hearts, by its directness.”
TEXT & TRANSLATION
Ave, verum corpus, natum de Maria Virgine:
Hail, true flesh, born of the Virgin Mary:
Vere passum, immolatum in cruce pro homine;
Who hath truly suffered, broken on the cross for man;
Cujus latus perforatum unda fluxit et sanguine.
from Whose pierced side flowed water and blood.
Esto nobis praegustatum in mortis examine.
Be for us a foretaste of the trial of death.