THE MARTYRDOM OF ST. CECILIA《聖則濟利亞殉道記》
5 December 2016 (Monday) 8:00pm
Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall
Leoš Janáček (1854 – 1928)
Otčenáš (Our Father / Pater Noster)
David Francis Urrows (b. 1957)
The Martyrdom of St. Cecilia (commissioned by the Hong Kong Bach Choir)
Maurice Duruflé (1902 – 1986)
Samantha Chong, Mezzo-soprano 張吟晶, 女中音
David Quah, Tenor 柯大衛, 男高音
Albert Lim, Baritone 林俊, 男中音
Jerome Hoberman, Music Director & Conductor 何博文 音樂總監兼指揮
The Hong Kong Bach Choir & Orchestra 香港巴赫合唱團及管弦樂團
The Hong Kong Bach Choir’s upcoming program in December 2016 offers a kaleidoscope of colorful choral works, all focused on religious mysteries, and includes the world première of a commissioned work.
Leoš Janáček was a Moravian, born in the interstice between Czechs and Slovaks. His lifespan fell between the dying Austro-Hungarian Empire and the nascent Czechoslovak state, just as his career fell between the death of musical common practice and the birth of 20th-century eclecticism. Though he is best known for his operas, the greatest proportion of his catalogue consists of choral works. Like many artists, though religiously sensitive he was a church-avoider, whose sacred works tell us more about him than they do about religion: for Janáček the bread mentioned in Our Father is indeed daily fare, rather than the consecrated wafer of the Eucharist. Otčenáš was composed in 1901, midway through Janáček’s long career, and was previously performed by The Hong Kong Bach Choir in November 2003.
The Martyrdom of St. Cecilia is the second work commissioned by The Hong Kong Bach Choir from Hong Kong composer David Francis Urrows, following Prelude and a Psalm of Francis Thompson, which received its successful première in 2007 and was repeated in 2010. Urrows’ principal teachers were Randall Thompson and Kenneth Leighton; he also studied composition with David Del Tredici and Donald Martino. His compositions are marked by a rational, classical aesthetic and a deeply melodic orientation. The distinguished American composer and critic Arthur Berger identified the main features of Urrows’ creative style when he wrote that ‘Urrows quite consciously and deliberately eschews the current trends used by his fellows – non-tonalism, serialism, aleatory – and quite courageously veers to a neo-classical path somewhat in the manner of young composers in the 1930s. Urrows is an original.’ Dr. Urrows is Associate Professor in the Music Department of Hong Kong Baptist University. As well as a composer he is an organist and musicologist with a twin focus on the history of the organ in China and on the 19th-century German-American composer Otto Dresel. He is the recipient of many awards, including an ASCAP Foundation Grant, the Stratton Prize-Fellowship for Intercultural Achievement, the National Association of Teachers of Singing Art Song Composition Award and frequent ASCAP Special Awards. He was Conductor of The Hong Kong Bach Choir from 1989 to 1991.
The Martyrdom of St. Cecilia is a dramatic cantata based on the life of the 4th-century virgin and martyr celebrated as the Patron Saint of Music. Rather than a simple celebration of music and musicians as are most works associated with her name, the cantata is a dramatization of key events in her life. Its text has been assembled by the composer from The Lives of the Saints by Sabine Baring-Gould, Ode Against St. Cecilia’s Day by George Barker (used by permission), the Passio of St. Cecilia, the Roman Catholic Propers for St. Cecilia’s Day, The Golden Legend (in the translation by William Caxton, and works by the Roman lyric poet Horace.
French composer Maurice Duruflé was among the most illustrious organists of the 20th century, serving as assistant first to Charles Tournemire at Ste-Clotilde and then to Louis Vierne at Notre Dame before being named titular organist of St-Étienne-du-Mont (all in Paris) in 1929, a post he held for the remainder of his life. Among the masterworks whose first performances he gave was Francis Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani, in 1939; he had advised the composer on organ registrations during the compositional process.
Duruflé – like Brahms – was a perfectionist, and his compositions are few, devoted almost exclusively to piano and organ works and to choral music for liturgical use. By far his most famous work is the Requiem, commissioned by the Vichy régime in 1941 but completed and first performed only in 1947, after the War; it is possible that Duruflé delayed its completion to avoid the taint of collaboration. He was a scholar of Gregorian chant, and almost all of the Requiem’s thematic material is based on chant, primarily the Gregorian Mass for the Dead. Like the Requiem of Gabriel Fauré, which it resembles in many respects, Duruflé’s Requiem is meditative, focused on the living rather than on the dead, on consolation rather than on the threat of punishment in the afterlife. To that end, like Fauré, Duruflé omits the ominous Dies irae and adds movements from the Burial Service such as Pie Jesu, Libera me and In Paradisum.
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