Christine Brandes, soprano
Brian Thorsett, tenor
Philip Skinner, bass-baritone
BERNSTEIN: Symphony No. 1, Jeremiah
HAYDN: Mass No. 10, Mass in Time of War
Discovery Open Rehearsal - Saturday, December 7, 2013 - 2pm
Saturday, December 7, 2013 – 8 pm
Sunday, December 8, 2013 – 3 pm
Monday, December 9, 2013 – 8 pm
The Mozart of The Toy Symphony was Leopold Mozart, father of Wolfgang Amadeus. Perfect for the holiday season because it includes parts for toy instruments, this short piece shows that the son’s musical talent was inherited from a man who was a fine composer in his own right. Soprano Christine Brandes shone brilliantly on our stage in 2011. She returns as featured soloist in Bernstein’s dramatically-constructed symphony based on the lamentations of biblical prophet Jeremiah. Haydn’s Mass, with its mixed and contradictory emotions, illustrates very well the complexity of our times.
Performances sponsored by Donald and Maureen Green
Christine Brandes underwritten by Mr. Wil Craig
Jenni Samuelson underwritten by Janet Gavagan
Bruno Ferrandis underwritten by Henry and Eileen Trione
Discovery Open Rehearsal sponsored by The Stare Foundation and David Stare of Dry Creek Vineyard
“Christine Brandes delivered the tormented aria… with a smooth marbled tone and emotional veracity" (The Press Democrat)
Weill Concert Hall, Green Music Center
Corner of Petaluma Hill Road and Rohnert Park Expressway
1801 East Cotati Ave
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
PROGRAM NOTES by Steven Ledbetter
LEOPOLD MOZART (1719-1787)
Cassation in G major: The Toy Symphony
There are many thousands of manuscripts from the 18th century that preserve musical compositions, ranging from little piano pieces to large symphonies and masses, with no name attached to them. And frequently even the manuscripts that do have name of the composer must be wrong, because the same piece can be found in different manuscripts with different names. Sometimes the confusion is purely accidental. If a composer held on to his own manuscripts, he might not bother putting his name on it; but if that manuscript got separated from his papers, the attribution would be mere guesswork. And sometimes an unscrupulous publisher would bring out a piece with the name of a famous composer attached (even though he knew that the work was written by someone entirely unknown) in the hope of selling more copies.
One “mystery piece” of the period has been performed for its entertainment value for more than 200 years, though we know almost nothing about it. The so-called “Toy Symphony” (actually it is a divertimento, not a symphony) was certainly composed before 1786, but how long before? Various versions of it survive with no name, or with the names of a number of composers, including Joseph Haydn, his brother Michael, Leopold Mozart, and an Austrian monk named Edmund Angerer. And even these versions are different enough that it is possible for more than one of these composers to have written part of the piece!
The nickname “Toy Symphony” comes from the fact that the score calls for various children's toy instruments and noisemakers. Performances have taken place in the past in which an orchestra would fill out its ranks with famous composers playing the children’s instruments!
Most frequently Leopold Mozart has been identified as the composer of this cheerful piece. He was the father of the young genius Wolfgang, and one of the most distinguished violin teachers of the eighteenth century. When his children—both his son Wolfgang and his slightly older daughter Nannerl—proved to be remarkable musicians, he devoted the remainder of his life to training them and presenting them to the world in a series of tours and performance opportunities. But he was also an active composer himself, turning out a large quantity of church music, symphonies and other instrumental works. The version of The Toy Symphony that has appeared under his name contains extra movements not in the other versions. Most likely he came across the piece somewhere and simply decided to enlarge it. That leaves the main portion of it still unattributed. Whether he wrote it or not, the result is a cheerful charmer.
Symphony No. 1 for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra, Jeremiah
Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on August 25, 1918, and died in New York on October 14, 1990. Sketches for what became the final movement of the Jeremiah Symphony were created in 1939, but it was not until 1942 that the work took its present form. The score, completed on December 31, 1942, is dedicated to the composer’s father. The first performance was given in Pittsburgh by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, with Jennie Tourel as the soloist and the composer conducting, on January 28, 1944. The symphony received the New York Critics Circle Award as the best orchestral score introduced in 1944. It is scored for a mezzo-soprano soloist and an orchestra consisting of three flutes (third doubling piccolo), two oboes and English horn, two clarinets and bass clarinet, two bassoons and contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones and tuba, timpani, triangle, snare drum, bass drum, cymbal, wood block, piano, and strings. Duration is about 25 minutes.
The Jeremiah Symphony contains some of the earliest musical thoughts of Leonard Bernstein that we are likely to hear in concert. What is now the last movement began to take shape in the summer that Bernstein turned twenty-one, 1939. At that time he sketched a Lamentation for soprano and orchestra, though it remained unfinished. In the spring of 1942, while planning a symphony that was to begin with a broad and intense opening movement and continue with a scherzo, he realized that the unfinished Lamentation would make a logical conclusion. The Lamentation was substantially recast (including a change from the soprano voice originally conceived for it to a mezzo-soprano). The text of the last movement, drawn from the Book of Lamentations, no doubt suggested the title given to the symphony as a whole, the authorship of the Lamentations having been attributed to the prophet Jeremiah since ancient times. The three movements bear titles—“Prophecy,” “Profanation,” and “Lamentation”—suggesting aspects of Jeremiah’s work. But the composer commented, in notes written for the first New York Philharmonic performances of the symphony in March, 1944, that the score was not to be considered merely programmatic, that his intention was “not one of literalness, but of emotional quality.”
Thus the first movement (Prophecy) aims only to parallel in feeling the intensity of the prophet’s pleas with his people; and the Scherzo (Profanation) to give a general sense of the destruction and chaos brought on by pagan corruption within the priesthood and the people. The third movement (Lamentation), being a setting of a poetic text, is naturally a more literary conception. It is the cry of Jeremiah as he mourns his beloved Jerusalem, ruined, pillaged, and dishonored after his desperate efforts to save it.
Although at the time of the first performances Bernstein commented that his symphony did not use “to any great extent” actual Hebrew thematic material, analysts have identified certain unconscious sources in various liturgical modes and particular melodic formulas that testify to the powerful influence of the composer’s religious upbringing. These musical ideas are treated in a symphonic developmental style growing out of a few germinal motives, which are repeated, varied and developed to create the musical discourse, though without following traditional symphonic patterns, except perhaps in the second movement. The very opening of the symphony presents these fundamental musical ideas that recur in various guises throughout. A soft pulsing in the strings introduces a broad modal melody on the horn followed by a strident cry in the upper woodwinds. The horn melody returns in almost identical form on a number of occasions throughout the score, while the first three notes of the woodwind response provide a significant germ-cell of the music, material for further melodic ideas and accompaniments, both in the original form and inverted. The seemingly rhapsodic growth of the first movement to its powerful climax is controlled by the imaginative reworking of such tiny melodic motives.
The scherzo is the most traditional symphonic movement, built on a plan alternating two slightly different statements of the scherzo with a contrasting middle section. The theme is first presented softly in flute and clarinet, but its vigorous, irregular rhythm suits it well to the increasing dynamic force to which it is subjected. This scherzo is a grim joke indeed, a fact underscored by the appearance of a broad theme beginning with the inversion of the three-note woodwind figure from the opening of the first movement. The contrasting middle section begins quietly and grows in dynamics, its climax marked by a ringing statement in the horns of the opening “prophecy” theme from the first movement against a rhythmic fortissimo in the woodwinds and strings. The return of the scherzo is not very loud and the material further elaborated.
As mentioned earlier, the last movement contains music composed, or at least sketched, several years before the rest of the symphony; yet in melodic style and sonority it fits well with the foregoing movements. The soloist’s lament suggests traditional Hebrew cantillation; the melodic gestures link it to the principal themes of the score. Following an orchestral interlude in marked dotted rhythm, the singer reiterates the opening words of the lament. This time the flutes introduce an element of consolation, a gently falling theme derived from the very opening of the symphony, which now—played softly—appears totally transformed in character. In the end, after despair and outrage, this gentle, falling figure ends the symphony on an eagerly-desired note of hope.
FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN
Mass No. 10 in C major, Missa in tempore belli [Mass in Time of War] Hob. XXII:9, Paukenmesse
Franz Joseph Haydn was born in Rohrau, Lower Austria, on March 31, 1732, and died in Vienna on May 31, 1809. Haydn composed the Mass in C, which has gained the Latin nickname A Mass in Time of War and in Germany is known as the Paukenmesse (“Kettledrum Mass”), in 1796. The probable first performance took place in Vienna at the Piaristen Church on St. Stephen’s Day (December 26), 1796, with Haydn conducting from the organ. Originally Haydn wrote for mixed chorus, four solo voices, and an orchestra consisting of two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two trumpets/two horns (with the same players alternating between the instruments, timpani, strings, and organ. At some point—possibly even before the first performance—he added supplementary horn parts (which would be played by different musicians, since there were included in the movements that also had trumpet parts), enlarged clarinet parts, and a flute. Duration is about 45 minutes.
The great works of Haydn’s last years were in the realm of vocal music. For a decade after writing the last of his symphonies, Haydn, universally acknowledged as the greatest living composer, turned out two great oratorios and a half dozen splendid Mass settings. The oratorios became the most popular of all his compositions at the end of his life, and they have generally retained that popularity. The Masses, too, were very well known in Austria and southern Germany, more frequently performed even than the symphonies, since every large church had occasion to provide elaborate music for particular feasts. This was so much the case that a composer like Anton Bruckner, who came from provincial Upper Austria, grew up knowing Haydn’s Masses inside out, while rarely hearing his symphonies. To this day in Vienna there are churches that celebrate the Sunday liturgy with a Mass setting (complete with orchestra) by Haydn or one of his great confrères, Mozart, Beethoven, or Schubert. In the largely Protestant countries of northern Europe and North America, however, Haydn’s Mass settings remain, with few exceptions, little known. And even when we do hear them, they are torn out of their intended liturgical context and performed in concert settings, a far cry from what the composer intended.
It is, surely, better to hear them that way than not at all, but it is also important to bear in mind the major difference between the two modes of performance. In concert, we listen to the principal sections (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei) one after the other, without pause. When performed as part of the liturgy, these sections are separated, sometimes widely, by certain liturgical actions, prayers, and other music. The listener in church hears Haydn’s Mass broken up into three substantial “pieces.” The Kyrie and Gloria come together; then, after a substantial break, the Credo stands alone; finally the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei come, one on the heels of the other, near the end of the service. Haydn therefore conceived his Mass settings as three related works, each laid out in the form of a “vocal symphony” consisting of several movements. The first and last of these were always in the same key, and there was always a slow movement in a contrasting key. (The one normal “symphonic” element that was naturally not part of the Mass setting was the Minuet or other dance movement.) In planning this large structure, Haydn created powerful and beautiful works of extraordinary musical unity.
The “Mass in Time of War” was composed in 1796, a year that saw the composition of two large Mass settings by Haydn. There has been scholarly debate as to whether this one or the Missa Sancti Bernardi de Offida in B-flat came first. The consensus today is that the present Mass in C was the second such work of the year, and that it was first performed at a particularly festive celebration in Vienna for the first Mass celebrated by a newly-ordained priest, Joseph von Hofmann, whose father was the head of the financial department in the War Ministry; it was evidently he who commissioned a mass from Haydn for this event and who, no doubt, paid for the elaborate orchestra.
Though composed for a festive event, and filled, for the most part, with festive music, Haydn’s mass also reflects the military situation between Austria and her allies against the French army under Napoleon (who had been appointed commander-in-chief of the French army the previous March and begun by winning a series of striking victories). War fever had gripped Vienna in the fall, and composers gave patriotic concerts to raise money for a new volunteer army corps. The occasional references to military sounds—particularly the ominous drumroll in the Agnus Dei, which gave the work its various nicknames—should be heard in the light of this political background.
As mentioned above, the music of the Mass functions like three short symphonies in C. The first of these, comprising the Kyrie and Gloria, begins with a slow introduction that moves with surprising rapidity to the minor, only to bring the sunshine of C major out again with the soprano solo at the beginning of the Allegro moderato. The very first phrase in the choral soprano part of the slow introduction outlines a simple musical shape that underlies many of the passages in the mass. The introduction ends with military fanfares in the trumpets, the first such reference in the piece. But the soprano solo enters as if all were tranquil, and sings the penitential words “Lord, have mercy upon us” with a brightly brilliant aria in C major. It is passages such as this which have sometimes led to criticism of Haydn’s Masses. Charles Rosen thinks that the aria would have sounded “trivial” to Haydn’s audience, and an inappropriate setting of the text. But singers (and audiences) of his time expected such brilliant gestures. Haydn is so much taken up with the development of this aria that he barely offers any other material in the first movement. The Kyrie, in fact, is very much like one of the monothematic sonata form movements in his late symphonies; the so-called “second theme” is really only a new key, the dominant, established at the moment that the alto solo enters. Haydn almost omits the “Christe eleison,” reducing it to four measures of sustained chords in the chorus that lead back to the “recapitulation” in the soprano aria.
The Gloria continues the lively mood of the Kyrie; the musical pattern is freer, owing to the large number of words that Haydn must accommodate, but he brings a shape to the work by frequently repeating a little orchestral interlude that leads to an assertion such as “laudamus te.” The middle section of the Gloria becomes the slow movement of the first “symphony” in the Mass: a richly imaginative and challenging cello solo introducing “Qui tollis peccata mundi” for the solo bass. This closes with a repetition of the solo in the minor, providing a natural lead back to C-major for the closing Allegro, “Quoniam tu solus sanctus,” which is linked to the Gloria through a new version of the orchestral interlude heard in the earlier movement.
The Credo by itself is the second “symphony” in the Mass. Haydn evidently wrote the words from memory, and omitted several passages of the creed in the first four of his six late settings. In concert this makes no difference, though for liturgical use the text must be complete. The opening section is a sturdy fugue. This allows Haydn to get through quite a lot of text efficiently by having each choral part sing a different phrase in the overlapping fugal entrances.
The slow movement here is the customary passage of introspection, “Et incarnatus est,” where both the key (C minor) and the progression by means of tiny snippets of musical ideas, to say nothing of the ravishing appearance of the clarinet solo, recalls the “Representation of Chaos” from The Creation. The music dies away in a somber representation of burial, only to explode, with brilliant trumpets, again in C major for “Et resurrexit.” The section closes with a brilliant finale, involving a lively fugue on the words “et vitam venturi,” but with operatic interplay from the soloists, suggesting elements that Haydn had learned from attending the rehearsals of Mozart’s Così fan tutte.
The Sanctus (with the Benedictus) and the Agnus Dei together comprise the final “symphony” of the work. The opening movement is brief but complex. The slow orchestral introduction brings in the alto soloist with “Sanctus,” followed by the chorus. A sudden outburst of “Pleni sunt coeli” (“Heaven and earth are full of thy glory”) is, astonishingly, in C minor with the military rhythm of the timpani reinforcing the sound of the orchestra, though the chorus works around to C major before the tenor solo sings his “Osanna.” Probably the most expressive movement of the Mass (and perhaps of all of Haydn’s late masses) is the lengthy Benedictus, in C minor again, which is cast as a long movement for the four soloists (only at the very end, with “Osanna,” does the chorus return), Haydn makes the Agnus Dei the weightiest part of the piece. This section, beginning with a cry for mercy and forgiveness, alternates with a military drumbeat, “as if,” said an acquaintance of Haydn’s in an early biography, he “heard the enemy approaching in the distance.” Having left his listeners shaken at the prospect, Haydn then moves on to the words “dona nobis pacem” (“grant us peace”), which he sets in a most surprising way: with the triumphant entry of the trumpets and other instruments in an overtly military style, as if designed to motivate immediate enlistments. Perhaps the point is that sometimes—certainly when the nation is under imminent attack— peace ultimately comes not from tranquil resignation but from seizing the day and making it happen. Thus the “Mass in Time of War” reveals, in the end, not only Haydn the believer, but also Haydn the patriot.