Soli Deo Gloria Dvorak Mass in D
Prague's most famous composer finished his intimate Mass in D major in 1892 just before moving to New York, and it reflects his subtle understanding of harmony & orchestration. The concert also features the intense Miserere of Prague's Baroque master Jan Dismas Zelenka and the joyful Chandos anthem Let God Arise"", by Handel.
Bohemias musical heritage is substantial, but Antonin Dvorak is its best-known composer in America, largely because his most famous work, the New World Symphony, was written while Dvorak was living in New York and incorporates elements of native American music and negro spirituals, just as his work in Prague reflects the scales and harmonies of Bohemian and Moravian folk music. Orchestras and chamber music ensembles frequently perform Dvoraks music. But he was also a devout Catholic and an organist and composed a substantial amount of sacred music, although he was a perfectionist who frequently destroyed his pieces if he wasnt satisfied with them.
The Mass in D was commissioned by Josef Hlávka for the consecration of a private chapel in 1887, before his New York trip but at a time he was performing frequently in London. Dvorak created the Mass to be used liturgically, rather than as a concert work like Beethovens Missa Solemnis. It was originally scored for chorus and organ, but his London publisher asked him to orchestrate it before publication. In keeping with its more intimate nature, however, he used a fairly modest orchestra. The score includes soloists in each voice part, but some passages, notably the Credo, call for a chamber ensemble, today performed by Camerata Gloria.
Jan Dismas Zelenka was a Bohemian contemporary of Bach, and a composer whose work we have performed frequently. His innovative approach to harmony is exemplified by the opening movement of the Miserere, a strongly chromatic plea for mercy. Although the six-movement format is typical for a Baroque cantata, it is unusual that the entire text of the somewhat lengthy psalm 51 (50 in the Latin Vulgate) is entirely in the second movement, while the other movement are only the doxology (Gloria Patri...) and repetition of the first line of the psalm. This second movement features a repeating bass line, traveling around the circle of fifths, and its music is recycled in the final Gloria Patri.
Tomás Luis de Victoria was the preeminent composer of the Spanish Renaissance and wrote sacred music in every genre; Camerata Gloria is pleased to present two of his excellent works. The first is a section of his Lamentations for Good Friday. The Lamentation is an acrostic poem in which each verse begins with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the Latin bible these letters were identified at the start of each verse, and it became a tradition for composers to set the letter names as if they were part of the text, thus the opening section on the word aleph. "Descendit angelus Domini" is a motet for the Nativity of John the Baptist. The Camerata set closes with an old favorite, Davids lamentation on the death of his son Absalom in Thomas Weelkess setting.
The German-born Handel spent a couple of years writing operas in Italy before moving to England at the age of 27. One of his first positions in England was as the house composer for the Cannons, a large house owned by the Duke of Chandos, who was building a new chapel. Among other works, Handel wrote eleven so-called Chandos anthems, which were settings of psalms for liturgical use. It was typical of Handel to re-purpose music he had written earlier, and Let God Arise includes recognizable fragments from the Dixit Dominus he set in Italy, which SDG performed the year before last, and its final movement sets the alleluia text in a familiar manner he would later adapt for the Messiah. The Cannons had a modest orchestra of strings and a couple of winds, and evidently a very capable choir, since these anthems are fairly challenging, although a shortage of altos meant that several of the anthems were written for 3-part chorus. When the Duke lost his fortune in a market crash in 1720 Handel went elsewhere for employment, but evidently took his anthems (or a good memory of them) with him, because Let God Arise was re-written for 6-part chorus for the Chapel Royal in 1726. Todays concert features the original Cannons version.
Christ Episcopal Church (View)
1700 Santa Clara Ave
Alameda, CA 94501
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