|Bruckner's Te Deum|
Ludwig van Beethoven
|Ludwig van Beethoven|
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, “Pathétique”
First movement, orchestrated by Anton Bruckner
Published in 1799, but probably written the year before, the Piano Sonata Op. 13 became rapidly one of Beethoven’s most popular compositions. Its somber mood and the title “Grande Sonate pathétique” gave it an air of mystery that had an immediate appeal for the public. The title appears in the original edition and was probably inserted by the publisher with Beethoven’s approval. The early popularity is indicated by the many ensemble arrangements that appeared, including versions for wind nonet, string quartet, string quintet and piano four-hands.
The Sonata had its detractors as well as fans. Its extreme contrasts and violent energy puzzled and shocked Vienna’s more conservative listeners. The young pianist and composer Ignaz Moscheles, who later became Beethoven’s student, was warned by his teacher in 1804 to stay away from such eccentric music, as if it were a disreputable acquaintance.
A child of brilliant precocity, Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) was born in the small Austrian town of Ansfelden, the eldest of 11 children. After the death of his father in 1836, he was sent to the abbey school of St. Florian, where he received excellent musical training and continued on as a teacher until he was 32.
Bruckner was the true image of the country bumpkin, awkward, graceless, with a thick small-town Bavarian accent. A provincial organist by profession, he felt most secure sitting at an organ bench. His social gracelessness was legendary and his clothes a source of jokes and cartoons; it was said that his trousers looked as if built by a carpenter. He was given to bouts of severe depression and was extremely deferential to intellectual and professional authority. His naÔve adoration of Richard Wagner – he called him “Meister aller Meister” (master of all masters) and fell to his knees before him at their first meeting – made him the pawn of a musical maelstrom: he became entangled in the great battle between Wagner and his followers, on the one hand, and Brahms and Vienna’s musical establishment, spearheaded by the influential music critic Eduard Hanslick, on the other.
Originally trained as an organist, Bruckner continually strove to improve his compositional skills. In 1862, when he was 38, he was still taking orchestration lessons, and was assigned by his teacher, Otto Kitzler, to orchestrate the first movement of Beethoven’s sonata. The orchestration, together with many other exercises, survived in an exercise book known as the Kitzler Study Book. Being in private hands, it was not published until bought in 2014 by the Austrian National Library. One suspects that he would not have been happy to see his early effort possibly exposed to the kind of ad hominem ridicule his mature works received.
Like all orchestration students, Bruckner must have been encouraged to make each section of the orchestra control a particular function within the whole. A lifelong lover of brass, he uses this section plus timpani for Beethoven’s menacing opening chords. The strings offer up the sighs, and woodwind solos imitate the contrasting second theme and softer figurative passages.
|Ralph Vaughan Williams|
Suite for Viola, Chorus and Orchestra
In his long and productive life – his last symphony was premiered just four months before his death at age 85 – Ralph Vaughan Williams practiced what he preached. He wrote music for every kind of combination and level of sophistication in the belief, considered radical in his young days, that music was the birthright of every individual.
Flos campi (Flower of the Field) is one of Vaughan Williams’s most unusual and exotic works. Composed in 1925, it surprised the public and his colleagues for its sensuality and eroticism. Inspired by the biblical love poems, the Songs of Solomon, each of the six sections, which flow into the next without pause, is prefaced in the score by a quotation from the book. Originally the composer gave the quotations only in Latin, but later added the English translation. The small chorus of 20 to 26 voices sings wordlessly, much in the style of Ravel’s Daphnis and ChloŽ, while the viola is the voice of the lover. Vaughan Williams achieves the haunting eroticism especially through elegantly juxtaposed instrumental sonorities repeating and elaborating on simple melodies.
1. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters...Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love. The movement begins with the voice of the languishing lover, a bitonal duet of oboe and viola. Their melody, the “Flos campi” motive, recurs throughout the work. An oriental-sounding melody played in unison by the flute and viola in their lowest range follows. They are answered first by the low strings and then by the whole orchestra and chorus, combining the two themes.
2. For, lo the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. Opens with a song of thanks to beautiful nature by the orchestra and wordless chorus on the simplest of melodies encompassing only a major third. The viola, followed by the oboe, elaborates and embellishes the song. The section ends with celesta and humming chorus.
3. I sought him whom my soul loveth, but I found him not...I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him that I am sick of love...Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? Whither is thy beloved turned aside that we may seek him with thee? The plaintive reprise of the “flos campi” motive by the viola in its low range, an upwardly searching sequence that builds to a climax of anxiety combined with the chorus. speaks of the desolation of the loss. In response, the chorus and orchestra answer, growing increasingly agitated, but the sad solo viola prevails and is not to be consoled.
4. Behold his bed (palanquin) which is Solomon’s, three score valiant men are about it...they all hold swords, being expert in war. A pagan march in faux oriental style starts off with the bassoon and continues with the jangling sonorities of a Turkish janissary band. But the viola’s pentatonic melody shifts the allusion farther east yet.
5. Return, return, O Shulamit, Return, return that we may look upon thee...How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O Prince’s daughter. The chorus leads in a joyous song on the viola, accompanied by drums, to the beauty of Shulamit and ending with a bassoon solo that foreshadows the viola song of the final section.
6. Set me as a seal upon thine heart. Opens with a canon for the viola with the oboe and finally the orchestra. Viola and flute begin the second half of the canonic melody. The chorus takes up the canon, which finally ends with the glockenspiel. After a brief reprise of the melody from the opening of the piece, the viola closes with canon melody.
What the Wild Flowers Tell Me
2nd movement from Symphony No. 3 in D minor
Reorchestrated by Benjamin Britten
In a rare moment of self-irony, Gustav Mahler called his Third Symphony Mein Ungeheuer (My Monster), and to his contemporaries it must have appeared so. Not only did it call for immense orchestral forces and the first movement alone was longer than most symphonies, but its extremes in mood also put the audience on an emotional roller coaster. Mahler composed it during the summers of 1895 and 1896, writing the huge opening movement last. He initially produced a literary outline for the symphony, but as it gradually grew to a size that astonished even the composer himself, he was forced to continually revise the outline in an attempt to keep the work under control. The Symphony was introduced to the public piecemeal, the premiere in its entirety coming only in 1902 during a music festival, with the composer conducting.
Mahler originally gave titles to the individual movements, but he worried that his words would be misinterpreted, finally omitting them in the 1902 premiere. Nevertheless they still serve as useful markers, giving a clearer picture of the composer’s thoughts and inspiration.
The second movement, entitled “What the Wild Flowers Tell Me,” is a delicate minuet initiated by an oboe solo, whose refinement is a respite from the earlier turmoil. The scoring is light and has the effect of pastoral chamber music. Two short contrasting episodes in the middle, however, have a more ominous tone, diverting from the stately minuet with a fast, whirling waltz. The second iteration of the waltz includes scoring for rute – a bundle of thin canes attached to a drumstick handle that when shaken sound like rapidly flapping wings. The movement ends with an unearthly chord of high string harmonics.
In 1941, Mahler’s symphonies were essentially unknown to the general public, and Britten’s publisher suggested he arrange this movement for more conventional orchestral forces to facilitate its performance. Britten had a special affinity to Mahler and he made an arrangement that preserved Mahler’s spirit with a chamber orchestra.
A devoutly religious man, Bruckner composed throughout his life many religious choral works, including numerous Masses, a Magnificat two settings of the Requiem and the Te Deum, composed between 1881 and 1884. He had suffered both physical and mental illness and dedicated the Te Deum “To God in gratitude for having safely brought me through so much anguish in Vienna.” By then, with the aid of conductor Hans Richter, his star had risen in the Austrian capital, and the publisher Theodore Rättig paid Bruckner 50 gulden for the Te Deum, the only money he ever earned as a composer .
Bruckner taught music and played the organ for many years at the abbey of St. Florian, the largest Baroque monastery in Austria. He was, of course, intimately familiar with the medieval chant that was still an integral part of the Catholic liturgy. The Te Deum is a hymn dating from the fourth century and is sung daily during most seasons of the year as part of the Divine Office. The opening of his setting of the Te Deum is loosely based on the chant melody, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnJO_Ddeyh4) a technique that in the Renaissance was called “paraphrase.” Bruckner’s version is in five sections, the first of which. “Te Deum laudamus,” contains the bulk of the text. The choral part is accompanied by an ostinato of octaves in the strings. and alternates with sections for a quartet of soloists.
The second part, “Te ergo quaesumus” (We, therefore, pray Thee), is an aria for baritone; in the second line, which refers to Christ’s precious blood, a solo violin accompanies the singer in a fervent example of tone painting. Equally intense – although demanding and stormy, rather than prayerful – is the third section for the chorus, “Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis” (Number them among Thy saints).
Part Four, “Salvum fac populum tuum” (Save Your people), repeats the music of “Te ergo” although here with the addition of the chorus signing a capella and continuing with a reprise of the opening “Te Deum laudamus.”
The solo quartet sings “In Te Domine speravi” (I have trusted in Thee, Lord), leading into a huge concluding fugue.
|Te Deum laudamus:|
Te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem
omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli;
tibi caeli et universae Potestates;
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim
incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra
maiestatis gloriae tuae.
Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,
Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum
sancta confitetur Ecclesia,
Patrem immensae maiestatis:
Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.
Tu Rex gloriae, Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem,
non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo,
aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.
Iudex crederis esse venturus.
Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni:
quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari
Salvum fac populum tuum,
Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae.
Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.
Per singulos dies benedicimus te;
Et laudamus Nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi.
Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.
Miserere nostri Domine, miserere nostri.
Fiat misericordia tua,
Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te.
In te, Domine, speravi:
non confundar in aeternum.
|We praise you, God: |
We acknowledge you to be the Lord.
All the earth worships you
the Father everlasting.
To you all Angels cry aloud:
the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To you Cherubim and Seraphim ever proclaim:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the
Majesty of your glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles praise you.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets praise you.
The noble army of Martyrs praise you.
The holy Church throughout the world
The Father of infinite Majesty;
Your honorable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost the Comforter.
You are the King of Glory: O Christ,
You are the everlasting Son: of the Father.
When thou took upon you to deliver mankind,
you did not abhor the Virgin's womb.
When you had overcome the sharpness of death,
you opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
You sit at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that you will come to be our Judge.
We therefore pray you, help your servants
whom you have redeemed with your precious blood.
Let us be included eternally with your saints;
Oh Lord, save your people: and bless your heritage.
Govern them and lift them up forever.
Day by day we magnify you;
And we worship your Name ever and forever.
Vouchsafe, O Lord to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us : have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let your mercy shine on us, as our trust is in you.
O Lord, in you have I will trust in you; let me never be confounded.
|Copyright © Elizabeth and Joseph Kahn 2017|