The 8 PM Carnegie Hall performance will offer Mozart's Requiem, Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms and James DeMars' Tito's Say.
Mozart's Requiem is one of the most popular and beloved works in the choral repertoire. The work was commissioned by Count Franz Walsegg zu Stuppach (who had the intention of passing it off as his own) to honor the memory of his wife. At the time of his death, Mozart had completed the "Introit" and "Kyrie," leaving only the chorus parts and a bass line with occasional remarks to indicate the orchestration for the rest of the movements up through the beginning of the "Lacrymosa." His student Franz Xaver Süssmayr assumed the task of realizing the sketches and completing the work. There have been many debates and discussions surrounding the piece ever since; and although Mozart may have died in poverty, his musical legacy _ and particularly his Requiem _ has brought outstanding beauty and richness to Western culture like few other composers.
Described by The New York Times as "one of Mr. Bernstein's most irresistible works," Chichester Psalms is a piece of great strength and beauty. Commissioned in 1965 by the Dean of Chichester in England, the vibrant Chichester Psalms is one of the composer's most successful and accessible works on religious texts, contrasting spiritual austerity with impulsive rhythms in a contemplation of peace. Each of the three movements features a setting, in Hebrew, of one complete psalm, along with a verse or more of a second.
James DeMars' Tito's Say is a four-movement cantata set to texts by Alberto "Tito" Rios. This engaging work was commissioned by the Arizona Choral Arts Society and received its world premiere in 1989 under the baton of New York Choral Society's Music Director, John Daly Goodwin. The final movement, "Ventura and Clemente," is a rollicking account of the courtship of two young Mexican lovers and is representative of the entire piece.
In the following interview, Goodwin discusses the upcoming performance and chats a little bit about his own tastes and interests:
So you're leading the New York Choral Society in a program that features the legendary Mozart Requiem. As a conductor, do you find that your approach to an epic masterpiece such as this differs at all from that of other choral works?
JG: Of course, every piece of music has its own unique set of characteristics that must be addressed during its preparation, and the Mozart Requiem is no exception. One thing that sets this great work apart is the particular circumstance of its genesis, including many misconceptions. Part of my preparation of the NYCS for a performance of the Requiem includes putting the piece into a historical and musical context. There are also many considerations that remain constant from work to work, such as intonation, choral blend, healthy production, etc.
The Requiem is paired with Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, a piece that The New York Choral Society first performed under the baton of Bernstein himself at the opening of the New York City Ballet's American Music Festival in 1988!
JG: Our performance of Chichester Psalms on May 1st will be the eighth time we have prepared and produced the piece in NYC since 1970, including a memorable performance under Lenny himself in 1988. We have performed the work on tour in China, in Israel, and we will be bringing it on tour to Mexico this summer. Although it was commissioned by an English Cathedral, Chichester Psalms is a quintessentially New York piece of music and it is wholly appropriate that the New York Choral Society makes it such a central part of its programming.
You conducted the world premiere of James DeMars' Tito's Say in 1989 with the Arizona Choral Arts Society, and now, 21 years later, you're presenting the work at Carnegie Hall. How would you describe this work to those who aren't familiar with it?
JG: I fell in love with this work the first time I saw Jim's score in 1989 and my enthusiasm for it has continued to grow over the years. Tito's Say is a four movement cantata featuring texts by the acclaimed Arizona poet, Alberto (Tito) Rios, who is known for an insightful "magical realism" infused with the border town imagery of his youth. The poems provide four aspects of love and life; from the gritty twist of a cheating spouse to the poignant reflections of old age, the sensual flirtations of tango and finally the imagined childhood love of his grandparents Ventura and Clemente. Jim DeMars' music is spectacular, sexy and a lot of fun. The singers in the NYCS are loving the piece and we can't wait to share it with our audience!
What is one of the most memorable choral programs you've conducted, and why?
I am often asked a similar question, "What is your favorite piece of music to conduct?" My answer to that question truthfully is whatever I happen to be working on at the time! I am blessed to have had the opportunity to conduct many of the great works in the choral/orchestral canon in performances that have included singers that I count among my closest friends. That some of these concerts have taken place in Carnegie Hall, and in Notre Dame or Chartres in France, or in San Marco in Venice, makes these memories even more special. Every such experience is unique and precious to me.
Describe a classical performance you've attended that you will never forget.
JG: My wife and I heard a magnificent Mahler "Resurrection Symphony" in Carnegie Hall just last month, whetting our appetite for our upcoming performances of that great score in Mexico in July. Performances of the Beethoven Missa Solemnis and Berlioz Requiem conducted by Robert Shaw are seared into my mind. One of the most moving performances I have ever witnessed was the beautiful children of the Young People's Chorus of New York City singing "New York New York" on the stage of Carnegie Hall in December of 2001 before a wounded and fragile audience of New Yorkers.
Any specific recording, of any genre, that you couldn't live without?
JG: I cannot imagine a world without the sound of people singing and I love to hear it live. I feel less passionately about recordings because they never change. When I listen to recordings for anything other than research, I gravitate toward classic rock and roll.
If you were not a conductor, what profession would you see yourself in?
JG: I love to cook for my family and friends, so I imagine I could enjoy cooking for small groups of people. I supported myself for a while doing apartment renovation work and actually enjoyed that a lot, especially the demolition part!
MAY 1, 2010 8:00 PM AT CARNEGIE HALL
New York Choral Society
John Daly Goodwin, conductor
Joyce El Khoury, soprano
Elizabeth Batton, mezzo-soprano
Michele Angelini, tenor
Daniel Mobbs, bass-baritone
BERNSTEIN: Chichester Psalms
JAMES DEMARS: Tito's Say
Tickets, priced $30-$80, are available at the Carnegie Hall Box Office at 57th St & 7th Ave, by calling 212-247-7800 or visiting www.carnegiehall.org