Brahms & Schubert
songs of destiny
April 27, 2018 – 7.30pm
Richard Eaton Singers
Leonard Ratzlaff, Conductor
Sherry Steele, soprano
Sara Staples, mezzo soprano
John Tessier, tenor
Paul Grindlay, bass
Schubert Mass Nr. 5 in A-Flat
Edmonton’s premier symphonic choir, Richard Eaton Singers (RES), accompanied by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, will present three major choral works written by two of the leading composers of the 19th Century – Franz Schubert and Johannes Brahms. The concert, conducted by RES Music Director Leonard Ratzlaff, will also feature soloists soprano Sherry Steele, mezzo-soprano Sara Staples, tenor John Tessier and bass Paul Grindlay.
Both Brahms and Schubert could rightly be labeled polyglot composers, as their prolific compositional output spanned the entire spectrum of instrumental and vocal music, from large scale symphonic works to the most intimate art songs for solo voice and piano. With this concert RES will explore some outstanding repertoire that employs large forces in both the instrumental and choral realms – repertoire that is not that well known but is nevertheless highly dramatic as well as lyrical in its expressive qualities.
Franz Schubert’s sheer volume of creative output is all the more remarkable when considering his very short life of just 31 years (1797-1828): nine symphonies; six Masses and many shorter sacred works; a large number of chamber works and solo works for piano; and around 600 solo songs. All of his music features breathtaking melodic writing and sometimes very adventurous harmonic language, all written in service to both sacred and secular texts chosen by him. This concert is believed to be the first Edmonton performance of his Mass Nr. 5 in A-Flat Major, a 45 minute setting of the Roman Catholic mass text. Written over a three-year span (1819-1822), it is generally believed to have been a work Schubert planned to dedicate to the Austrian emperor Francis the Second, in the hope that it would be performed at the Hofkapelle in Vienna. Unfortunately there is no record of it having received a performance during Schubert’s life, and it was only through his brother Ferdinand’s efforts that it found publication almost a decade after Franz’s death.
The concert will open with two absolutely stunning works for chorus and orchestra by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), his Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny) and Nänie. Classical music fans know Brahms for his incomparable German Requiem, a work Richard Eaton Singers have presented to Edmonton audiences on several occasions over the past few decades. In these two works, Brahms sets poems by two poets from the German Romantic tradition, Friedrich Hölderlin and Friedrich Schiller. Schicksalslied describes the contrast between the blissful existence of the gods and the human condition that is fraught with cataclysm and tragedy. Brahms enhances this contrast with some of the most dramatic music he ever wrote. Nänie is a lamentation on the inevitability of death, which Brahms composed to the memory of his close friend Anselm Feuerbach. For the opening line “Even the beautiful must perish!” Brahms composed what is widely acknowledged to be one of the most arrestingly beautiful melodies in his entire output. Both of these remarkable works draw extensively on characters from Greek mythology, a literature that fascinated Brahms and most Romantic period poets and composers.
Tickets: Adult $50; Student $25