Schubert and Brahms
Sarah Jo Kirsch, soprano
Kirsten Schellenberg, alto
Aaron Hutton, tenor
Howard Rempel, bass
The Phil is thrilled to perform again with the WSO and guest soloists in Schubert’s last — and possibly greatest — choral work, his Mass No. 6 in E-flat Major. Also on the program is Brahms’ brilliant and moving Nänie. A choral concert not to be missed!
Sarah Jo Kirsch, Soprano
Sarah Jo Kirsch is a soprano/vocalist currently based in Winnipeg, Canada. She continues to make waves as a recitalist and soloist in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. Winner of the 2014 Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition, she has been described as “…one of the finest contemporary dramatic vocalists in Canada today…” (Calgary Herald) “…with the ability to get under the skin of everything she sings…” (Winnipeg Free Press). From Baroque oratorio to electro-acoustic sound art, Sarah Jo surfs the gamut of musical evolution and aspires to be a worthy muse and an evocative interpreter.
The 2016-17 seasons brings recitals in Winnipeg and beyond, soloist appearances with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, the American University of Beirut, at the WSO New Music Festival and Winnipeg’s Groundswell concert series. This season also brings premieres of new works for voice by composers Jim Hiscott and Örjan Sandred, and Sarah’s Swedish debut. When she’s not performing, she hosts the Diamond Lane on Winnipeg’s Classic 107 FM.(www.classic107.com).
One of the most sought-after oratorio singers in Manitoba, Kirsten Schellenberg is “always a treat to hear” and is considered “one of Manitoba’s most consistent singers” (The Winnipeg Free Press). She has performed with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, and the Musik Barock Ensemble as well as guest appearances with the Musical Offering, Southern Manitoba Concerts, the Mennonite Festival Chorus, and the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir. A choral enthusiast, she has sung with Canzona and The Winnipeg Singers as both a chorister and soloist.
Ms. Schellenberg has been a featured soloist numerous times with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, performing well known works such as Handel’s Messiah, J.S. Bach’s Mass in b minor, Mozart’s Requiem, Bach’s Christ lag in Todesbanden, Vivaldi’s Gloria and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
A Bach specialist, Ms. Schellenberg has consistently received high praise for her performances of St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion, Magnificat, Mass in b minor and Christmas Oratorio. Her voice has been described as “ideally suited for oratorio work” and she has been acclaimed as “a young Maureen Forrester” (The Winnipeg Free Press).
Aaron Hutton, tenor
Tenor Aaron Hutton holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Manitoba Marcel A. Desautel’s Faculty of Music and, since graduating in 2011, has been no stranger to the local arts and music scene. The Winnipeg Free Press praised Mr. Hutton as “gifted” for his last collaboration with the Phil, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor alongside internationally acclaimed soprano Nikki Einfeld. Other engagements with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra include Musical Discoveries: 2012 and 2016, Mozart’s Requiem, Carmina Burana, and Send in the Clowns: the music of Stephen Sondheim. He is a frequent performer with Canzona, Rainbow Stage, and Dry Cold Productions and most recently was in the cast of Billy Elliot the Musical with the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. Mr. Hutton was the recipient of the Rose Bowl trophy for most outstanding vocal performance at the 93rd annual Winnipeg Music Festival and continues to build a reputation for himself as one of Manitoba’s foremost tenor vocalists. Stay connected at aaronhutton.com and @amjhutton.
Howard Rempel, bass
Bass-baritone Howard Rempel has appeared regularly with Winnipeg groups such as the Winnipeg Singers, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Canzona and performed numerous roles with Winnipeg companies such as Manitoba Opera, the Little Opera Company and the Gilbert and Sullivan Society. He has been praised for his “…refined true baritone voice, made richer with its lovely timbre and excellent diction.” (Winnipeg Free Press)
Howard is pleased to have a return performance with the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir. His previous performances were as baritone soloist in Vaughan-Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols (2015/16), Puccini’s Messa di Gloria (2011/12) and Vaughan-Williams’ Serenade to Music (2008/09). His 2016/17 season began as baritone soloist in Libera Me from Faure’s Requiem with the Philharmonic and as baritone soloist in Rheinberger’s Der Stern von Bethlehem. Following this concert he will be performing as the bass soloist in Mozart’s Requiem and playing the role of Johann in Massenet’s Werther with Manitoba Opera.
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Nänie, Op. 82 Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
The term Nänie is derived from the Latin nenia and means funeral song or elegiacal lament.
In 1799, Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) skillfully wove together three Greek tragic myths which define the loss or death of beauty and perfection, in which neither love nor their beauty could save the victims from their fates. The despair and grief of their loss could only be expressed in an outpouring of sadness and lamentation.
In classical Greece and Rome, the nenia or dirge was customarily sung by loved ones (and hired mourners) accompanying the dead to their graves. The song extolled their virtues and mourned their passing but also celebrated their rebirth into the afterlife. In contrast, that which was common and base was doomed, by silence, to the underworld, to be forgotten forever.
But ultimately, while the death of the beloved was a tragedy necessarily met by despair, the elegy provided proof that, in fact, their beauty achieved immortality through art and music.
“Nänie” was composed in 1881 and was dedicated to the memory of Johannes Brahms’ close friend Anselm Feuerbach. In setting to sublime music Schiller’s exquisite poem, Brahms created an elegy to the fragility of life – as the first line says, “Even the beautiful must die”. The transient nature of earthly beauty, and in contrast, its undying permanence in art, is expressed in every line of this lovely piece.
Nänie by Friedrich Schiller
Note: The Phil will perform Nänie in the original German.
Even the beautiful must perish! That which overcomes gods and men
Moves not the armored heart of the Stygian Zeus. 1
Only once did love 2 come to soften the Lord of the Shadows,
And just at the threshold he sternly took back his gift. 3
Neither can Aphrodite 4 heal the wounds of the beautiful youth
That the boar had savagely torn in his delicate body.
Nor can the deathless mother 5 rescue the divine hero 6
When he, falling at the Scaean gate, fulfills his fate. 7
But she ascends from the sea with all the daughters of Nereus, 8
And a plaint is raised for her glorious son.
Behold! The gods weep, all the goddesses weep,
That beauty fades, that the most perfect passes away.
But a lament on the lips of loved ones is glorious;
Only they who are undeserving descend songless to Orcus. 9
1. Hades, the “Zeus of the river Styx”, ruler of the underworld
2. Orpheus attempts to retrieve Eurydice
3. Hades reclaims Eurydice when Orpheus turns to look at her
4. Aphrodite mourns the death of Adonis; his drops of blood are transformed into fleetingly lovely anemones
5. The nymph Thetys, mother of Achilles and daughter of Nereus, god of the sea
6. Achilles, son of Thetys and the mortal King Peleus
7. Achilles meets his fate at the gates of Troy
8. Nereus had fifty daughters, the beautiful and kind Nereids (nymphs)
9. Orcus, god (or land) of the underworld; Roman equivalent of Hades
Mass No. 6 in E flat Major, D.950 Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
6. Agnus Dei
Franz Schubert’s Mass No. 6 in E flat Major, considered the most monumental of his six completed masses, was composed in 1828, only a few short months before his death in November of that year. It received its first performance, under the direction of his brother Ferdinand, the following October in the Viennese Alserkirche (Church of the Holy Trinity) not far from his birthplace in Alsergrund. Interestingly, Schubert had been a pallbearer at Beethoven’s funeral in this same church.
This work, along with the Mass No. 5 in A flat Major, falls within the later period of Schubert’s works, defined by his increasing technical mastery of composition, orchestration and harmony, and was innovative on several fronts. It was a concert piece, as such not meant to be performed during a church service, as Schubert had deleted, altered and manipulated the traditional order of the Latin texts to highlight and heighten the meaning and import of particular passages, which his music often underlined with carefully applied word-painting. By 1897 these text alterations had resulted in the barring of this work as liturgical music.
Schubert paid homage to his hero Beethoven, whose musical architecture and early forays into Romanticism provided the framework with which Schubert was able to express his sensual and lyrical emotions in what came to be the definition of 19th Century Romantic music. The presentation of the entire text of the Benedictus by the quartet is reminiscent of Haydn’s and Mozart’s solo ensemble pieces, and the complexity of Bach’s (and lyricism of Mozart’s) fugues are quoted in the Gloria and Agnus Dei.
His innovative orchestral scoring gave an important role to the three trombones, showcased the lower woodwinds and brass, completely eliminated the organ part (until then a basic requirement in the typical church mass) and repeatedly punctuated the entire structure with rhythmical use of the timpani.
An important tradition was thrown aside for this work in Schubert’s novel emphasis on choral complexity and involvement. Not content to allow the soloists to carry the emotive expression of lyrical arias, he allowed them only three appearances as trio or quartet. He instead gave the bulk of his attention to the choral parts. With lush harmonies, enchanting melodies, jarring harmonic surprises and leaping and whirling fugues, they are intense studies in contrast, intricacy and emotion, from the first solemn Kyrie to the final affirming and dusky Pacem.