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The Southeast Kansas Symphony Orchestra
Raul Munguia - Artistic Director & Conductor

2006-07 Season

Sunday, April 29th, 2007
~ 3:00 p.m. ~
First United Methodist Church
Fifth & Pine
Pittsburg, KS

Concert program (PDF)
Concert poster
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Heroic Music for Voices and Orchestra

Program notes by Kathryn Parke

Egmont Overture, Op. 84

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Sostenuto, ma non troppo - Allegro

Last SEKSO Performance: April 14th, 2002
First Performed: June 15th, 1810

Beethoven was a great admirer of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, one of Germany's - indeed, the world's - greatest men of letters. He was also a fiery advocate of personal and creative freedom, equality, and liberty. Therefore, when he was offered a commission to write incidental music for a production of Goethe's historical drama Egmont, he leapt eagerly at the chance. The play's subject could not have been better designed to appeal to Beethoven. Set in the Netherlands during the Spanish invasion of the 16th-century, Count Egmont, despite his fervent Catholicism, leads the rebellion against the horrors and oppression of the Spanish Inquisition and is martyred for his cause.

Knowing of the admiration Beethoven and Goethe each had for the other's art, a mutual friend, Bettina Brentano-Arnim, arranged a meeting between the two giants in the Czech resort of Teplitz in 1812, but the association was doomed to failure. At first, all was well - Goethe characterized Beethoven as an "astonishing talent," if a somewhat "untamed personality," and the composer enjoyed performing for Goethe. However, Beethoven, already dealing with the anguish of encroaching deafness and never a particularly congenial man at the best of times, horrified the urbane court poet with his boorish disregard for the social niceties when they happened to meet the Empress and a group of nobles out for a stroll in the park. Goethe immediately stepped aside, bowing deferentially, but Beethoven, grump that he was, locked his hands behind his back, glared imperiously ahead, and forged his way along the path, forcing the royal party to scatter out of his way. Goethe was appalled, and it didn't help that Beethoven reprimanded him for being unbecomingly servile, pointing out that nobles came a dime a dozen, whereas artists such as themselves were rare and therefore far more valuable. The rift was never healed, and Goethe ignored the letter Beethoven wrote him later in life. The two men never met again.

All this was still in the future, however, when in 1809 Beethoven undertook the commission to provide music for Goethe's tragedy. The Egmont music is comprised of nine pieces: the ever-popular Overture; two songs for Klärchen, Egmont's (fictional) sweetheart who kills herself in despair after she is unable to rescue him; and a number of entr'actes. Beethoven actually did not have the score ready by the date of the first performance in May of 1810; the play was not presented with his incidental music until the fourth performance, on June 15th. The Egmont Overture opens forebodingly, with stern, ominous chords, and soon swirls into an energetic allegro depicting the turmoil of battle and Egmont's heroic defiance. A sudden, brief silence follows the stroke of the executioner's axe, but the symbolic death of one cannot subdue the righteousness of the cause, and ultimately the usurpers will be driven back in triumph. As the quiet commentary from the woodwinds swells rapidly into a Victory Symphony (labeled Siegessyphonic by Beethoven), the swirling lines are crowned by gestures from the piccolo, an instrument which Beethoven was the first to liberate from military bands and invite into symphonic repertoire.

Scored for: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 0 trumpets, timpani, and strings [2[1.2/pic] 222-4200-tmp-str]

Te Deum, Op. 22 (H118)

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)

Directed by Dr. Susan Marchant

I. Te Deum (Hymne)
II. Tibi omnes (Hymne)
III. Dignare (Prière)
IV. Christe, Rex gloriae (Hymne)
V. Te ergo quaesumus (Prière)
VI. Judex crederis (Hymne et prière)

Completed In: 1849
First Performance: Apr. 30, 1855. Paris, St.Eustache, Berlioz conducting

The Te Deum is one of the early hymns of the Church. It is also often referred to as the Ambrosian Hymn after its "author," St. Ambrose, the beloved Bishop of Milan whose gift for oratory led to his nickname of the "Honey-Tongued Doctor" (as such, he is the patron saint of bees, chandlers, and wax refiners). One of his most noted accomplishments was that of converting St. Augustine of Hippo, who was also destined to become one of the great fathers of the early church. Therefore, legend dates the origin of the Te Deum very precisely to 387 A.D, the year St. Ambrose baptized St. Augustine, and tells us that the two men were so moved during this momentous occasion that they spontaneously improvised the ecstatic hymn of praise. Scholarly consensus, however, is that the Te Deum dates to the early 5th century, and that its origin was mostly likely Latin, not Greek. It is now widely, although certainly not universally, attributed to Nicetas of Remesiana (c.335-414), Bishop of the Dacians and the patron saint of Romania. It is traditionally sung at the end of the Divine Office of Matins on Sundays and feast days, and often at times of special thanksgiving, such as victory after a war.

Hector Berlioz, that charming egoist (well, his friends found him charming) remarks in his Mémoires that his mother had no premonition during her pregnancy that she was about to bring forth a firebrand predestined for glory. He goes on to describe his first musical experience, the occasion of his First Communion at the age of seven, when the eucharistic hymn sung by the girls' chorus moved him to tears. Although his father had hoped that Hector would follow him into the field of medicine, the younger Berlioz was miserable during his two years of medical study, and soon abandoned this path for "the immortal angels of poetry and love and their inspired songs." While still a child, he had read treatises and taught himself solfège (sight-singing), flute, and guitar, but he never learned to play the piano, an omission for which he was ultimately grateful, as it allowed him to compose with "complete freedom." This complete freedom enabled him to develop into an innovative master of orchestration, another skill which was essentially self-taught, as it had not been stressed during his education at the Conservatoire. Above all, he studied and idolized the works of Gluck and Beethoven (and, like Beethoven, he had a truly startling - although considerably better groomed - head of hair).

Berlioz's Te Deum was composed in 1848-49, but not as the result of any specific commission, and therefore it took some time to find a suitable venue. The work was finally premiered in 1855 on the occasion of the dedication of the new Ducroquet organ in Saint Eustache, an enormous Parisian church which houses the mortal remains of such French lights as Molière, Cardinal Richelieu, and Madame de Pompadour. In the meantime, Berlioz had in 1851 been a judge at the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace in London, where he heard a concert in St. Paul's Cathedral that included a performance of All People That On Earth Do Dwell sung by the chorus of orphaned Charity Children (a chorus that numbered at least 6,000). This experience so moved him that he came home and added a children's choir to three of the movements of the Te Deum.

The performance - the only one in the composer's lifetime - was a tremendous success. The forces assembled were almost unimaginably massive: an orchestra of 150, an adult choir of 150, and a children's choir of 600. The Te Deum is one of Berlioz's "architectural" works, that is, designed for a grandiose space in which the performing forces can be deployed in different areas, thereby fully exploiting the spatial possibilities of a large, resonant acoustic. At Saint Eustache, the organ (designated by Berlioz as "The Pope") is in the loft in the western end of the cathedral; he had the orchestra ("The Emperor") positioned at the eastern end, and the two choirs faced each other from the north and south transepts. The hapless audience was engulfed in an orgy of sound of "colossal, Babylonian" proportions.

The Te Deum as it is generally performed today is in six movements. Originally there were two additional movements. Berlioz states that the Prélude, however, is only to be performed if the Te Deum is being presented as a thanksgiving service for a military victory, and therefore there has been very little, if any, call for it. The other purely instrumental movement, the March pour la présentation des drapeaux (the Presentation of the Colors), is more problematic. In the 1855 performance, Berlioz placed it between the Tibi omnes and the Dignare, but in the printed score it is the final movement, where it unfortunately becomes somewhat anti-climactic, despite the visual spectacle of the procession of flags. (In addition, its scoring includes a difficult-to-muster twelve harps.) Consequently, although it can be heard on a few recordings of the Te Deum, it is generally omitted in concert performance.

Berlioz took the lengthy Te Deum text and divided it into six movements, each of which he labels either "hymn" or "prayer," with the final movement being labeled as both. In addition, he took some liberties with the text, moving the Judex crederis from the middle of the text to the end. The opening Te Deum (Hymne) begins with five monolithic chords in dialogue between the orchestra and the organ, to which the choirs respond with a stately fugue. The ethereal Tibi omnes (Hymne) grows to a mighty proclamation, and its fascinating shifts of color demonstrate Berlioz's mastery of orchestration. (Incidentally, this movement was performed during the lighting of the Olympic Flame for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.) Tranquil as a reflecting pool, the Dignare (Prière) ripples quietly over a series of sustained pedal notes, allowing Berlioz to take full advantage of the "miserere nostri" ("have mercy upon us"). The Christe, Rex gloriae (Hymne) bursts forth triumphantly, juxtaposed with the wistful, pleading of the Te ergo quaesumus (Prière), whose long, supple lines are given to the solo tenor and answered by the awestruck whispers of the chorus. After the premiere, Berlioz wrote to Liszt and singled out the final movement, the Judex crederis (Hymne et prière), in particular, stating that "the Judex exceeds all the enormities that I have made myself guilty of before." The menacing opening theme strides forth relentlessly, occasionally briefly subdued but always lying in wait to seize the music by the throat until at long last the steadfast, emphatic cries of "non confundar" ("do not let me be confounded") overcome all opposition, and the jubilant brass fanfares proclaim the ultimate promise of redemption.

Scored for: solo tenor, double chorus, opt. children's chorus, 4 flutes, piccolo, 4 oboes, English horn, 4 clarinets, bass clarinet, 4 bassoons, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 6 trombones, 2 tuba, percussion, timpani, harp, organ and strings. [4[1.2.3.4/pic] 4[1.2.3.4/Eh] 4[1.2.3.4/bcl] 4 - 4 4[2tp, 2crt] 6 2 - petit saxhorn - tmp+6 - 12hp[1part]-org-str] ]


Te Deum Text & Translation

I

Te Deum laudamus, te Dominum
confitemur,
te aeternum Patrem omnis terra
veneratur.

We praise Thee, O God; we acknowledge
Thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship Thee, the Father
everlasting.

II

Tibi omnes Angeli, tibi coeli
et universae potestates,
tibi Cherubim et Seraphim
incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth,
Pleni sunt coeli et terra
majestatis gloriae tuae.
Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
te Prophetarum laudabilis
numerus,
te Martyrum candidatus laudat
exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum sancta
confitetur Ecclesia,
Patrem immensae majestatis,
venerandum tuum verum et unicum
Filium,
sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.

To Thee all Angels cry aloud; the Heavens,
and all the Powers therein;
To Thee Cherubim and Seraphim
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 adorable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.

III

Dignare, Domine, die isto
sine peccato nos custodire.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in
gloria numerari.
Miserere nostri, Domine,
miserere nostri.

Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day
without sin.
Make them to be numbered with Thy
Saints, in glory everlasting.
O Lord, have mercy upon us,
have mercy upon us.

IV

Tu rex gloriae, Christe,
tu Patris sempiternus Filius.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus
hominem non horruisti
Virginis uterum.
Tu devicto mortis aculeo, aperuisti
credentibus regna coelorum.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes,
in gloria Patris.

Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son of the
Father.
When Thou tookest upn Thee to deliver
man, Thou didst humble Thyself to be
born of a Virgin.
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.

V

Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis
subveni, quos pretioso sanguine
redemisti.
Fiat misericordia tua, Domine,
super nos, quemadmodum
speravimus in te.

We therefore pray Thee, help Thy
servants, whom Thou hast redeemed
with Thy precious blood.
O Lord, let Thy mercy be
upon us, as
our trust is in Thee.

VI

Judex crederis esse venturus.
In te, Domine, speravi;
non confundar in aeternum.
Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine,
et benedic haereditati tuae.
Per singulous dies benedicimus te,
et laudamus nomen tuum, in saeculum
et in saeculum saeculi.

We believe that Thou shalt come to be
our Judge.
In Thee, O Lord, have I trusted;
let me never be confounded.
O Lord, save Thy people,
and bless Thine heritage.
Day by day we magnify Thee;
And we worship Thy name ever,
world without end.


John Aler, Tenor

The renowned tenor, John Aler, is one of the most acclaimed and admired singers on the international stage. A consummate artist, he is a frequent performer with such orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. He has sung in Europe with the Berlin Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Orchestre Nationale de France and the BBC Symphony, among many others, appearing with the worlds most respected conductors, including James Conlon, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Kurt Masur, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Simon Rattle, Michael Tilson Thomas, Herbert Blomstedt and Leonard Slatkin to name a few. He has performed at the major opera houses of the world including the Royal Opera Covent Garden, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Vienna, Munich, Salzburg, Hamburg, Geneva, Madrid and Brussels as well as New York City Opera, the Washington Opera and Santa Fe. He is a regular performer at the major American summer festivals including, Ravinia, Aspen, Chautauqua, Newport and Grant Park.

More of John Aler.

Related Links

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Louis Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)

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