GRANT PARK ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS
Carlos Kalmar Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Christopher Bell Chorus Director
Friday, July 9, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 10, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion
BRAHMS SYMPHONY NO. 3
Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus
Carlos Kalmar Conductor
Christopher Bell Chorus director
Susan Nelson Soprano
Sarah Ponder Soprano
Corinne Wallace-Crane Mezzo-soprano
Gloria in D Major, RV 589
Gloria in excelsis Deo
Et in terra pax hominibus Laudamus te
Gratias agimus tibi
Domine Deus, Rex coelestis Domine Fili unigenite
Domine Deus; Agnus Dei Qui tollis peccata mundi Qui sedes ad dexteram Quoniam tu solus sanctus Cum Sancto Spiritu
Adagio for Strings, op. 11
Symphony No. 3 in F Major, op.90
Allegro con brio
This concert is sponsored by Diverse American Voices Series Sponsor William Blair This concert and the appearance of the Project Inclusion fellows is underwritten by Lori Julian
ANTONIO VIVALDI (1678-1741)
GLORIA IN D MAJOR, RV 589 (C. 1715)
Scored for: oboe, trumpet, continuo, strings, chorus, and soloists
Performance time: 30 minutes
First Grant Park Orchestra performance: July 27, 1977, with Thomas Peck conductor; Kathleen Battle, soprano and Mary Pat Finucane, mezzo-soprano
More than likely, when people hear the strains of the text “Gloria in Excelsis” sung by a choir, the nostalgia of the holidays (Christmas in particular) seems to come to mind. The exuberance of Antonio Vivaldi’s baroque choral masterwork is one that conjures both joy and spirited excitement year round. Its trademark is the festive opening with the strings and trumpet, preparing the way for the choir’s declamatory entrance. With the exception of the “in excelsis” towards the end of the piece, the voices move primarily in tandem with the string accompaniment. For the listeners who look forward to variety when enjoying extended works, the movements offer an array of opportunities for both the chorus and the vocal soloists. A wonderful example of this is the duet for the soprano I and II, “Laudamus te.” Similar to the call and response used in the church setting, the entrance of soprano I introduces the main theme for the piece as soprano II echoes the initial melody. Together, the two voices move with agility, dancing playfully around the strings. In contrast, the mezzo-soprano aria “Qui sedes ad dextram” is a work that is a bit more involved. With long phrases, the voice blossoms as the soloist negotiates the fiendishly quick notes of the aria. One may find that the vocal lines of the solo pieces are reminiscent of perhaps his most popular instrumental suite of violin concertos: “The Four Seasons.”
The chorus gets a few moments in the sun as well in the “Propter Magnam” as the respective voice parts move with the virtuosic quality of the instruments. A unifying quality in music of the Baroque period is the use of repetition. The theme of the opening “Gloria” is repeated similarly in the chorus “Quoniam tu solus sanctus.” This feeling of continuity is something that is almost immediately felt by the listener.
On a lighter note, because of his hair, Vivaldi was often referred to as the “red-headed priest.” Perhaps that explains the fiery, yet contemplative nature which he threads throughout the movements of the composition. The final movement, “Cum Sancto Spiritu” is a magnificent statement of faith. Beginning with the basses, the four parts all enter individually until they are all together, forming a cornerstone of sound that expresses so well “with the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father.” Similar to the opening “Gloria,” the trumpet returns in a more prominent fashion, musically solidifying the finality of the work. With a sense of forward movement in the voices and instruments alike, the work ends with an ebullient “Amen.”
SAMUEL BARBER (1910-1981)
Adagio for Strings (1936)
Scored for: string orchestra
Performance time: 8 minutes
First Grant Park Orchestra performance: July 24, 1957, with Harry Farbman, conductor
As a celebrated musician, Samuel Barber had his hands in numerous areas of the art form. He himself was a talented singer, conductor and composer. That melting pot of extraordinary talent was reflected in both his vocal and instrumental music. Whether it is his staple song cycle “Hermit Songs” which was premiered with the great soprano Leontyne Price in 1953 at The Library of Congress or his lush instrumental works such as his “Symphony No. 3,” his hallmark sound is one that is reminiscent of the Romantic masters before him. For those who may be die-hard opera buffs, it would be remiss not to mention his great work for the stage “Antony and Cleopatra” which inaugurated the new Metropolitan Opera and also marked another huge triumph with Miss Price. Yet still, his “Adagio for Strings” seems to be the piece that has been used most often to punctuate the social conscience of important solemn moments in US History. Originally written as the second movement of his String Quartet, Op. 11, he composed it in 1936 while spending time away with his partner Gian Carlo Menotti, another famously revered composer.
There is a deep solemn feel to Barber’s work. He does a wonderful job of capturing the listener’s attention with the subtle lone string in the opening. As the piece progresses, the strings build in intensity, almost with an arch of both solace and hope. In response to the tragic events of 9/11, conductor Leonard Slatkin led a moving performance with the BBC Orchestra on September 15, 2001. This is just one of numerous examples of how this work has been used to commemorate and give reverence to such events. Additionally, the instrumental work is also well known as a popular choral setting of the “Agnus Dei.” Whether it is for voices or in the context of an orchestral setting, Barber’s work pulls at the emotions and continues to provide comfort during times of grief.
JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833-1897)
SYMPHONY NO. 3 IN F MAJOR, OP. 90
Scored for: pairs of woodwinds plus contrabassoon, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, and strings
Performance time: 33 minutes
First performed by the Grant Park Orchestra: July 15, 1939, Richard Czerwonky conductor
Considered one of the great composers of the Romantic era, Brahms certainly made his mark with his contributions to the symphonic canon. As you attend this particular concert that leads off with a choral work, it may be worth noting that Brahms like many others was multi-faceted in a variety of musical idioms. His German Requiem for many is the first introduction to his uncanny ability to evoke a universal depth of emotion. It has been often remarked that for all the beauty he created musically, his compositions were seemingly born out of a constant feeling of emotional turmoil. That is certainly something that we all can relate to currently as we look towards the light of a post-pandemic season of performances in person! Though the virtual presentations have been a saving grace, to finally hear an orchestra live again gives new found expression to the commitment that these composers longed for. Consisting of four movements, the work opens with the ‘allegro,’ imploring the clarion call of the brass and woodwinds. The full orchestra responds, encircling the listener with a wall of sound. Throughout, one will note the interplay of the varying instruments. From the full complement of the orchestra, to the occasional dulcet sounds of the flutes and clarinets—there seems to be contrasting variety within this one movement. As the symphony progresses with the ‘andante,’ ‘poco allegretto’ and the final ‘allegro,’ Brahms made extensive use of the wind instruments, prominently featuring them throughout the fabric of the symphony. In contrast, the third movement begins with the strings of the orchestra. This momentum builds as the work approaches the final ‘allegro.’ After a variety of moods expressed, the sense of motion subsides, and the work finds its resting place calmly in F major. The repeated chords at the end mirrors a feeling of resolution to the emotional unrest that Brahms perhaps experienced during his lifetime.
©2021 Patrick D. McCoy