O What Joy!
A joyful burst of beauty in this festive concert featuring Bach's cantata 68 "Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt," Magnificats by Schubert and Charpentier, plus a treat by Haydn's brother Michael.
Sy Brandon is professor emeritus at Millersville University in Pennsylvania, where he wrote an extensive body of work, primarily for winds, but has had larger works recorded by the Czech National Symphony and the Kiev Philharmonic. He now lives in Cottonwood, Arizona. Joy is a setting of a text by Grace Trimmer Lefever, a member of the Church of the Brethren who took particular interest in sustainable agriculture and wild edible plants, leading weed walks to identify them.
Václav Nelhýbel was born in Czechoslovakia but emigrated to the USA in 1957, after having spent some years teaching in Switzerland. An active conductor as well as composer, he lived in New York and Massachusetts and ended up as composer-in-residence at the University of Scranton. His primary oeuvre was works for band, but he also wrote dozens of works for orchestra, three operas, and a substantial body of choral music. Estampie natalis was written in 1975 for a community choir in Ohio (who performed it with dancers), and is based on a Gregorian sequence, Puer natus in Bethlehem. It may not technically be an estampie, but it's certainly evocative of medieval dances.
Marc-Antoine Charpentier was one of the leading Baroque composers in France, and wrote a substantial body of work, especially choral music, operas, and incidental theatre music, but his biography is somewhat conjectural (his year of birth was uncertain until relatively recently) and there are no authenticated portraits of him. The chronology of his music is largely unknown, too, so although we can say this is one of ten known Magnificats written by the Gallic master, we dont really know when it was composed, or why. It may have been written for the Jesuit community in Paris around 1690. What we can say is that it is a masterful work of Baroque musical language, with light, dance-like movements and inventive harmonies, including the double suspensions characteristic of French music of the period.
Ola Gjeilo (pronounced YAY-loh) was born in 1978 in Norway, but now is composer-in-residence for Albany Pro Musica in New York, where he moved to study at Julliard in 2001. Ave generosa is part of a text by Hildegard von Bingen (10981179). Hildegard set the text to music as well, but Gjeilo gave it new melody and harmony, while still referring back to its medieval roots with extensive drone passages. Heres a sample of Hildegards version:
Ave generosa was commissioned by the Norwegian Girls Choir in 2011, and the SATB version was commissioned by the Denver a cappella group Kantorei in 2017.
Franz Schubert is one answer to my favorite music trivia question: Name a composer who died younger than Mozart. Schubert beat Mozarts not-really-a-record by four years, and managed to write even more music than Wolfgang in that time. The Magnificat is a youthful work (as if they werent all youthful), written in 1815, a very prolific year for him, but its purpose is unknown; he may have written it for his local church, although its pomp and instrumentation suggest a special occasion. Its musical style is reminiscent more of Mozart than of his later, more Romantic, compositions.
Bachs Cantata 68 isnt really a Christmas text, but rather was written for the day after Pentecost, during the second cycle of cantatas he wrote for the church year in 1725, shortly after starting work in Leipzig. The libretto is by Christiane Mariane von Ziegler, a poet whose libretti he used for a number of other cantatas as well; the themes of the various movements reflect the readings for that particular day. The first movement is a very free arrangement of a hymn by Gottfried Vopelius (1682). The second movement, adapted from the secular cantata BWV 208 (Hunt cantata), uses an unusual instrument: the violoncello piccolo, a small cello intended to be placed against the shoulder and played like a violin. We dont have one of those today, so our expert cellist will play it on a standard cello. The fourth movement is also adapted from the Hunt cantata, and employs the oboe da caccia (hunting oboe) along with the other oboes. The final movement, rather than the usual chorale, is a grand double fugue, one theme highlighting he who believes and the other he who does not believe, but as in a number of other early cantatas, ends not with a bang but with a more intimate piano statement of the final line.
Camerata Gloria presents two favorite short a cappella works, Hodie by Canadian composer Healey Willan, a prolific composer of church music, and What Cheer? by meticulous English composer William Walton, better known for his large orchestral works such as Belshazzars Feast. Camerata also will sing the verse sections of a verse anthem by John Bull. The name John Bull is now treated as a personification of England, the equivalent of Uncle Sam, but Bull was a real person, who (among other adventures) had to flee England to escape an adultery charge and spent the rest of his life in Flanders. He was a well-known composer in his time, writing music for the keyboard as well as choirs. The Star Anthem, as the work were presenting today is called, was the most-reprinted verse anthem in his day.
We close the concert with a light-hearted work by Johann Michael Haydn, the younger brother of the more famous Franz Josef Haydn. Michael Haydn wrote dozens of masses, symphonies, and smaller works. This small cantata, for two violins and continuo, uses a tricky Austrian dialect with many contractions. The source of the text is unknown, but the upbeat musical setting, unlike the typical pastoral music associated with shepherd texts, is a call to action (run) to the shepherds, as if they might be late.
Christ Episcopal Church (View)
1700 Santa Clara Ave
Alameda, CA 94501
|Kid Friendly: Yes!|
|Dog Friendly: No|
|Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!|