Friday, January 20, 2012

Program notes: Mozart Requiem & Fauré Requiem

This monumental program is presented in celebration of Mozart’s 256th birthday and Robert De Cormier’s 90th birthday, both of which take place in January, 2012. Among all the famous requiems, Fauré’s Requiem stands out for its serenity and soothing gentleness. He composed it, he said, not for a specific occasion but “purely for the pleasure of it.” And pure pleasure it is. The story behind the creation of Mozart’s sublime Requiem has been sensationalized by the movie Amadeus. The reality is plenty dramatic enough: his family was desperate for the commission fee, and Mozart was struggling to finish the work when he died of renal failure. Though the Requiem was completed by a student, its heart-wrenching beauty is quintessential Mozart. The VSO will present this program on Saturday, January 28, at the Flynn Center in Burlington and Sunday, January 29, at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland. Keep reading for the program notes.

2011/2012 Masterworks Series III
Saturday, January 28, 2012, 8:00 p.m.
Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Burlington
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2011/2012 Sunday Matinee Series II
Sunday, January 29, 2012, 4:00 p.m.
Paramount Theatre, Rutland
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Robert De Cormier, conductor; Jonita Lattimore, soprano; Susan Platts, alto; Richard Clement, tenor; Kevin Deas, bass; VSO Chorus
MOZART Requiem
FAURE Requiem

Requiem, K. 626
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Much ink has been spent on the circumstances surrounding the composition of Mozart's Requiem. All the romantic embellishments including the poisoning of Mozart by rival Salieri and Mozart's conviction that he was writing a requiem for himself at the behest of some messenger of death have been rounded up and deliciously portrayed on stage and screen in Peter Shaffer's Amadeus, (which, not incidentally, precipitated a renewed interest in the performance of the Requiem). These scenarios, as well as the one that has Mozart rehearsing the Requiem on the last day of his life with family friends and bursting into tears during the first few bars of the Lacrymosa, are as specious as they are irresistible. Death was a far more commonplace and less romanticized occurrence in 1791 than today. Mozart and his beloved sister "Nannerl" were the only two of Leopold's seven children who survived to adulthood. Mozart and Constanze had six children, of whom only two lived longer than six months. Any manner of malaise could result in death, and the attitude of the time toward this constant possibility had to be more accepting in order to go on with daily life. As Mozart said in a letter to his ailing father in 1787, "Since death, when you come to think of it, is actually the ultimate purpose of our life, I have got to know this true, best friend of man so well that his image not only no longer frightens me, but calms and comforts me! And I thank God that He has given me the boon of providing an opportunity to get to know Him as the key to our true happiness. I never go to bed without considering that, young as I am, perhaps I shall not see the next day."

In life, Mozart's impoverishment made him only too familiar with the physical and psychological stressors of exhaustion, poor nutrition, and the exigencies of supporting his recently expanded family. With the reversal of his fortune in his last years, no work offered could he refuse. Three commissions came his way in 1791. The first was from actor friend and fellow Freemason Emanuel Schikaneder for an opera in German, The Magic Flute. Work on this had started when the summer brought another commission, this one an "intrigue opera" (La clemenza di Tito) for a celebration in Prague of the coronation of the Austrian emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia. The third commission came by way of an emissary shortly before the coronation. He offered Mozart an unsigned letter full of flatteries and an inquiry as to whether the composer would consider writing a requiem, and for how much and how soon. With half of the requested amount placed immediately in hand and the balance to be paid on delivery, Mozart felt no need to ask questions about the source.

The mysterious intermediary was Franz Anton Leutgeb, steward of Count Franz Walsegg Stuppach. The Count had lost his wife the previous February, and the requiem was to be in her honor. A music lover, Walsegg had concerts in his home twice a week, and delighted in copying over original scores of other composers and having his guests guess their origin. "Usually we guessed the Count himself, because he did in fact occasionally compose a few trifles; he would smile at that and be pleased that he had (or so he believed) succeeded in mystifying us,” wrote one of his guests.

Mozart worked on the Requiem that summer, interrupted by the need to finish both operas. Falling ill in October at the height of The Magic Flute's popularity, he took to his bed and died of renal failure on December 5, 1791. That he foresaw his own death is given the lie by the fact that the title page of the Requiem autograph bears the date 1792 in his own hand: clearly he had planned to finish the work. In the end, he completed only the Requiem and Kyrie, and sketched the Dies Irae through the Hostias. The widowed Constanze, desperate for income, engaged one of Mozart's pupils to finish the work. Franz Xaver Süssmayer completed the orchestration and wrote the final movements (probably making use of sketches left by his teacher). The work was given to Walsegg, who gave it its first performance in 1793.

-- Hilary Hatch

Requiem, Op. 48
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

Fauré composed his best-known work, Requiem, in 1887, purely, as he said, for the pleasure of it. The first performance took place at the fashionable church of The Madeleine in Paris where he was choirmaster, on January 16, 1888. The work at that time consisted of five movements, the Introit and Kyrie, Sanctus, Pie Jesu, Agnus Dei, and In Paradisum. It was scored for chamber chorus and an orchestra consisting of solo violin, divided violas, divided cellos, basses, harp, timpani, and organ.

An expanded version which included the Offertory, written in 1889, and the Libera Me, composed as an independent composition as early as 1877, had its first performance in January of 1893. Bassoons, horns, and optional trumpets were added for that performance. A third and final version of the Requiem was published in 1900. This symphonic version for large choir and full orchestra was probably created at the request of the publisher, Julien Hamelle, who felt the piece would be more popular with large forces.

Of all the requiems, from Mozart’s to Britten’s, Fauré’s stands out for its serenity and soothing gentleness. As a choirmaster and organist, Fauré constantly sought to create a new kind of church music. He wanted something other than the operatic bel canto style which was popular in Paris at the time, and apart from the outsized, large-scale Germanic Romantic style which dominated the rest of Europe. The most dramatic moment in the piece is the Dies Irae, Dies Illa (“that day, day of wrath”). Remember the setting by Berlioz with its four brass bands or Verdi with two sets of off-stage trumpets? Fauré limits himself to sixteen bars and just two horns to announce “that day,” not as a separate movement but only as it appears in the Libera Me. Drawing inspiration from the tunes and rhythms of Gregorian chant, he uses subtle gradations in dynamic, color, and harmony to achieve the effects he wants.

In an interview in 1902, Fauré commented: “It has been said that my Requiem does not express the fear of death, and someone has called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that I see death: a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience. The music of Gounod has been criticized for its overinclination towards human tenderness. But his nature predisposed him to feel this way. Is it not necessary to accept the artist’s nature? As to my Requiem, perhaps I have also instinctively sought to escape from what is thought right and proper, after all the years of accompanying burial services on the organ! I know it all by heart. I wanted to write something different.”

Eternal rest grant them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. A hymn, O God, becometh Thee in Sion, and a vow shall be paid to Thee in Jerusalem. O Lord, hear my prayer, all flesh shall come to Thee. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

O Lord Jesus Christ, King of Glory, deliver the souls of the departed from the pains of Hell and from the deep pit; save them from the mouth of the lion, nor allow the dark lake to swallow them up, nor darkness to enshroud them. With our prayers, O Lord, we offer a sacrifice of praise; do Thou receive it on behalf of those souls whom we this day commemorate. Grant, O Lord, that they may pass from death to life, which Thou didst promise to Abraham and to his seed. Amen.

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Glory be to Thee, O Lord, Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed Jesus, O Lord, grant them rest; grant them eternal rest.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, give them rest. Let perpetual light shine upon them together with Thy saints for Thou art good. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death in that awful day when heaven and earth shall be moved, when Thou shalt come to judge the world by fire. Trembling, I stand before Thee, and I fear the trial that shall be at hand and the wrath to come. That day, a day of wrath, of calamity and misery, a great day and exceeding bitter. Eternal rest grant them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. Deliver me, O Lord.

May the angels receive thee in paradise; at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee, and bring thee into the Holy City Jerusalem. There may the choir of angels receive thee and with Lazarus, once a beggar, may thou have eternal rest.

Jonita Lattimore, soprano

Jonita Lattimore, a lyric soprano of immense vocal range and expressive musicality, has garnered plaudits for her vivid portrayals of roles ranging from Micaela to Jackie O as well as oratorio performances with major orchestras across the United States and abroad. John von Rhein from the Chicago Tribune calls Lattimore’s soprano a “richly upholstered voice with secure line and coloratura.” She “is surely destined for great things.” Her performance in Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with Concertante di Chicago was praised by the same paper for her “dusky low notes and effortless clarion upper range.” Her latest CD, Only Heaven, a collaboration of five singers, (PS Classics) was called “the most distinctive music heard all season” (USA Today), producing “spine chills and teary eyes” (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram).

Lattimore made her Lyric Opera of Chicago debut in Kurt Weill’s The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, and was also seen on Lyric’s stage as Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen. She recently performed the role of Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro with Tulsa Opera, and debuted in the title role in the world premiere and recording of James Niblock’s Ruth at Blue Lake Fine Arts Festival. With Houston Grand Opera she appeared as Marguerite in Faust, First Lady in Die Zauberflöte, and presented the world premieres of Harvey Milk, The Book of the Tibetan Dead, and Jackie O, which was recorded on Decca. She made her Paris debut at the Bastille Opera as Serena in Porgy and Bess.

2011/12 offers returns to the Orequesta Sinfonica Nacional de Mexico in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and the Mozart Requiem with both Vermont Symphony and Louisiana Philharmonic. Among the 2010/11 highlights figured Haydn’s Paukenmesse with the Sinfonica Nacional de Mexico and concerts with the Charlotte Symphony. The 2009/10 season included a debut with Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Mexico and returns to the Houston Symphony, Huntsville Symphony, Grant Park Music Festival and Chicago Sinfonietta. During the 2008-09 season, Lattimore sang Serena in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production of Porgy and Bess, the Fauré Requiem with Eugene Symphony and Verdi’s Requiem with the Virginia and Colorado symphonies. During the summer, she returned once again to the Grant Park Music Festival, this time in Torke’s Plans.

An artist profile of Jonita Lattimore was aired on Artbeat Chicago, an arts television program on WTTW-Chicago’s Public Broadcast System entitled Home Grown Diva; and she is featured on WTTW’s Opera Philes, a program of favorite opera arias and ensembles. She is the soprano soloist in Robert Avalon’s Sextet de Julia de Burgos, recorded on Centaur.

Susan Platts, alto

British-born Canadian mezzo-soprano Susan Platts brings a uniquely rich and wide-ranging voice to concert and recital repertoire for alto and mezzo-soprano. She is particularly esteemed for her interpretations of the Mahler symphonies and song cycles.

In May of 2004, as part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, world-renowned soprano Jessye Norman chose Ms Platts as her protégée from 26 international candidates, and has continued to mentor her ever since. With the generous support of Rolex, Ms. Platts recently commissioned a work for mezzo-soprano and orchestra from celebrated Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich: Under the Watchful Sky, comprised of three songs using ancient Chinese texts from Shi Jing (“The Book of Songs”) that explore the universal passions and tribulations of humankind, was premiered by the Québec Symphony under Yoav Talmi in November 2010.

Ms. Platts has performed at Teatro alla Scala, Teatro di San Carlo, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center as well as with the Philadelphia, CBC Radio, Cleveland and Minnesota Orchestras, Orchestre de Paris, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Montreal, Toronto, American, Detroit, Milwaukee and Houston Symphonies, Les Violons du Roy, Los Angeles and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras. She has collaborated with many conductors including Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Roberto Abbado, Leon Botstein, Sir Andrew Davis, Andreas Delfs, Christoph Eschenbach, Jane Glover, Eliahu Inbal, Jeffrey Kahane, Bernard Labadie, Kent Nagano, Peter Oundjian, Itzhak Perlman, Bramwell Tovey, Osmo Vänska and Pinchas Zuckerman. Ms Platts has appeared on many distinguished art-song series including twice for both the Vocal Arts Society at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and Ladies Morning Musical Club in Montreal, and both the Frick Collection on Lincoln Center “Art of the Song” series in New York City.

Ms. Platts has recorded Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde for Fontec Records with Gary Bertini conducting the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, a CD of dramatic sacred art songs with pianist Dalton Baldwin, Gustav Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with the Smithsonian Chamber Players and Santa Fe Pro Musica for Dorian Records and Brahms Zwei Gesänge with Steven Dann and Lambert Orkis on the ATMA label. Her first solo disc of songs by Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms on the ATMA label enjoyed considerable critical acclaim.

Richard Clement, tenor

Grammy-winning American tenor Richard Clement has performed with most of America’s major orchestras and music directors, bringing tonal beauty and superb musicality to repertoire from the baroque to the contemporary. He recently earned particular acclaim for the title role of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius with the North Carolina Symphony and Sacramento Choral Arts Society and Orchestra. In addition he premiered--and recorded--Theofanides' The Here and Now with Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony, including performances in Atlanta and at New York’s Carnegie Hall (he has also sung Messiah and concert performances of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic with them). Among the most in-demand tenors for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, invitations include the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; New Jersey, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Oregon, Memphis, San Diego, Baltimore, Nashville, Phoenix, Colorado and Toledo Symphonies. He sang Elijah with the Memphis and Charlotte Symphonies; the Verdi Requiem with the Santa Rosa and New Jersey Symphonies and Chautauqua Music Festival Orchestra; Beethoven's Missa solemnis with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra and National Arts Centre Orchestra; and Haydn’s Die Schöpfung with the Colorado and Puerto Rico Symphonies. In addition Mr. Clement has performed Belmonte in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail with Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony; Rachmaninoff’s The Bells with Jeffrey Kahane and the Colorado Symphony; Orff’s Carmina Burana with Neeme Järvi and the Detroit Symphony, and two Mozart programs with Boston’s Händel & Haydn Society under Grant Llewellyn. He also sang Mendelssohn’s Die erste Walpurgisnacht and Second Symphony with Kurt Masur and the Israel Philharmonic; Toch’s Cantata of the Bitter Herbs with the Czech Philharmonic; the Mozart Requiem with the Saint Louis and Delaware Symphonies; Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex with Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony; Kernis’ Millenium Symphony with the Minnesota Orchestra; Tippett’s A Child of Our Time with Jeffrey Kahane and the Santa Rosa Symphony; The Bells with Leon Botstein and the American Symphony in Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall; Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ and Beethoven’s Missa solemnis with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. He has been guest soloist with the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras; Houston, Toronto, San Francisco and Cincinnati Symphonies, and collaborated with such conductors as Wolfgang Sawallisch, Jesús López-Cobos, Bobby McFerrin, Daniel Harding, Christopher Hogwood, Carlo Rizzi, John Mauceri, Marin Alsop, Hugh Wolff and James Conlon.

Festival engagements include Tanglewood (concert performance of Act III of Verdi’s Falstaff), Beethoven #9 at both Grant Park and the Hollywood Bowl, and the Bach B Minor Mass with Seiji Ozawa at Japan’s Saito Kinen Festival.

Mr. Clement’s considerable operatic credentials include Pedrillo in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail with Sir Colin Davis and the New York Philharmonic; Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at Belgium’s De Vlaamse Opera and with the Colorado Symphony. At the Vancouver Opera his roles include Nanki-Poo (The Mikado), Ferrando (Così fan tutte), Little Bat (Susannah) and Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni); Ernesto (Don Pasquale) at Glimmerglass Opera; Vanya (Katya Kabanova) and To-No-Chujo (Tale of the Genji) at Opera Theater of St. Louis; Belmonte (Entführung) with the Boston Baroque; Lensky (Eugen Onegin) and Nemorino (L’elisir d’amore) at Opera Festival of New Jersey; Candide, Lockwood (Wuthering Heights) and Fenton (Falstaff) at Boston Lyric Opera; and Albert Herring with the Atlanta Opera.

Mr. Clement studied voice at Georgia State University and the Cincinnati Conservatory, where he received his Master of Music degree. He was a Tanglewood Music Festival Fellow, has been a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio and was a recipient of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation Jacobson Study Grant. Recordings include Britten’s War Requiem with the Washington Choral Society, Bartók’s Cantata Profana with the Atlanta Symphony (both Grammy winners) and Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame. Mr. Clement is currently on staff as a visiting lecturer at Atlanta's Georgia State University.

Kevin Deas, bass

Kevin Deas has gained international acclaim as one of America’s leading basses. Lauded for his “burnished sound, clarity of diction and sincerity of expression” and “fervent intensity” by Chicago Tribune critic John von Rhein, Deas has been variously called “exemplary” (Denver Post), “especially fine” (Washington Post) and possessing “a resourceful range of expression” (The Cincinnati Enquirer). He is perhaps most acclaimed for his signature portrayal of the title role in Porgy and Bess, having sung it with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco, Atlanta, San Diego, Utah, Houston, Baltimore and Montreal symphonies and the Ravinia and Saratoga festivals.

2011/12 brings repeat visits to the National Philharmonic, return engagements with Boston Baroque, Musica Sacra, Oratorio Society of New York and Princeton Pro Musica, as well as the Requiem by both Fauré and Mozart with the Vermont Symphony and a Dvorak program with the Buffalo Philharmonic and North Carolina Symphony.

Deas’ 2010/11 season highlights consisted of appearances with the Calgary Philharmonic in Porgy and Bess, Boston Baroque with Messiah, a Richmond Symphony Beethoven Symphony No. 9, St. John Passion at the Winter Park Festival, Philip Glass’ Passion of Ramakrishna with Pacific Symphony, Paukenmesse with Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Mexico and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the National Symphony of Costa Rica on occasion of the orchestra’s 70th anniversary.

Other recent highlights include Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under the baton of Daniel Barenboim with Filarmonica della Scala in Accra celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of Ghana, Copland’s Old American Songs and Mozart's Marriage of Figaro with the Chicago Symphony, Messiah with the Cleveland Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic and Handel & Haydn Society, an opening performance at the Newport Jazz Festival with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Colorado Symphony and Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, and performances of Brubeck’s To Hope! in Salzburg and Vienna. He also sang at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival and Carnegie Hall, Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius with the Chicago Symphony and Barenboim, Mozart’s Requiem with the Atlanta Symphony, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas with the Houston Symphony.

A strong proponent of contemporary music, Kevin Deas was heard at Italy’s Spoleto Festival in a new production of Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors in honor of the composer's eighty-fifth birthday, videotaped for worldwide release. His 20-year collaboration with Dave Brubeck have taken him to Salzburg, Vienna and Moscow in To Hope! and his Gates of Justice were presented in a gala performance in New York during the 95/96 season. He also performed Tippet's Child of our Time with the Vancouver Symphony and in 1992 debuted with the Chicago Symphony in a concert version of X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X by Anthony Davis, later repeated in New York and recorded.

Kevin Deas’ list of recordings is as varied as it is impressive: He has recorded for Decca/London Die Meistersinger with the Chicago Symphony under the late Sir Georg Solti and Varèse's Ecuatorial with the ASKO Ensemble under the baton of Ricardo Chailly. Other releases include Bach's B minor Mass and Handel's Acis & Galatea on Vox Classics and Dave Brubeck's To Hope! with the Cathedral Choral Society on the Telarc label.