Dark, Dark Night

2014/15 Season

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NIGHT

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This season is dedicated to night. In particular, to four nights in which music plays an important part in remembrance, healing and reconciliation. These four nights celebrate the contemporary human condition with music that runs the gamut of emotions, and invites you to reconsider death, birth, and poverty, along with music that transcends the mundane.  Click here to see other concerts in this series.

You can download the poster for this concert here.


Dark, dark night

For our first cycle we celebrate the two Christian festivals that occur on our actual concert dates: first, All Saints day (November 1), and second, All Souls Day (November 2). We broaden our understanding of these days beyond the Christian concept and invite you to come and remember the saints who have enriched your life and the souls who have gone before you, without whom you would not exist. We sing music to soothe your soul and help you through the dark, dark night of death. Our program includes a piece for All Saints by the celebrated renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo, and the extraordinary Funeral Ikos by John Tavener, a piece that uses vivid imagery from the Greek Order for the Burial of Dead Priests set to music of unearthly beauty. Finally, we sing the Requiem, Op. 9 by Maurice Duruflé in the version for choir and organ. Based on the plainchant for the Mass for the Dead, Durufle’s music is powerful and evocative and has been a popular piece with choirs and audiences since its composition in 1947.


Program

1. Thomas Tallis: Audivi vocem de caelo

2. Carlo Gesualdo: Peccantem me quotidie

3. John Tavener: Funeral Ikos

4. John Tavener: O, do not move

5.  Maurice Duruflé: Requiem, Op. 9

I - Introit
II - Kyrie
III - Domine Jesu Christe
IV - Sanctus / Benedictus
V - Pie Jesu
VI - Agnus Dei
VII - Lux Aeterna
VIII - Libera Me
IX - In Paradisum

Maurice Duruflé: Notre Père, Op. 14


Program Notes

 

1.  Tallis: Audivi vocem de caelo

English composer, Thomas Tallis, is most well known for his service to the royal household in England under Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor, and a portion of the reign of Elizabeth I.  Born around 1505, Tallis’s career as an organist and composer flourished during a time when composers made a general shift from the melismatic writing of earlier music to a style that featured a clearer declamation of the text and adapted influences of plainsong. Thus, much of Audivi vocem de caelo venientem exists as untreated plainchant, with the remaining verses written in an imitative fashion with very little melismatic movement. ‘Audivi’ exists within Tallis’s body of Latin church music, and is one of his seven Office hymns. The text for this piece comes from the eighth response for the Office of Matins on All Saints Day, which describes a voice calling from heaven, announcing the bridegroom’s long-awaited arrival.

 

2. Gesualdo: Peccantem me quotidie

Peccantem me quotidie comes from Gesualdo’s first book of sacred motets (Sacrae Cantiones) written for five voices, published in 1603. Having assassinated his first wife, Maria, and her lover, the Duke of Andria, Gesualdo’s reputation is that of an infamous murder. Following an acquittal of any charges associated with the double murder, Gesualdo retreated to his estate where he began openly composing music and hosting private performances of his works. Before secluding himself entirely, Gesualdo traveled to Ferrara, where he composed music alongside well-known local artists for two years. While Gesualdo’s compositional abilities and innovative harmonic practices likely put him on the social radar, it has been said that his scandalous past garnered a fair amount of demand for his compositions. Regardless of the reasons for his success, his popularity in Ferrara prompted the publication of his first book of madrigals around 1594.

Gesualdo’s sacred and secular works are widely studied for their harmonic complexity, often cited for their unexpected chromaticism and defiance of accepted compositional practices of the time period. The text for Peccantem me quotidie is taken from the response to the seventh lesson of Matins for the Office of the Dead. The motet exists in three distinguishable sections, the first beginning with the text, “Peccantem me quotidie” (I who sin every day); the second beginning with, “timor mortis” (the fear of death); and the third with “miserere mei” (have mercy upon me).  In the second section, Gesualdo paints fear and trembling in the face of death through the sporadic placement of shivering eighth note and sixteenth note passages, typically calling attention to the word ‘mortis’, meaning “of death”. He communicates the dire necessity for forgiveness with a moaning diminished chord spread throughout the inner three voices singing  ‘misere mei’ in the third section. In the first five measures of the piece, the voices pile on top of one another confessing their daily pattern of sin. Beginning in the sixth measure, the entrances are closer together, creating a greater sense of urgency in the confession.

Unlike other composers of his time whose compositional output was often dictated by their employment at court, Gesualdo had the privilege of writing whatever he pleased, and for this reason, many of his later works have deemed autobiographical. Gesualdo was an intensely troubled, self-deprecating man, qualities that pervade his sacred compositions, which are often based on biblical texts of an especially penitent nature.  Within Peccantem me quotidie we see little hope of eternal life after death, because the focus remains on earthly sin and a desperate plea for salvation.

 

3. Tavener: Funeral Ikos

John Tavener (1944-2013) was a prolific English composer. He converted to the Russian Orthodoxy in the late 1970’s and as part of his spiritual journey he began setting the traditional liturgy of the Orthodox Church. Funeral Ikos, written in 1981, is a setting of text used for the burial of priests in the Orthodox tradition, and while each verse in the text is punctuated by what would normally be a joyful proclamation, each “Alleluia” as well as the surrounding verses are full of solace. Several scholars and composers have noticed an influence of Stravinsky’s homophonic choral writing in this piece, but Tavener certainly maintains a more mystical, nostalgic feeling throughout the piece than Stravinsky in his Three Russian Sacred Choruses, for instance. Funeral Ikos is harmonically uncomplicated, but masterful in its construction for its ability to act as a transparent accompaniment to the text and draw attention to the meaning of the words. Unison singing scattered throughout the piece calls upon chant melodies of the early church, and repetition of musical ideas with only slight changes in each verse allows time and space for the listener to become reflective.

The focus of the text shifts as we move through the piece, beginning with first-person questions about what happens to our loved ones when we leave them behind, followed by more collective statements about a community of believers and their journey on the path toward eternal life, fraught with confusion over the fleeting values of wealth and beauty. In the last verse, we finally hear about the promise of light eternal and a paradise in Christ, which we celebrate with one final “Alleluia.” This verse begins a minor third higher than the other verses, calling us to reorganize our priorities and focus our thoughts on the celebration of life after death. Tavener’s music captures the deep fear and apprehension inside many of us when it comes to one of the most mysterious realities of our existence, but reminds us that we are not alone in our trepidation.

 

4.  Tavener: O, do not move

O, do not move is a brief setting of text by Nobel Laureate and Greek poet-diplomat Georgios Seferiades. Tavener wrote this piece in November of 1990. Three variations of a two-measure melodic fragment in the beginning of the piece sound chant-like over a low drone in the bass voices. Similar fragmented variations reverse direction at the end of the piece and change slightly in rhythm, using both text and music to bring is gently back to the beginning.

 

5. Duruflé: Requiem, Op. 9

“I don’t think there is anything especially progressive [about Maurice Duruflé’s music] as one encounters in Stravinsky or Schoenberg at the same time. Duruflé was able to manipulate his Ravelian harmonies, Gregorian-like melodies, and contrapuntal textures to go to the very core of the listener’s life”, wrote Jesse Eschbach, a former organ student of Duruflé’s wife. This observation is especially discerning with regard to Duruflé’s Requiem op. 9 as sensitive vocal writing, flowing chant-based melodies, and luxurious harmonies in the Requiem not only go to the core of the listener’s life, but take the listener on what is perhaps an unexpected journey into the depths of Maurice Duruflé’s past and his perfectionistic, brooding, and decidedly staid persona. The Requiem is undoubtedly Duruflé’s crowning compositional achievement, and while it is lauded for its beauty and frequently considered for its similarities to Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem op. 48, it is also a vivid representation of Duruflé himself, filled with musical glimpses of everything to which Duruflé was faithful and everyone he most admired in his lifetime.

Duruflé was unwavering in his loyalty to traditions of the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church, and made every attempt over his lifetime to weave the traditional chant melodies he knew from his time as a young boy chorister at the cathedral in Rouen into his compositions. Duruflé ultimately regretted the prevalent influence of chant on his music, not because his views on Catholic worship changed but because he wished he had taken more risks as a composer, yet his sensitive interpretation and treatment of chant is one the most intriguing qualities of his Requiem op. 9. Whether he realized it or not, allowing the works of Ravel and Debussy to so greatly influence his concept of harmony throughout the Requiem was a risk that showcased his ability to pay homage to the traditional in a way that appeals to the masses. Duruflé’s extreme perfectionism and debilitating self-doubt prevented him from writing as prolifically as many of his contemporaries, and resulted in the publication of only 14 opus numbers in all of his oeuvre.

Much of the Requiem can be interpreted as a nod to Duruflé’s long-admired organ teacher and mentor, Charles Tournemire, as many of the interludes and supporting accompanimental material we hear from the organ fit Duruflé’s description of Tournemire’s weekly improvisations at Mass. Duruflé was enamored with Tournemire’s ability to maintain the liturgical character of the Gregorian chant on which he improvised during Mass each week, describing the music as a “genuine musical commentary on the liturgy”. Of his Requiem op. 9, Duruflé said, “In general, I have sought above all to enter into the characteristic style of the Gregorian themes.” Duruflé sought to capture the spirit of his mentor’s masterful improvisations on paper and succeeded. Requiem reads and sounds like a string of beautifully crafted improvisations entirely connected to the original liturgy of the Requiem Mass.

The first performance of Duruflé’s Requiem op. 9 took place on All Soul’s Day in 1947 as a broadcast over French national radio. The Requiem Mass (Missa pro defunctis or Mass for the Dead) holds a place in the Catholic liturgy as a celebration of departed souls and is typically sung on All Soul’s Day, November 2nd. For years scholars believed that Duruflé’s publisher, Durand, commissioned Requiem, but recent scholarship reveals that Duruflé was in fact among more than 80 other composers commissioned by the Nazi-controlled Vichy in France to write music that represented the government’s pro-Catholic, conservative, and anti-modernist standards. Duruflé, whose work up to this point already fit the Catholic, conservative, and anti-modernist “bill”, spent more than six years composing his Requiem, and sought payment for his work in 1948 after the war had ended. His delay in soliciting payment, a 6-year completion time for the commission, and evidence that he showed his completed Requiem to the likes of Nadia Boulanger and Marcel Dupré for criticism before sending it to the Vichy tell us that Duruflé likely was not concerned about aligning with the government but overcome with his usual perfectionism and fervent desire to demonstrate a refined compositional voice. Requiem op. 9 exists in three different sets of instrumentation. Durufle preferred the full orchestra version, with the organ and smaller orchestral version in second place, followed by the “organ only” version, citing the fact that the full orchestra version would be more enjoyable for the audience. Because Duruflé was a master in his ability to understand the orchestral capabilities of the organ, though it was not his favorite, the organ-only version is scintillating.

Though Duruflé’s teachers and peers played a tremendous role in shaping his compositional voice, Duruflé was not confined to modern-day influences on his music. He was also deeply influenced by the writing of master Renaissance composers whose contrapuntal techniques can be heard in the second movement of the Requiem, Kyrie, as well as in the eighth movement, Libera me. Just like the traditional Missa pro defunctis, Duruflé’s Requiem begins with an Introit and Kyrie, which flow together as one movement. Duruflé’s setting of the Kyrie is warming and floats steadily upward as if to lift the burden of death from the shoulders of each listener, then glides down with assurance as if to remind us that our time on earth is hopeful because God is merciful. No sooner do we feel the comfort of God’s mercy than we plunge into the depths of darkness and find ourselves amid an urgent plea for God to deliver the faithful departed from the mouth of lion, the punishments of hell, and the deep lake in the Domine Jesu Christe movement. A celebratory Sanctus and gut-wrenchingly beautiful Pie Jesu follow, cascading into the Agnus Dei movement, an exquisite prayer for the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world and grant eternal rest to the faithful departed. We can hear a nod to Duruflé’s admiration of J.S. Bach and appreciation for protestant congregational singing in the Lux aeterna movement. Beautifully crafted hymn-like accompaniment in the organ provides a foundation for voices singing text from original chant in unison octaves, “requiem aeternam dona eis domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.”

The eighth movement, Libera me, transitions in and out of calm and fury rather seamlessly throughout, showcasing the juxtaposition of a captivating solo for baritone (which Duruflé recommended be sung by the entire section) and angelic passages for soprano voices along with an unusual but rousing treatment of the “Dies Irae” text. Duruflé chose to set only the first lines of the “Dies irae” within this movement rather than providing an entirely separate movement for this text as most requiems do, perhaps to give the listener a gentler sense of judgment day. The eighth movement leaves us feeling confused about whether our view on death and judgment should be filled with anxiety or hope, but our steadfast optimism is soon affirmed by the voices from a glorious choir of angels in the ninth movement. The final moments of Requiem op. 9 are filled with lush, comforting homophonic chords for the entire choir as if to invite the faithful departed to join the chorus of angels in heaven and arrive at their eternal resting place. The last chord of the Requiem is unfinished, leaving us to ponder the possibilities of life after death.

Before writing Requiem, Duruflé had not composed a single other choral work. He had little practice writing for the voice, yet he knew the rich beauty of Gregorian chant and the deep satisfaction he experienced singing music throughout his lifetime. The result is one of the most genuine Requiems we know today, and despite comparisons to Fauré’s Requiem op. 48, Duruflé’s Requiem op. 9 has a voice all its own. Duruflé’s beliefs, idiosyncrasies, and the qualities of those he admired most shine in this musical masterpiece. Of the organ’s role in Requiem, Duruflé intended for it to represent the idea of peace, of faith and hope. Though this work challenges us to consider the lightness and darkness of death, Duruflé intentionally leaves us to maintain our hopeful view of life on earth as well as what he believed to be life after death.

 

7. Duruflé: Notre Père

Maurice Duruflé and his wife, Marie-Madeleine, were involved in a devastating head-on collision in 1975 during which Maurice suffered two broken legs. Duruflé endured many reparative surgeries but was never physically the same. Though his wife diligently attended to his needs for the remainder of his life, he was in constant pain and often woke screaming in the middle of the night. Notre Père is the only piece Duruflé published in the period of time between the accident and his death in 1986. The piece was written in 1978, and while his other works incorporated Gregorian chant, this was the first setting of a text in French and the only one of Duruflé’s compositions intended for use as part of the post-Vatican II Catholic liturgy.

 

-Kira Winter


Texts and translations

Audivi Vocem de Caelo Venientem

Audivi vocem de caelo venientem: venite omnes virgines sapientissime;
oleum recondite in vasis vestris dum sponsus advenerit.
Media nocte clamor factus est: ecce sponsus venit.

I heard a voice coming from heaven: come all wisest virgins;
fill your vessels with oil, for the bridegroom is coming.
In the middle of the night there was a cry: behold the bridegroom comes.

8th respond at Matins on All Saints' Day

 

Peccantem me quotidie

Peccantem me quotidie
et non penitentem,
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Responsum
Quia in inferno nulla est redemptio.
Miserere mei, Deus, et salva me.

I who sin every day
and am not penitent
the fear of death troubles me:

Responsum
For in hell there is no redemption.
Have mercy upon me, O God, and save me.

7th Respond at Matins for the Dead

 

Funeral Ikos (1981)

Why these bitter words of the dying, O brethren, which they utter as they go hence? I am parted from my brethren. All my friends do I abandon, and go hence. But whither I go, that I understand not, neither what shall become of me yonder; only God who hath summoned me knoweth. But make commemoration of me with the song: Alleluia.

But whither now go the souls? How dwell they now together there? This mystery have I desired to learn, but none can impart aright. Do they call to mind their own people, as we do them? Or have they forgotten all those who mourn them and make the song: Alleluia.

We go forth on the path eternal, and as condemned, with downcast faces, present ourselves before the only God eternal. Where then is comeliness? Where then is wealth? Where then is the glory of this world? There shall none of these things aid us, but only say oft the psalm: Alleluia.

If thou hast shown mercy unto man, O man, that same mercy shall be shown to thee there; and if on an orphan thou hast shown compassion, the same shall there deliver thee from want. If in this life the naked thou hast clothed, the same shall give thee shelter there, and sing the psalm: Alleluia.

Youth and the beauty of the body fade at the hour of death, and the tongue then burneth fiercely, and the parched throat is inflamed. The beauty of the eyes is quenched then, the comeliness of the face all altered, the shapeliness of the neck destroyed; and the other parts have become numb, nor often say: Alleluia.

With ecstasy are we inflamed if we but hear that there is light eternal yonder; that there is Paradise, wherein every soul of the Righteous Ones rejoiceth. Let us all, also, enter into Christ, that all we may cry aloud thus unto God: Alleluia.

From the Order for the Burial of Dead Priests; translated from the Greek by Isabel Hapgood.

 

O, do not move (2004)

O, do not move, listen, to the gentle beginning.

George Seferis

 

Requiem (as set by Duruflé)

I Introitus

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam;
ad te omnis caro veniet.

Give them eternal rest, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.
There will be songs of praise to you in Zion,
and prayers in Jerusalem.
O hear my prayers;
all flesh returns to you.

II Kyrie

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

III Domine Jesu Christe

Domine Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae,
libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum
de poenis inferni,
et de profundo lacu.

Libera eas de ore leonis,
ne absorbeat eas tartarus,
ne cadant in obscurum.

Sed signifer sanctus Michaël
representet eas in lucem sanctam,
quam olim Abrahae promisisti
et semini eius.

Hostias et preces tibi,
Domine, laudis offerimus.
Tu suscipe pro animabus illis
quarum hodie memoriam facimus.

Fac eas, Domine,
de morte transire ad vitam,
quam olim Abrahae promisisti
et semini eius.

Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
deliver the souls of all the faithful departed
from punishments of hell,
and from the deep lake.

Deliver them from the mouth of the lion,
may the abyss not swallow them up,
may they not fall into darkness.

But may the holy standard-bearer Michael
lead them to that holy light
which of old Thou didst promise Abraham
and his seed.

Sacrifices and prayers to Thee,
O Lord, we offer with praise.
O receive them for the souls of those
whom today we commemorate.

Make them, O Lord,
to pass from death to life,
which of old Thou didst promise Abraham
and his seed.

IV Sanctus

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.

Benedictus qui venit
in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis.

Holy, holy, holy
Lord God of Hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

V Pie Jesu

Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem sempiternam.

Sweet Lord Jesus,
Grant them everlasting rest.

VI Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem sempiternam.

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, grant them rest.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, grant them rest.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, grant them everlasting rest

VII Lux Aeterna

Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,
cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,
quia pius es.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Let perpetual light shine upon them, O Lord,
with your saints for ever,
for you are merciful.

Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

VIII Libera me

Libera me, Domine,
de morte aeterna
in die illa tremenda
quando coeli movendi sunt et terra
dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem.

Tremens factus sum ego et timeo,
dum discussio venerit
atque ventura ira.

[Dies illa, dies irae],
calamitatis et miseriae,
dies magna et amara valde.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Deliver me, O Lord,
from eternal death,
on that fearful day
when the heavens are moved and the earth
when you will come to judge the world through fire.

I am made to tremble, and I fear,
when the desolation shall come,
and also the coming wrath.

That day, the day of wrath,
calamity, and misery,
that terrible and exceedingly bitter day.

Rest eternal grant them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.

IX In Paradisum

In paradisum deducant te angeli,
in tuo adventu
suscipiant te martyres,
et perducant te
in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.
Chorus angelorum te suscipiat,
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere
aeternam habeas requiem.

May the angels lead you into paradise,
may the martyrs receive you
in your coming,
and may they guide you
into the holy city, Jerusalem.
May the chorus of angels receive you
and with Lazarus once poor
may you have eternal rest.