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Sunday, June 24, 2012

ARCHIVE  •  2012  •  SUN 17  •  MON 18  •  WED 20  •  FRI 22  •  SUN 24

Newport Harbor Lutheran Church, 4 p.m.

Festival Finale

Pacific Chorale’s John Alexander Singers
Festival Orchestra
John Alexander, conductor
Elizabeth Blumenstock, concertmaster
Timothy Howard, organ & harpsichord


Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Welcome to All the Pleasures, Z. 339
Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, 1683

1. Symphony

2. Ritornello: Welcome to All the Pleasures

3. Ritornello: Here the Deities Approve

4. Ritornello: While Joys Celestial

5. Then Lift Up Your Voices

6. Ritornello: Beauty, Thou Scene of Love

7. In a Consort of Voices

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Theater music from The Libertine, Z. 600
Selections from Act IV

Song: Nymphs and Shepherds

Chorus: We Come

Chorus: In These Delightful Pleasant Groves

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Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
I Was Glad, Z. 19
Anthem for the coronation of James II, 1685

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Hear My Prayer, O Lord, Z. 15
Anthem possibly for the funeral of Charles II, 1685

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
O Dive Custos Auricae Domus, Z. 504
Elegy on the death of Queen Mary, 1694

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Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem, Z. 46
Anthem possibly for the coronation of William and Mary, 1689

Intermission

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Roy Whelden (born 1950)
Ode after Purcell: Wondrous Cecilia
World premiere

This work was commissioned by the Board of Directors
in honor of Dr. Burton Karson and generously underwritten by James & Elaine Alexiou, Martin & Margie Hubbard, Jaak & Siret Jurison, Alice Remer, Vina R. Spiehler, and John & Elizabeth Stahr

1. Hail, Bright Cecilia.
Fill our hearts with love, Cecilia.
Fill every heart with love for thee and perfect harmony, Fill our hearts with love for thee and thy celestial art.

2. Soul of the world, inspired by thee,
The jarring seeds of matter did agree;
Thou didst the scattered atoms bind,
Which, by thy laws of true proportion joined,
Made up of various parts,
One perfect harmony.

3. Thou tun’st this world below, the spheres above, Who in the heavenly round to their own music move;
The souls amidst,
Who in the worldly round
To their own music move.

4. Wondrous Cecilia,
All disharmonious thought,
Though used to conquest,
Must yield to thee;
Wondrous Cecilia,
Against thee all force is nought:
Thought must yield to thee.

5. The frightful harmonies of war
In vain attempt the passions to alarm,
Which thy commanding sounds
Compose and charm.

6. Hail! Bright Cecilia.
Great Patroness of us and music,
Fill our hearts with love for thee and thy celestial art.


Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Te Deum and Jubilate Deo, Z. 232
For St. Cecilia’s Day 1694

Reception


Henry Purcell was universally mourned as the “British Orpheus” after his premature death at the age of 36. This afternoon’s concert juxtaposes music from the first part of his life, when he was primarily a composer for the English court, with works from after 1690, when — during what was to be the final five years of his life — he focused on composing music for the theater.

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The concert opens with the first datable Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, Welcome to all the Pleasures, performed on November 22, 1673 as part of an annual concert celebrating the patron saint of music. It is, like all of Purcell’s early odes, relatively small in scale, scored for an orchestra of strings and continuo only. The musical highlight is the alto solo Here the Deities Approve, which is one of the very best of Purcell’s many airs written over a repeated bass pattern or “ground bass.” BACK

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Purcell’s incidental music for a revival of Thomas Shadwell’s play The Libertine, which tells a version of the Don Juan story, represents his theater music. Generally assigned a date of 1692, it may actually have been written shortly before the composer’s death in November 1695. The song Nymphs and Shepherds is typical of Purcell’s pastoral music, while the chorus In These Delightful Pleasant Groves was one of the pieces that kept Purcell’s name alive throughout the 19th century. BACK

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The remainder of the first half is taken up with music for state occasions. The full anthem I Was Glad was written for the Coronation of King James II in 1685 but was only identified in 1977, having long been confused with Purcell’s larger verse anthem with the same text. Its cheerful triple meter is typical of the anthems written during the previous reign of King Charles II, who was said to like only music he could beat time to. BACK

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Hear My Prayer, by contrast, is a massive essay for eight-part chorus in the art of old-fashioned counterpoint and expressive dissonance. It seems to be a surviving fragment of a longer work, and may have been written for the funeral of Charles II in 1685. BACK

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U nlike her husband William, a dour military man, Queen Mary seems genuinely to have loved music. When she died of smallpox on December 28, 1694, Purcell mourned her with the Latin elegy O Dive Custos Auricae Domus set to a text by H. Parker and arranged for two sopranos and continuo. BACK

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The first half of the concert closes with the large-scale verse anthem Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem, which apparently was composed for the coronation of William and Mary in April 1689. BACK

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T he second half of the concert begins with the world premiere of a work specially commissioned by the Baroque Music Festival, Corona del Mar, to honor Festival cofounder Dr. Burton Karson and his 30 years of dedicated service as the Festival’s artistic director, conductor, organizer, champion, muse and creative force.

It was written by the American composer and viola da gamba player Roy Whelden, who has performed and recorded with many internationally known ensembles, including Sequentia (Cologne) and Ensemble Alcatraz (San Francisco). As a composer, he has received commissions for a diverse range of works, including chamber music, songs cycles, choral works, and incidental music for plays. Whelden holds a degree in music theory from the Eastman School of Music and a doctorate from Indiana University, where he specialized in Early Music Performance.

Commenting on this commission, Whelden writes: “When I was asked to create a new piece for voices and strings based on Purcell’s Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day, I immediately called to mind a twentiethcentury masterwork, Igor Stravinsky’s Pulcinella. Stravinsky’s ballet suite is a piece I had known and loved since childhood. It was one of the few recordings available in the public library of the farm community where I grew up.

“In Pulcinella, Stravinsky chose a number of independent works by the astoundingly prolific Baroque composer Giovanni Pergolesi (who died at age 26) and moulded them into a coherent work, a 35-minute ballet. The task I set for myself in the Ode after Purcell was the opposite: I chose movements and pieces of movements from Purcell’s 50-minute ode to create a piece of smaller dimensions.

“How did I make the selections? What were my criteria? First, I chose texts that moved and inspired me. For the most part, the favored texts were those that showed a universal, or at least a less parochial, perspective. ’Thou tun’st this world below, the spheres above, Who in the heavenly round to their own music move.’ Now, that’s a stirring and universal emotion, in contrast to the somewhat narrow outlook of the verse invoking the wish that the ’British forest prove as famous as Dodona’s vocal grove.’ (That last line is found in the verse for the first chorus ’Hail! Bright Cecilia’; in fact, I did use a portion of that verse, but set it with completely different music than Purcell’s original.)

“Second, I wanted to work with those melodies from Purcell’s Ode that suggested compelling shapes for me when looked at from different perspectives. Often the most interesting shapes were things that I found in dreams. ’Wondrous machine’ is an example. It’s got a wonderfully virile ostinato, which eventually suggested a different harmonization (or, more accurately, different counterpoint), which in turn lead to a slight alteration of the original ostinato. And in the course of working on the piece, I ended up changing the text as well. ’Wondrous machine [i.e. organ — Purcell’s instrument], To thee the warbling lute, Though used to conquest, Must be forced to yield’ became the more universalized ’Wondrous Cecelia, All disharmonious thought, Though used to conquest, Must yield to thee.’

“If I have altered the music and texts of Purcell’s wonderful Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day, I don’t wish to imply any criticism of the original. Purcell’s mastery of counterpoint, his surprising twists of harmony and able text settings are above criticism. The morphogenesis of my own Ode after Purcell is clear and apparent, even if there is no single measure from the original which survives unaltered.

“My work is a genetic descendant — an illegitimate daughter, if you allow — of Henry Purcell.” BACK

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oday’s program concludes with Purcell’s famous setting of the canticles Te Deum and Jubilate Deo from the Anglican service of Morning Prayer, written for a public celebration of St. Cecilia’s Day in 1694. Purcell’s was the first English setting of these texts to include orchestral accompaniment. It was immediately successful and was performed throughout the 18th century alongside Handel’s settings. The music, with its dramatic gestures, memorable solo airs and sturdy counterpoint, serves as an appropriate summation of Purcell’s career. BACK

Notes by Graydon Beeks and Roy Whelden

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