ARTISTS


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DAVID ROBERTSON


CONDUCTOR

David Robertson – conductor, artist, thinker, and American musical visionary – occupies some of the most prominent platforms on the international music scene.

 

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NICOLE CABELL


SOPRANO

Recognized for her beautiful timbre and stunning stage presence, soprano Angel Blue's voice has been hailed for its shining, agile upper register and "smoky" middle register.

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KELLEY O’CONNOR


MEZZO-SOPRANO

A naturally gifted singer noted for her commanding stage presence and profound artistry, Jennifer Johnson Cano has garnered critical acclaim.

 

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NICHOLAS PHAN


TENOR

Rodrick Dixon possesses a tenor voice of extraordinary range and versatility that has earned him the respect and attention of leading conductors, orchestras, and opera companies throughout North America.

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ERIC GREENE


BASS-BARITONE

Praised for his “nobility and rich tone,” (The New York Times) and his “enormous, thrilling voice seemingly capable … [of] raising the dead;” (Wall Street Journal), bass-baritone Dashon Burton has established a world-wide career in opera, recital, and in many works with orchestra.

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CINCINNATI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

LOUIS LANGRÉE • MUSIC DIRECTOR

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is one of America’s finest and most versatile ensembles.

Additional artists include the May Festival Chorus led by the May Festival Director of Choruses, Robert Porco.

PROGRAM NOTES


Originally broadcast on March 31, 2019 on 90.9 WGUC in Cincinnati, OH

SAT JAN 26, 8 pm • SUN JAN 27, 2 pm

DAVID ROBERTSON conductor • NICOLE CABELL soprano • KELLEY O’CONNOR mezzo-soprano • NICHOLAS PHAN tenor • ERIC GREENE baritone • MAY FESTIVAL CHORUS Robert Porco, director

BOULEZ (1925–2016)

Rituel: in memoriam Bruno Maderna

INTERMISSION

MOZART

Requiem Mass in D Minor, K. 626

Requiem: Adagio (Chorus and Soprano)—
 Kyrie: Allegro (Chorus)
Dies irae: Allegro assai (Chorus)
Tuba mirum: Andante (Soloists)
Rex tremendae: Grave (Chorus)
Recordare (Soloists)
Confutatis: Andante (Chorus)
Lacrymosa (Chorus)
Domine Jesu: Andante con moto (Chorus and Soloists)
Hostias: Andante (Chorus)
Sanctus: Adagio (Chorus)—
Osanna: Allegro (Chorus)
Benedictus: Andante (Soloists)—
Osanna: Allegro (Chorus)
Agnus Dei (Chorus)—
Lux aeterna: Adagio (Soprano and Chorus)—
Cum sanctis: Allegro (Chorus)

THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT MOZART’S extensive body of work is the result of genius, but his Requiem is also a particularly personal expression of transcendent beauty. We are thrilled to welcome American conductor David Robertson to lead these concerts with the May Festival Chorus and a wonderful group of soloists. As his successor at the Ensemble Intercontemporain, and someone who had a close personal relationship with Pierre Boulez, David Robertson is an ideal interpreter of Boulez’s Rituel: in memoriam Bruno Maderna, which will, through its intimate complexity, beautifully expand the way we hear Mozart’s Requiem. An unforgettable ritual of transformation.  —LOUIS LANGRÉE


Rituel: in memoriam Bruno Maderna

Born: March 26, 1925, Montbrison, Loire, France

Died: January 5, 2016, Baden-Baden, Germany

Work composed: 1974–1975

Premiere: April 2, 1975 in London by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Boulez conducting

Instrumentation: 3 flutes (incl. alto flute), alto flute, 3 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, 4 bassoons, 6 horns, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 2 bongo drums, 2 castanets, Chinese cymbals, 2 claves, congas, 4 cowbells, 8 gongs, 3 guiro, 2 hand drums, 2 Japanese bells, 2 Japanese wood blocks, log drum, 3 maracas, 2 sizzle cymbals, 4 snare drums, 2 tabla, 7 tam-tams, tambour de basque, 2 temple blocks, 2 tom-toms, 2 triangles, 2 Turkish cymbals, 2 wood blocks, strings

CSO notable performances: One previous subscription weekend: December 1984, Michael Gielen conducting.

Duration: approx. 25 minutes

Bruno Maderna was a pivotal figure in mid-20th-century music. Born in Venice in 1920, Maderna was introduced to music at age four by his parents and his grandfather, who assured him that “if you play the violin you are always sure of a place in heaven.” Though he was orphaned soon thereafter, little Bruno showed prodigious talent and by age seven he was performing the Bruch G minor Violin Concerto in public and conducting the La Scala Orchestra. He was adopted by a wealthy woman in Verona and given a solid music education, and entered the Rome Conservatory when he was twelve. He returned to Venice in 1940 to study composition with Gian Francesco Malipiero, who became a mentor and a lasting influence, and conducting with Antonio Guarnieri in Siena. After World War II, Maderna was introduced to Viennese twelve-tone music by German conductor Hermann Scherchen, taught at the Venice Conservatory, and integrated himself into the European contemporary music scene, most notably at the International Summer Courses for New Music in Darmstadt. He started to conduct across Europe in 1950 and five years later helped found the pioneering Studio di fonologia musicale in Milan, one of the first dedicated electronic music facilities anywhere. During the following decade he taught at the Milan Conservatory, lectured at the Dartington Summer School (a focal point of contemporary composition in England), and co-directed the Kranichsteiner Chamber Ensemble in Darmstadt (which gave many of the performances for the Darmstadt Summer Courses) with Pierre Boulez. Maderna spent much of the 1960s in the United States conducting, teaching and directing new music activities at Tanglewood. He was named Principal Conductor of the RAI Symphony Orchestra in Milan in 1972, but died of cancer the following year.

Maderna and Pierre Boulez became, perhaps inevitably, close friends and valued colleagues. They first met in the early 1950s at the Darmstadt Summer Courses, where they also encountered Messiaen, Cage, Nono, Stockhausen and others who were reshaping concert music after World War II. Maderna recorded Boulez’s Polyphonie X with the RAI Symphony in 1953, Le Marteau sans Maître (“The Hammer without a Master”) in 1961, and Figures–Doubles–Prismes in 1968, and in 1958 they each led one of the three orchestras in the premiere of Stockhausen’s Gruppen in Cologne; Stockhausen directed the third. Maderna made his conducting debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1959 (leading Schoenberg’s Op. 22 Songs, Stravinsky’s Les Noces and symphonic extracts from Berg’s Lulu), later recorded works by Bartók, Mahler, Ravel and Schoenberg with them, and was a regular guest with the BBCSO when Boulez was the ensemble’s Principal Conductor from 1971 to 1975; Maderna also appeared with the New York Philharmonic when Boulez was Music Director there from 1971 to 1977.

After Maderna’s death, in November 1973, Boulez wrote:

Our careers were parallel. We began in Germany, then followed each other to Great Britain and, finally, we found ourselves in the United States. In 1958, we conducted the first performance of Stockhausen’s Gruppen together. Later, we alternated on the podium of the Orchestra of the Residence in The Hague.… In the pioneering days, when Wolfgang Steinecke had founded the Darmstadt ensemble, we shared the innumerable premieres that were to be given throughout the summer. The rehearsal schedule was a nightmare. Bruno didn’t worry about it too much, even taking the liberty to arrive late sometimes. He looked at the good side of life and always pulled through […] Maderna was pragmatic, as close to conducting music as he was to composing it.

On a commission from the BBC, Boulez composed a work in Maderna’s memory in 1974–1975, and led the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the premiere of the Rituel: in memoriam Bruno Maderna on April 2, 1975; they recorded the work for CBS the following April. Boulez suggested the composition’s formal and expressive essence in a brief lineated preface to the score:

Perpetual alternation:
Litany for an
imaginary ceremonial.
Ceremonial of remembrance—whence these recurrent patterns, changing in profile and perspective.
Ceremonial of death, ritual
of the ephemeral and the eternal:
thus the images engraved
on the musical memory—
present/absent, in uncertainty.

Boulez’s memorial work is not just a ritual in title but is almost hieratic in its form, content and attitude. Like some priestly ceremonial, its layout suggests an extended call-and-response, an alternation between celebrant and congregation, a practice dating to the Medieval church performance method of trading Psalm verses between priest and choir. Rituel comprises 15 such alternating sections, each growing longer as the work proceeds; the last one occupies about a third of the entire piece. The “priestly calls” are constructed from sustained cloud-chords of soft, floating, luminous dissonance, each preceded by a gong stroke and punctuated at the end by a few quick notes; the oboe is the leader in the early calls. The “congregational responses” are more fluid in rhythm, complex in texture, and always accompanied by a steady pulse in the percussion, perhaps hinting at a ticking-clock passing of time. The first call has just one chord, the second two, the third three, and so forth. The orchestra is divided into eight spatially separated groups, each with a different instrumentation, all supported by a huge, multi-hued percussion section requiring nine players. The different groups are successively gathered up until they all play in the central section and then successively released, creating a dynamic arch that peaks and regresses across Rituel’s 27 minutes. The music is solemn throughout and remarkably moving despite (or, perhaps, because of) the interlocking intricacies of its structure. None of this is to imply that Rituel is at all dogmatic or specifically religious, but rather that it adapts one time-honored manner of confronting the inevitable loss and grief of death in a way that honors a gifted man who would have understood its message and recognized that such music is vital to renewing the belief in our common humanity.

—Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Requiem Mass in D Minor, K. 626

Born: January 27, 1756, Salzburg

Died: December 5, 1791, Vienna

Work composed: 1791

Premiere: December 14, 1793, Vienna

Instrumentation: SATB soloists, SATB chorus, 2 clarinets (basset horns), 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, organ, strings

CSO notable performances: Three previous CSO subscription weekends (Süssmayr edition) | Premiere: December 1973, Robert Shaw conducting | Most recent: October 2000, Robert Porco conducting | The work has also been performed several times on May Festival concerts, including its 1882 May Festival premiere under Theodore Thomas.

Duration: approx. 55 minutes

In early July 1791, while he was busy composing The Magic Flute, Mozart received a letter testifying to the glories of his music and alerting him that he would be having a visitor with a proposal on the following day. The letter was unsigned. The visitor, “an unknown, grey stranger,” according to Mozart, appeared on schedule and said that he represented the writer of the letter, who wanted to commission a new piece—a Requiem Mass—but added the curious provision that Mozart not try to discover the patron’s identity. Despite the somewhat foreboding mystery surrounding this venture, Mozart was in serious financial straits just then and the money offered was generous, so he accepted the commission and promised to begin as soon as possible. The Magic Flute, however, was pressing, and he also received at the same time another commission, one too important to ignore, for an opera to celebrate the September coronation in Prague of Emperor Leopold as King of Bohemia—La Clemenza di Tito, based on one of Metastasio’s old librettos—that demanded immediate attention. As if those duties were not enough to fill his thoughts, Mozart’s wife, Constanze, was due to deliver another baby at the end of the month. She had been in the local spa town of Baden since the beginning of June, trying to preserve what little health she had left after nine years of almost constant pregnancy since her marriage to Wolfgang in 1782, and Mozart went to bring her back to the city and to her doctors in mid-July. Just as he was entering the carriage for the trip, the “unknown, grey stranger” approached him, inquired about the progress of the Requiem, was told that it was going well, and left, apparently satisfied. On July 25th, Constanze gave birth to Franz Xaver Wolfgang, who became a composer and music teacher.

Mozart worked on the Requiem as time allowed. From mid-August until mid-September, he, Constanze and his pupil Franz Süssmayr, who composed the recitatives for Tito, were in Prague for the opera’s premiere. When they returned to Vienna, Schickaneder pressed Mozart to put the final touches on The Magic Flute, which was first staged on September 30th. Mozart’s health had deteriorated alarmingly by October—he complained of swelling limbs, feverishness, pains in his joints and severe headaches. On November 17th, with the Requiem far from finished, he took to his bed and was treated by Dr. Thomas Closset, one of Vienna’s best physicians, with the prescribed remedy for what was diagnosed as “miliary fever” (perhaps rheumatic fever or uraemia, though the evidence is inconclusive)—cold compresses and unremitting bleeding. Mozart became obsessed with the Requiem, referring to it as his “swan-song,” convinced that he was writing the music for his own funeral:

I cannot remove from my mind the image of the stranger. I see him continually. He begs me, exhorts me, and then commands me to work. I continue, because composition fatigues me less than rest. Moreover, I have nothing more to fear. I know from what I feel that the hour is striking; I am on the point of death; I have finished before I could enjoy my talent.... I thus must finish my funeral song, which I must not leave incomplete.

Mozart managed to finish only the Requiem and Kyrie sections of the work, but sketched the voice parts and the bass and gave indications for scoring for the Dies irae through the Hostias. On December 4th, he scrawled a few measures of the Lacrymosa, and then asked three friends who had come to be with him to sing what he had just written. He tried to carry the alto part, but broke into tears as soon as they had begun, and collapsed. A priest was called to administer extreme unction; at midnight Mozart bid his family farewell and turned toward the wall; at five minutes to one on the morning of December 5, 1791, he died, six weeks shy of his 36th birthday. He never knew for whom he had written the Requiem.

Constanze, worried that she might lose the commission fee, asked Joseph Eybler, a student of Haydn and a friend of her late husband, to complete the score. He filled in the instrumentation Mozart had indicated for the middle movements of the piece, but became stuck where the music broke off in the Lacrymosa. Franz Süssmayr, to whom Mozart had given detailed instructions about finishing the work, took up the task, revising Eybler’s orchestration and supplying music for the last three movements. Süssmayr recopied the score so that the manuscript would show one rather than three hands, and it was collected by the stranger, who paid the remaining commission fee.

The person who commissioned Mozart’s Requiem was Count Franz von Walsegg, a nobleman of musical aspirations who had the odious habit of anonymously ordering music from established composers and then passing it off as his own. This Requiem was to commemorate Walsegg’s wife, Anna, who died on February 14, 1791. The “grey stranger” was Walsegg’s valet, Anton Leitgeb, the son of the mayor of Vienna. Even after Mozart’s death, Walsegg went ahead with a performance of the Requiem, which was given at the Neukloster in the suburb of Wiener-Neustadt on December 14, 1793; the title page bore the legend, Requiem composto del Conte Walsegg. A few years later, when Constanze was trying to have her late husband’s works published, she implored Walsegg to disclose the Requiem’s true author. He did, and the score was first issued in 1802 by Breitkopf und Härtel.

Buried away in Otto Erich Deutsch’s Mozart: A Documentary Biography is a fascinating but little-known tidbit of information that may (or may not) have been a factor in Walsegg’s commission. One of Mozart’s brothers in Freemasonry was Michael Puchberg, who earned many fond footnotes in the composer’s biography for his generous financial support to the composer (Mozart euphemistically called these emoluments “loans”) during Wolfgang’s last years. Puchberg lived and managed a textile firm at Hoher Markt 522. That address, it seems, just happened to be located in the Viennese house of Franz von Walsegg, and it is certainly not impossible that Puchberg encouraged Walsegg, in his curious way, to help Mozart in his time of distress.

It is difficult, and perhaps not even advisable, to dissociate Mozart’s Requiem from the circumstances of its composition—the work bears the ineradicable stamp of otherworldliness. In its sublimities and its sulfur, it appealed mightily to the Romantic sensibility of the 19th century, and continues to have a hold on the imagination of listeners matched by few other musical compositions. (Perhaps it is significant that the Requiem is performed annually in Vienna for the Feast of All Saints, the day after Halloween.) Manifold beauties of varied and moving expression abound throughout the Requiem: the ethereal strains of the Recordare; the vehemence of the Confutatis; the bitter plangency of the Lacrymosa; the old-fashioned, Bachian profundity of the fugal Kyrie; the feigned joy, so quickly terminated, of the Hosanna. The words of Lili Kraus, the Hungarian pianist closely associated throughout her career with the music of Mozart, apply with special poignancy to the wondrous Requiem: “There is no feeling—human or cosmic, no depth, no height the human spirit can reach—that is not contained in his music.”

—Dr. Richard E. Rodda

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