Well now … there are some very tantalizing concerts happening this weekend. On Saturday just over the New York/Mass. state line there is the long awaited world premiere of John Myer’s multimedia choral work Paintings in Song—Visions of Norman Rockwell being performed by the Crescendo Vocal Ensemble in collaboration with the Norman Rockwell Museum (click here for details). In an unusual Saturday afternoon setting for the Union College Concert Series, the legendary pianist Mitsuko Uchida returns for a special program with the eminent clarinetist and composer Jörg Widmann in a program of classic repertoire interspersed with recent works by Widmann (click here for details). Then on Sunday, Troy’s Friends of Chamber Music is hosting a performance of the Juilliard String Quartet in which they’ll perform Mario Davidovsky recently unveiled work, Fragments (click here for details). While it is conceivable to go to all three, there may be choice decisions to be made.
In the midst of all of these new works (how great is that!?), there is however, one additional concert that I’d like to point out for your consideration. Saturday evening, the Auriel Camerata is presenting a program devoted entirely to choral works by Antonín Dvořák. While we may find our love for and appreciation of the composer through his symphonic works, cello concerto, and chamber music; we should, perhaps, be more aware of Antonín Dvořák as a masterful composer of choral music. In this all-Dvořák program, Auriel Camerata gives us the opportunity to take in a pair of his too-seldom- heard choral works:
- In Nature’s Realm, Op. 63, B.126
Songs Descended on My Soul (Napadly pisne v dusi mou)
Bells Ring at Dusk (Vecerni les rozvazal zvonky)
The Rye Field (Zitne pole)
The Silver Birch (Vybehla briza belicka)
With Dance and Song (Dnes do skoku a do pisnicky
- Mass in D Major, Op. 86, B.153 (“The Luzany Mass”)
In Nature’s Realm (1882) is a charming cycle of five part-songs for unaccompanied choir evoking the Czech countryside and spirit of its people and is influenced by Dvořák’s noted love of nature. It is a musical setting of selected poems from the collection of the same name by Vitezslav Halek and the third time that Dvořák’s turns to the work of Halek— the other two being the hymn The Heirs of the White Mountain and the song cycle Evening Songs.
To avoid any confusion, the Auriel Camerata is performing the choral work and not the concert overture of the same name, In Nature’s Realm. Several years after composing the part-song cycle, Dvořák (in 1891) went about writing a set of three concert overtures, which were originally presented under the collective title of Nature, Life and Love. However, Dvořák later decided to split them up and assigned independent opus numbers and titles to each one of them: In Nature’s Realm, Op. 91; Carnival, Op. 92; and Othello, Op. 93. *
In the Mass in D Major, Dvořák puts his personal stamp on the religious choral tradition of Mozart and Schubert to produce the lovely setting, which is by turns lyrical and dramatic, intimate and expansive. The Mass in D Major, or “The Luzany Mass,” was in essence commissioned by the then leading architect and notable patron of the arts Josef Hlavka. In 1886, Hlavka was having a new chapel built at his castle in Luzany in Western Bohemia. When the chapel was to be consecrated the following year, he asked his friend Dvořák to write a new mass for the occasion. Glad to oblige, Dvořák composed the mass for solos, choir and organ.* It was only later in 1892 that Dvořák wrote the orchestral version, which was then published and became quite popular. Oddly enough, especially given that Dvořák was trained as an organist, the original composition—as written for organ—was not published until 1963. Auriel Camerata is performing this original version of the Mass in D Major with organ accompaniment only.
The program is directed by Derek Stannard, Auriel Camerata’s Artistic Director, and features renowned organist David Enlow who has been hailed for his “enormous virtuosity” (Stuttgarter Zeitung), “arresting performances” (The American Organist), and his “gutsy, yet sensitive” playing (Organ Canada). This should be quite a concert if you are, like me, not so familiar with the choral music of the wonderful Mr. Dvořák.
Regardless of what you choose to feast your ears on, happy musicking this weekend!