Sunday, June 22, 2008

ARCHIVE  •  2008  •  SUN 15  •  MON 16  •  WED 18  •  FRI 20  •  SUN 22

Saint Michael & All Angels Church, 4 p.m.

Festival Finale

Jennifer Foster, soprano
Daniel Roihl, countertenor
Jonathan Mack, tenor
Christopher Lindbloom, baritone
Festival Chorus & Orchestra
Burton Karson, conductor

Francesco Durante (1684-1755)

Francesco Durante (1684-1755)
Concerto in F minor

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Meine Seel’ erhebt den Herren, BWV 10


Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Dixit Dominus, Psalm 109 (110), RV 59


We offer this concert in grateful memory of Georgene Melton Smith (1919-2007), a long-time member and treasurer of our Board of Directors, and a generous supporter through the years.

Two settings of the Magnificat text, separated by an orchestral concerto, form the first segment of this afternoon’s Festival Finale. Luke’s Gospel reports that Mary’s canticle was proclaimed to her cousin Elizabeth, who also was great with child (he who was to be St. John the Baptist). It has been sung at the service of Vespers in Gregorian chant and in settings by countless composers. Our first setting, by Francesco Durante, is the complete Latin text (the Vulgate) with the traditional addition of the Gloria Patri. Bach’s setting is in the form of a Lutheran church cantata that in part translates the traditional Latin text into German, and in part adds newly written poetry that paraphrases.


Francesco Durante came from a family deeply involved in the church. He composed several Magnificats; this one, in B flat, was long inaccurately attributed to Durante’s student Pergolesi, and some modern publications perpetuate the error. This work, for soloists, mixed chorus and string orchestra, begins with the sopranos proclaiming the first phrase in an outline of a Gregorian Magnificat chant. The full chorus concludes the first section near the end of which the basses boldly repeat the opening phrase of text and music.

Brief soprano and alto (countertenor) solos lead into a strong Fecit potentiam; the plural aspect of those filled with good things and others sent away empty is expressed here through a busier polyphonic texture. Then the tenor and bass duet leads into the choral statement of God’s promise, which proceeds surprisingly into the Gloria Patri (usually a completely separate movement). The Sicut erat in principio begins with the choral sopranos introducing this “As it was in the beginning is now” to exactly the same notes as the opening of the Magnificat, thus balancing the concluding text with the beginning. BACK


Durante’s Concerto in F minor falls into the category of “ripieno concerto,” since there is not a featured concertino group of soloists versus the ripieno string orchestra, with the exception of the Amoroso movement. Un poco Andante begins with a slight suggestion of a fugue, as the first violins state a motive (three shorts and a long, la Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony) that is imitated rhythmically but not melodically in the second violin, viola and bass lines. This connects to an Allegro that is more fugue-like, with the first violins’ statement of the subject accompanied by a (three shorts and a long) countersubject in the second violins and the basses’ imitation of the subject accompanied similarly by the violas. The Andante is a minuet in the traditional two-part form. The Amoroso contains seven short phrases for solo strings separated by short phrases of tutti. A retard to a held dominant chord forces a segue into the energetic bipartite Allegro. BACK


Bach’s Cantata 10 was written for the 1724 Feast of the Visitation, Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth during which she proclaims the Magnificat. It opens with a fugal chorus (here with substantial orchestral introduction and interludes), the oboes adding brightness to the high strings and the trumpet reinforcing the soprano melody that will be heard again in the later duet and concluding chorale. When the sopranos fall into faster rhythms, the independent trumpet continues the chorale. The exuberant da capo soprano aria, supported by equally active strings and oboes, fairly bursts its seams in expressing praise. The following tenor recitative disposes of much text very dramatically, especially in the final coloratura passage describing the scattering of chaff (Spreu). The baritone then vies with the violoncello in describing — sometimes in downward scale-like passages of one and a half octaves! — how the mighty will be cast down and, in lighter tones, how the hungry will be filled.

The alto/tenor duet, perhaps a suggestion of the conversation between Mary and Elizabeth, describes God’s mercy sweetly between the basso continuo below and the chorale tune of the oboes and trumpet above. The tenor recitative about God’s promise, salvation and grace, set to undulating strings, invites a hymn (chorale) of praise — a German translation of the Gloria Patri — in which Bach’s congregation might well have sung along with his small choir. BACK


Antonio Vivaldi wrote far more sacred choral music than is commonly realized. There are two settings of Dixit Dominus, Psalm 110 (109 in the Vulgate): RV 594 for two choirs and two orchestras, and this RV 595 for one choir (SSATB) and one orchestra. Except for the Juravit Dominus chorus and the De torrente alto solo, both marked Largo, the work’s music ranges from modestly energetic to extravagantly propulsive. Of special interest is the duet for two sopranos, Tecum principium, accompanied by a duet for two cellos. Vivaldi’s logical return to the music of the opening chorus for Sicut erat in principio, et nunc (As it was in the beginning is now) again helps us realize the meaning of the text through the music, as do the repetitions in the final chorus of Et in saecula saeculorum (World without end), Amen. BACK


Notes by Burton Karson


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