Offenbach, Saint-Saëns, Poulenc, Berlioz
SATURDAY, JAN. 19, 2019 AT 8 P.M.
Ward Stare, guest conductor
Daniel Kaler, cello
Laura Strickling, soprano
Asheville Symphony Chorus
Vive la France! Masterworks 4 celebrates the work of four very distinct French composers. Offenbach’s Overture to Gaîté Parisienne, inspired by the amorous high spirits of the City of Lighta, sets the scene. Cellist Daniel Kaler, winner of the Payne Prize, will dazzle with Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto. The Asheville Symphony Chorus then takes the stage to present Poulenc’s delightful and mystic Gloria. We finish, fittingly, with Berlioz’s grandiose La Marseillaise.
Offenbach: Overture to Gaîté Parisienne
Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No. 1
Berlioz: La Marseillaise
Appointed the twelfth music director of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in July 2014, American conductor Ward Stare has been described as “a dynamic music director” by CITY Newspaper and “a rising star in the conducting firmament” by the Chicago Tribune. Stare recently made his critically acclaimed debut at the Metropolitan Opera this season conducting Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow, with Grammy-winning mezzo soprano Susan Graham in the title role. In recent seasons, maestro Stare has performed with Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, Midori and Yo-Yo Ma, and conducted world premieres of multiple works by Academy Award-winning composer Eliot Goldenthal.
Ward Stare began his conducting career at the Los Angeles Philharmonic as the League of American Orchestras Conducting Fellow. After one year in LA, Stare was appointed to the newly-created position of Resident Conductor with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (2008-2012) and made his highly successful Carnegie Hall with the orchestra, stepping in on short notice for Music Director David Robertson to lead H.K. Gruber’s Frankenstein! Since 2012, Stare has returned frequently to St. Louis and enjoys an ongoing relationship with the orchestra.
A passionate advocate for education, Stare has been a Distinguished Artist at the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University since 2012 and has toured with the MCS ensemble both in the U.S. and abroad. In the fall of 2016, Stare recorded and released the MCS’ first album featuring “Concerto for Violin, Rock Band, and String Orchestra” written by R.E.M. bassist and songwriter Mike Mills, and Philip Glass’ Third Symphony, on the Orange Mountain Music label. Rolling Stone magazine praised it as “cinematic but never schmaltzy, rock-inflected but never corny, classical but never stuffy.”
Ward Stare is the recipient of both the Robert J. Harth Conductor Prize (2006) and the Aspen Conducting Prize (2007) at the Aspen Music Festival. He was trained as a trombonist at The Juilliard School in Manhattan. At the age of 18, he was appointed principal trombonist of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and has performed as an orchestral musician with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, among others. As a soloist, he has given performances in the U.S. and Europe.
Daniel Kaler is currently a senior at the Cleveland Institute of Music, studying with cellist Mark Kosower, Principal Cellist of The Cleveland Orchestra. He has attended and given performances at solo, chamber and orchestral music programs such as the Chautauqua Music Festival (Chautauqua, NY), Heifetz International Music Institute (Staunton, VA), Bowdoin International Music Festival (Brunswick, ME), North Shore Chamber Music Festival (Northbrook, IL), Music In The Loft, Young Steinway Concert Series, Chicago Cultural Center, Harris Theatre and Millennium Park. He is a winner of the 2017 AI Concerto Competition at the Chautauqua Festival (Chautauqua, NY) and the 2018 Cleveland Institute of Music Concerto Competition, as well as having been awarded the 2018 Payne Fund Prize. His solo engagements with orchestras for 2018-19 include performances of the Shostakovich, Walton and Saint-Saëns Concertos with the Chautauqua Music School Festival Orchestra, the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra and the Asheville Symphony Orchestra as well as a Carnegie Hall world premiere of Brad Harris’ #Yo Concerto in June 2018.
Praised by The New York Times for her, “flexible voice, crystalline diction, and warm presence,” soprano Laura Strickling has performed at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Wigmore Hall, Trinity Church on Wall Street, National Sawdust, the Washington National Cathedral, Liederfest in Suzhou (China), and the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul.
A devoted recitalist, she has been on the artist roster of the Brooklyn Art Song Society since 2012, and has appeared with Lyric Fest of Philadelphia, Joy in Singing, Trinity Concerts at One, the American Liszt Society, the Half Moon Music Festival, Art Song at the Old Stone House, the Brooklyn New Music Collective, the Philadelphia Lieder Society, SongFusion, and Vox 3 Collective, and was a featured performer at the 2016 New Music Gathering. She premiered Bernard Rands’ Folk Songs and Glen Roven’s The Vineyard Songs and Six Ancient Chinese Songs.
The 2011 Thomas Greene Professional Grant recipient, her recent competition honors include being a finalist in the Concert Artists Guild competition, First Prize and “Audience Favorite” prize in the Rochester Oratorio Society’s Classical Idol Competition, First Prize and the Franz Liszt Prize in the Liszt-Garrison International Competition, as well as prizes and honors in the Positively Poulenc! Competition, Bel Canto Chorus Competition, Schubert Club Competition, Liederkranz Competition, Orpheus Competition, Washington International Competition, Bel Canto Foundation Competition, the NATS Artist Awards, the Joy in Singing Competition, the American Prize for Opera Performance, Vocal Arts DC Discovery Competition, Gretchen Hood Memorial Competition, Russell C. Wonderlic Competition, and the Baltimore Music Club Competition.
A Chicago native, Ms. Strickling is an avid traveler, having lived in Fez, Morocco, where she studied classical Arabic, and Kabul, Afghanistan, where her husband was the chair of the Department of Law at the American University of Afghanistan. She currently makes her home in St. Thomas, U. S. Virgin Islands.
INTERACTIVE PROGRAM NOTES
Overture to Gaîté Parisienne
The son of a German Jewish cantor, Jacques (originally Jacob) Offenbach moved in 1833 to Paris where his father thought Jews were better treated than in Germany. Trained at the Paris Conservatoire, he was a cellist and salon musician for many years until he was appointed conductor of the Théatre Français and began composing one-act operettas, satirizing the vapid social scene of Paris. In 1858 he wrote his first three-act operetta, Orphée aux enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld) spoofing the neoclassical vogue of the Second Empire under Napoleon III. La belle Hélène, composed in 1864, was an even more scathing swipe at the none-too-bright-Emperor and his even dimmer empress Eugénie. His operettas influenced Gilbert and Sullivan, Franz Lehár and, ultimately, the musical comedies of the twentieth century.
Gaîté Parisienne is a ballet created in 1938 from the plethora of bubbly melodies in Offenbach’s operettas. The great expatriate Russian choreographer, Léonide Massine, whose work includes the films The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffmann, and the composer and conductor Manuel Rosenthal created the confection. The libretto, such as it is, describes the peccadillos, high-spirited dancing and general cutups of a mixed group of people in a fashionable Paris Café in the 1860s. Each section is based on music from one of the operettas, including the iconic Can-can from Orfée.
The Overture is taken from the 1866 operetta La vie parisienne, which covers essentially the same ground as the ballet.
Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 33
It is said that at his first public concert in May 1846 the ten-year-old Camille Saint-Saëns, after playing Mozart and Beethoven piano concertos as well as some solo works by Bach and Handel, offered to play any one of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas as an encore – from memory. A child prodigy who grew to become a phenomenal polymath, Saint-Saëns wrote articles and books on many scientific topics, including astronomy, biology and archaeology in addition to his composing and musicological studies.
In his youth Saint-Saëns was considered an innovator, but by the time he reached maturity he had become a pillar of the establishment, trying to maintain the classical musical tradition in France. As an accomplished organist and pianist – he premiered his five piano concertos – he sported an elegant, effortless technique. But neither his compositions nor his pianism were ever pinnacles of passion or emotion. Berlioz noted that Saint-Saëns “…knows everything but lacks inexperience.” Saint-Saëns was supportive of some younger composers, but his visceral dislike of Debussy actually engendered endless headlines in the tabloid press.
The defeat of France at the hands of Prussia in 1871 shocked the country’s pride and spurred a revival of French arts and letters. One of the results was the founding by Saint-Saëns and his colleagues of the Société Nationale de Musique, whose motto and purpose was “Ars gallica” (French art). One of its results was the establishment of three newly energized competing symphony orchestras in Paris by three great conductors – Édouard Colonne, Jules-Étienne Pasdeloup and Charles Lamoureux – who urgently looked for new works by French composers.
Saint-Saëns composed the Cello Concerto in a minor in 1872 in response to this demand. It is in three continuous movements with no pauses, similar to the Cello Concerto by Robert Schumann. Unlike the standard classical concerto, Saint-Saëns’s Concerto opens with only a single orchestral chord, after which the soloist introducing the principal themes. The first one is an assertive and virtuosic melody that will be revisited throughout the Concerto as a unifying device.
The cello also introduces the standard contrasting second theme in the relative major mode.
(Note how the flute sneaks in with the Concerto’s motto.) The exposition concludes with an energetic closing motive.
There is virtually no development section in this movement, merely a varied restatement of the themes in order. The second theme gradually softens the mood and the music glides into the second movement, an understated minuet in the orchestra.
When the cello enters, it plays a counter-melody over the minuet
and then a little waltz on its own.
Again, the end of the Minuet blends without pause into the Finale.
While many nineteenth century works bring back the opening theme at the very end as a way of providing closure and an arch-like structure, Saint-Saëns expands greatly on this architectural concept. The Finale, the longest of the movements, continues the development of the opening theme of the concerto but also includes a new more expansive second theme,
as well as a burst of new thematic material, including a little orchestral refrain, and, of course, rapid scales, arpeggios and high harmonics that permit the soloist to indulge in virtuoso brilliance.
The Concerto concludes with a restatement of the opening theme and the closing motive from the first movement plus a coda that accelerates the tempo for a dramatic finish.
The pampered son of a French family of chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturers (the forerunners of today’s giant chemical conglomerate Rhône-Poulenc SA), Francis Poulenc was the black sheep of the family. His artistic mother, however, approved of his talents and interests, and his wealthy family supported him throughout his life. Poulenc was included among the disciples of the iconoclastic composer Erik Satie, known as Le groupe des six. His early compositions were light, urbane, even leaning towards the Dadaists. His harmonic style owed much to Ravel’s impressionism and to neoclassicism, always with a clear sense of melody. He never participated in the musical experiments so popular among his colleagues in Paris between and after the wars.
In 1936 Poulenc underwent a spiritual crisis brought on by the death in a car accident of his friend Pierre-Octave Ferroud. During this period, he visited the church of Rocamadour, containing a famous wooden statue of a black Madonna. His first religious composition, Litanies a la Vierge noire, was followed by additional religious works that are among his most profound compositions. They include a setting of the Stabat Mater, his opera The Dialogue of the Carmelites and, in 1959, on a commission from the Koussevitzky Music Foundation of the Library of Congress, the Gloria.
The Gloria is part of the ordinary (the text that remains the same) of the Catholic Mass, an outpouring of jubilant praise of God combined with reverent supplication. Because it is a complete statement of the personal relationship with God, composers since the Baroque period have often set it separately. Poulenc’s Gloria dramatically reflects the contrasting moods inherent in the text. The harmonies and rhythmic choral declamation are reminiscent of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. As the text becomes more intimate, the soprano soloist emerges as a spokesperson for the chorus. The slow tempo and extremely high tessitura of the voice renders the solos both dignified and ethereal. Following the soprano’s lead, the choral sections become increasingly somber as the joyous thanksgiving of the opening is transformed into awe and a plea for mercy and redemption. Poulenc’s somber setting diverges dramatically from traditional settings of the Gloria in that the final verses are usually set to joyous music (typically a fugue for the verses beginning, “Quoniam Tu solus sanctus.”)
Poulenc imbues each section of the Gloria with a different mood befitting the text, and most of the sections have substantial instrumental introductions to set the mood. The Gloria opens appropriately with a fanfare for the orchestra,
following by an almost jazzy invocation by the chorus.
The “Laudamus te” is a string of praises, set as a dance.
The mood then shifts dramatically as the soprano leads the chorus, evoking the awesome image of God the Father (“Domine Deus“).
Yet, in the “call-and-response” dance, Poulenc symbolizes musically the joy of salvation through Christ (“Domine fili unigenite“)
After a mysterious introduction,
the soprano soloist invokes Christ as Lamb of God in a heartfelt prayer for mercy (“Domine Deus Agnus Dei“)
The final movement (“Qui sedes ad dexteram Paris“) is a summary of all the emotions shifts from the previous movements, but all variants of the same melody. It begins with a chant-like a cappella declamation by the chorus with an instrumental echo of the opening of the piece,
followed by a dancing restatement of the text.
The long conclusion, opening with the soprano’s “Amen,”
returns to the air of supplication and repentance.
Gloria in excelsis Deo
et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.Laudamus te
Laudamus te, benedicimus te
adoramus te, glorificamus te,
gratias agimus tibi
propter magnam gloriam.Domine Deus
Domine Deus, Rex caelestis
Deus Pater omnipotens.
Gloria.Domine fili unigenite
Domine fili unigenite, Jesu Christe.Domine Deus, Agnus Dei
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei,
Filius Patris, Rex caelestis,
Qui tollis peccata mundi,
Qui tollis peccata mundi,
suscipe deprecationem nostram.Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris
Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
Quoniam tu solus sanctus,
Tu solus Dominus.
Tu solus altissimus, Jesu Christe
Glory to God
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men of good will.
We Praise You
We praise You, we bless You,
we adore You, we glorify You.
We give thanks to You
for Your great glory.
O Lord God
O Lord God, heavenly King,
God the Father almighty,
Glory to God.
O Lord, the only-begotten son
O Lord, the only-begotten son, Jesus Christ.
O Lord God, Lamb of God
O Lord God, Lamb of God,
Son of the Father, heavenly King,
You who takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
Thou who takes away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer.
You who sits at the right hand of God the Father
You who sits at the right hand of God the Father,
have mercy upon us.
For You only art holy,
You only art the Lord.
You alone are the highest, Jesus Christ.
Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
Arr. Hector Berlioz
At the request of the mayor of Strasbourg, Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, an engineer in the army and a sworn royalist, composed in 1792 the music and wrote the lyrics to Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin (War Song for the Rhine Army), to rally the troops after France declared war on Austria. With a new name, La Marseillaise, it became the National Anthem of the new Republic in 1795.
Around 1830, Hector Berlioz, the master of musical extravaganza, arranged it for soprano, chorus and orchestra.
Copyright © Elizabeth and Joseph Kahn 2018