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Bernstein & Gabrieli

Chichester Psalms Image Bernstein Chichester Psalms
Gabrieli Polychoral Motets
Walton Coronation Te Deum


Saturday 9 November 2013

St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol

Christopher Finch - Conductor
Wells Cathedral School Brass & Percussion Ensemble
Nigel Nash
- Organ

Programme Order

Click on a composer's name to see details

  • G. Gabrieli
  • Angelus Domini descendit from Sacrae Symphoniae 1597

  •  
  • Ricercar on the Xth Tone (1595) for organ
    Kyrie eleison from Sacrae Symphoniae 1597
    Jubilate Deo
    Sanctus and Benedictus
    from Sacrae Symphoniae 1597
    Toccata on the XIth Tone for organ
    Benedictus es, Dominus from Sacrae Symphoniae 1615
    Gloria from Sacrae Symphoniae 1597




  

Programme Notes

G. Gabrieli (c. 1556 - 1612)

Giovanni Gabrieli (c.1556-1612) was an immensely important and influential musician who lived and composed at the turn of the 17th century, during a time of monumental transition in musical aesthetic. For many, Gabrieli's compositions form the bridge between the Renaissance and the Baroque.

Although little is known about the young life of Giovanni Gabrieli, it is likely that he studied with his famous uncle Andrea Gabrieli, organist of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice with whom Giovanni shared a very close, quasi-filial relationship. His relationship with Andrea afforded the young Giovanni the opportunity to travel to Germany, where he received tuition from Orlando di Lasso in Munich. Soon after his return to Venice, Giovanni succeeded his uncle as organist at St. Mark's in 1585, a post he held for the remainder of his life.

At that time, Venice was a very cosmopolitan city, a cultural crossroads, with much of the city's musical activity centred on St. Mark's Basilica. The Basilica's unusual layout, with its two choir lofts facing each other, led to the development of what has been called the Venetian polychoral style (or cori spezzati - separated choirs). This was, in essence, a colourful and dramatic style that involved multiple choirs and instrumental ensembles. Many of Gabrieli's motets and other religious choral works are written for two, three or four choirs, divided into a dozen or more separate parts, often including additional parts for instrumental ensembles.

Gabrieli's early works are characterised by the spatial effects of echo and simple dialogue between choirs, which are the hallmarks of the early Venetian Style. However, in the published motets from Gabrieli's Sacrae Symphoniae of 1597, there appears to be a marked evolution of the style, where there is significant thematic development of each choral entry.

The compositions contained in this volume are unsurpassed in scale, expressive range and sheer idiomatic flair in the entire sixteenth-century instrumental repertoire. A further volume was published in 1615, in which Gabrieli develops this Venetian style to its furthest limits, and in which can be found the embryonic steps into a distinct Baroque style.


John Ireland (1879 - 1962) Vexilla Regis

John Ireland (1879-1962) was an undeservedly neglected English composer whose precocious early talent gained him entry to London's Royal College of Music at the age of 14.

Tragically, he lost both his parents shortly after beginning his studies in London, and had to make his own way as an orphaned teenager, studying piano, organ and composition. He continued at the RCM until 1901 as a composition scholar under Stanford, alongside fellow students Vaughan Williams and Holst. He later returned to his alma mater as a composition teacher, where his students included Benjamin Britten among many others. As such, Ireland provides an important link between the masters of the late Edwardian Summer, Stanford, Parry and Elgar, through to the progressive visionaries of the second half of the 20th century.

Ireland's music belongs to the school of 'English Impressionism'. Having been brought up on the German classics, notably Beethoven and Brahms, he was strongly influenced in his twenties and thirties by the music of Debussy, Ravel, and the early works of Stravinsky and Bartˇk. While many of his contemporaries, such as Vaughan Williams and Holst, developed a language strongly characterised by English folk song, Ireland evolved a more complex harmonic style closer to the French and Russian models.

Ireland had been composing since boyhood but, fiercely self-critical, he destroyed all his early work including Vexilla Regis. Composed in 1898 when the nineteen year old Ireland was then still a student of Stanford, and when he was assistant organist at Holy TrinityChurch, Sloane Square, it is scored for trumpets, trombones and organ. Stanford was so delighted with the piece that he persuaded the Director of Music at Holy Trinity to perform it, with Ireland conducting. It was not published until the year after Ireland's death, although the composer had approved its revival. The text is a hymn for Passion Sunday by Bishop Venantius Fortunatas (530-609 AD). Despite Ireland's many years' connection with the Church, he remained ambivalent about his own religious beliefs.

The royal banners forward go, The Cross shines forth in mystic glow,
Where He in flesh, our flesh who made, Our sentence bore, our ransom paid.
There whilst He hung, His sacred side By soldier's spear was opened wide,
To cleanse us in the precious flood Of water mingled with His blood.
Fulfilled is now what David told. In true prophetic song of old,
That God the heathen's King should be, For God is reigning from the Tree!
O Tree of glory, Tree most fair, Ordained those Holy limbs to bear,
How bright in purple robe it stood, The purple of a Saviour's blood!
Upon its arms, like balance true, He weighed the price for sinners due,
The price which He alone could pay, And spoiled the spoiler of his prey.
To Thee Eternal Three in One, Let homage meet by all be done.
As by the Cross thou dost restore, So rule and guide us evermore. Amen


Leonard Bernstein (1918 - 1990) Chichester Psalms
(Henry Lewis: Treble soloist ; Ruth Kenyon: Harp )

One of the chief players in the story of the Chichester Psalms is Walter Hussey. Over a period of forty years, it was undoubtedly his courage and foresight that helped reinvigorate the great tradition of the church as patron of the Arts. He was Dean of Chichester Cathedral until he retired in 1977.

In 1964 he asked Leonard Bernstein, (1918-1990), to compose a centre-piece for a future Southern Cathedrals Festival. He famously said "I would be delighted if there was a hint of West Side Story about it". As usual, his wish was granted, and Bernstein cleverly incorporated previously rejected material from that, and other musicals, into the finished project, the Chichester Psalms. Completed in May 1965, this colourful and innovative setting of three contrasting psalms in Hebrew, was premiered by the composer on 15th July 1965 in the Philharmonic Hall, New York. Two weeks later came its first triumphant performance in this country, with John Birch conducting the combined choirs of Chichester, Winchester and Salisbury Cathedrals, accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Of the seven principal themes that comprise the Chichester Psalms, none of them is original to the work. Six of the seven derive from material written for The Skin of Our Teeth, a musical based on Thornton Wilder's play, but which was marked by a disastrous breakdown of collaborations. The aggressive men's chorus in the middle of the second movement was originally entitled "Mix" - a number discarded from the opening of West Side Story.

The whole work is a testament to Bernstein's compositional resourcefulness. His biographer Humphrey Burton describes it as "a combination of significant coincidence, minor miracle, and sheer good luck" that he had been able to find appropriate Hebrew psalm texts, match the music to them, and re-combine and order themes to create a coherent and compelling piece.

The Psalms were scored originally for 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, a wide range of percussion, 2 harps and strings. Tonight's performance uses the composer's own reduction for organ, harp and percussion.


William Walton (1902 - 1983) Coronation Te Deum

William Walton is one of the three indisputable leaders of the first generation of 20th century British composers, together with Michael Tippett and Benjamin Britten. Their immediate musical forbears were Vaughan Williams, Ireland and Holst, all of whom were contemporaneous with Elgar who lived until 1934. Of these illustrious names, Walton was the closest in style and temperament to Elgar, whose personal background was remarkably similar. Both were born in provincial towns to lower middle class parents and both had no formal musical education at a college or academy. During a sixty-year career, he wrote music in several classical genres and styles, from film scores to opera. His best-known works include Fašade, the cantata Belshazzar's Feast, the Viola Concerto, and the First Symphony.

Walton describes his Te Deum in a letter to a friend in 1953 in a typically irreverent manner: "Lots of counter-tenors and little boys Holy-holying, not to mention all the Queen's trumpeters and the side drum." However, Walton's Coronation Te Deum is in fact one of his most straightforward and elegant works. Having been commissioned to compose a musical setting of the liturgical Te Deum for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Walton took the job very seriously, tempering his extroverted style considerably.

The resulting work adheres to a more traditional sense of harmony and tonal trajectory that we might be accustomed to from Walton, and utilizes the particular instrumental and architectural circumstances of its premiere through its employment of extensive and effective antiphonal techniques. In this latter regard, we might hear this as a twentieth-century instantiation of the antiphonal choral and instrumental techniques of Gabrieli at St. Mark's in Venice.

The Te Deum received its public premiere at the Coronation, which took place on June 2, 1953. The piece, along with Walton's Orb and Sceptre, a march also composed for the occasion, were received warmly by both their commissioners and the public. Likewise, Walton himself suspended his usual self-deprecatory judgments on the Coronation Te Deum.

"Though I hesitate to hazard an opinion when I am so near to a work," he told a friend a few months before the Coronation, "I think it is going to be rather splendid."

We praise thee, O God we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee; the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud; the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To thee Cherubin and Seraphin continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee;
The Father of an infinite Majesty; Thine honourable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. Thou art the King of Glory O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man
Thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death
thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come to be our Judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants
whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy Saints in glory everlasting.
O Lord, save thy people and bless thine heritage.
Govern them and lift them up for ever.
Day by day we magnify thee;
And we worship thy Name ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted, let me never be confounded.


Wells Cathedral School is an internationally renowned Specialist Music School. It is one of only four supported by the Department for Education Music and Dance Scheme providing world-class music training from the elite of the profession. Wells is the only one where gifted musicians are part of a traditional school; specialist musicians are trained and educated within a normal school environment.

Specialists' timetables are tailored to combine lessons, practice and masterclasses with academic work. The very high standards that are demanded and achieved at the school stem from the calibre of staff and visiting teachers. Specialists can participate in over 50 different ensembles, 200 concerts a year and in recent years have also toured to Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai in China, Germany, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

The School believes in preparing musicians for a lifetime of music-making. The students have an outstanding record of winning scholarships at conservatoire level and our alumni successes are impressive both in the UK and abroad.


Henry Lewis is a former boy chorister at Bristol Cathedral under the Direction of Mark Lee. He was selected in 2012 as a member of the specially formed Diamond Choir, which performed for her Majesty the Queen in St. Paul's cathedral as part of the diamond jubilee celebrations. He has recently made it through to final of the BBC Radio 2 Young Chorister of the Year competition. He is now a student at QEH where he is a member of the Chapel Choir, and is a keen violinist and pianist.