Two-time JUNO award-winner
Recognized internationally for her work in the baroque repertoire, Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin also sings Bach, Mahler, Britten, and music of the 20th and 21st centuries with equal success. However, she is most often associated with one composer in particular: George Frideric Handel.
Happily for us, Gauvin will sing arias from two of his early operas: Alcina and Giulio Cesare. Anne Manson describes Gauvin as “one of the greatest interpreters of Handel of our day.”
Moving along, time-wise, we will also hear Mozart’s Divertimento and a contemporary work by composer Pierre Jalbert.
One of the works nestled between glorious Handel arias is Autumn Rhapsody by the American composer Pierre Jalbert. Jalbert’s inspiration for the piece was “the autumn landscape in Vermont, when the trees present a multi-colored tapestry, and the wind begins to blow colder …”
The magnificent trees in Winnipeg should be sporting their own multi-coloured tapestry when the MCO season opens with this delightful concert!
The concert begins at 7:30 pm on September 16th in Westminster United Church, 745 Westminster at Maryland. Tickets are $30 for adults, $28 for seniors and $10 for students, including GST, at McNally Robinson, the West End Cultural Centre (586 Ellice at Sherbrook), Organic Planet (877 Westminster Ave) or MCO’s Ticketline (204.783.7377).
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Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director and Conductor
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Westminster United Church
16 September 2014
Karina Gauvin, soprano
THE BUHLER CONCERT
George Frideric Handel
V’adoro pupille, Piangero la sorte mia & Da tempeste il legno infranto, from Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Divertimento In F Major For Strings, K 138 (125c)
George Frideric Handel
Tornami a vagheggiar and Ah, mio cor, from Alcina
Guest artist sponsor / Wynward Insurance Group
Music sponsor / Caisse Financial Group
Concertmaster sponsor / The Prolific Group
Print media sponsor / Winnipeg Free Press
Radio media sponsors / CBC Radio 2 98.3, CBC Radio One 990,
Espace musique 89,9, Classic 107.1 FM and Golden West Radio
Opera News has stated that “Gauvin knows how to rivet an audience in opera and concert,” and “her soprano voice is like a clear, refreshing and inexhaustible spring … ”
Recognized for her work in the baroque repertoire, Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin sings Bach, Mahler, Britten and the music of the 20th and 21st centuries with equal success. The distinctions she has received include ‘Soloist of the Year’ from the Communauté internationale des radios publiques de langue française, first prize in the CBC Radio competition for young performers, the Virginia Parker Prize and the Maggie Teyte Memorial Prize in London.
She has sung with the greatest symphony orchestras, including the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the San Francisco Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the New York Philharmonic and the Rotterdam Philharmonic, as well as baroque orchestras such as Les Talens Lyriques, the Venice Baroque Orchestra, Accademia Bizantina, Il Complesso Barocco, the Akademie Für Alte Musik Berlin, the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, and Les Violons du Roy. She has performed under the direction of Charles Dutoit, Michael Tilson Thomas, Bernard Labadie, Christophe Rousset, Alan Curtis, Sir Roger Norrington, Kent Nagano, Semyon Bychkov, Helmut Rilling and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. She has also given recitals with pianists Marc-André Hamelin, Angela Hewitt, Michael McMahon and Roger Vignoles.
She was Alcina (Handel) with Les Talens Lyriques and Ariadne in Georg Conradi’s Die Schöne und getreue Ariadne for the Boston Early Music Festival. She has sung Seleuce in Handel’s Tolomeo with Alan Curtis, with whom she also recorded Handel operas on ARCHIV/Deutsche Grammophon, Virgin and Naïve labels, among others. She has performed in Tito Manlio (Vivaldi) in Brussels and at the Barbican in London, in Ezio (Handel) in Paris and Vienna, in Giulio Cesare (Handel) in Paris and Vienna, as well as in Juditha Triumphans (Vivaldi) with Andrea Marcon at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Her performances with the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra earned her nominations at the Grammy Awards in 2007 and 2009.
Karina Gauvin’s extensive discography — over 30 titles — has won numerous awards, including a ‘Chamber Music America Award’ for her Fête Galante disc with pianist Marc-André Hamelin, and several Opus Prizes.
In addition to other projects, two European tours and recordings (Handel’s Ariodante and Guilio Cesare), Karina Gauvin recently performed the Princess in Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges with the Rotterdam Philharmonic and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and she sang in Bach’s Johannes-Passion with Les Violons du Roy and Bernard Labadie on tour in Canada and then at Carnegie Hall. Current and future seasons promise to be exciting: she sang Armida in Handel’s Rinaldo at the Glyndebourne Festival in August, 2014, and will sing Giunone in Cavalli’s Callisto at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Vitellia in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, and Armide in Gluck’s Armide with the Netherlands Opera.
Pierre Jalbert (b. 1967) is one of the most highly regarded American composers of his generation, earning widespread notice for his richly coloured and superbly crafted scores. Focusing primarily on instrumental works, Jalbert has developed a musical language that is engaging, expressive, and deeply personal. Among his many honours are the Rome Prize, the BBC Masterprize, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Stoeger Award (given biennially ‘in recognition of significant contributions to the chamber music repertory’), and a 2010 American Academy of Arts and Letters award.
Following undergraduate studies in piano and composition at Oberlin Conservatory, Jalbert earned a PhD in Composition at the University of Pennsylvania under principal teacher George Crumb. He won the Rome Prize in 2001, and also earned the BBC Masterprize that year for his orchestral work In Aeternam, selected from among more than 1,100 scores by a jury that included Marin Alsop, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, and Sir Charles Mackerras.
Although Jalbert’s music is not programmatic, he draws inspiration from a variety of sources, including natural phenomena and his own spirituality.
His compositions are tonally centered, incorporating modal, tonal and sometimes quite dissonant harmonies while retaining a sense of harmonic motion and arrival. Recent performances of his work include those by the Boston Symphony under Sean Newhouse and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra under Marin Alsop. His compositions have also been warmly embraced by the chamber music world, with performances by the Borromeo Chiara, Enso, Jasper, Maia and Ying String Quartets, and violinist Midori.
Pierre Jalbert is Professor of Composition and Theory at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music in Houston, where he has taught since 1996, and he serves as an artistic director of Musiqa, a Houston-based contemporary chamber ensemble.
‘Giulio Cesare in Egitto’
(Julius Caesar in Egypt), HWV 17
George Frideric Handel
Handel developed into a true cosmopolitan, an enormously skilled composer who wove together the various musical threads of his time into a rich and varied personal style. He began absorbing influences early in his career, spending time in Germany (his homeland) and then in Italy.
During the second decade of the eighteenth century he settled in England, there to remain and there to win his greatest fame and influence. One of his reasons for locating there was the popularity of a type of music with which he was already quite familiar, and through which he had won great success: Italian‑style opera.
Over the next 30 years, he devoted most of his creative energies to supplying English audiences with that type of piece. For most of that period, London’s music lovers received his operas enthusiastically, with Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Ariodante, and Serse proving especially popular. With them he gradually overtook Giovanni Bononcini as the most popular operatic composer of the day.
The ornate style he championed gradually lost popularity and he suffered greatly in financial terms because of this. One reason was that English audiences wanted to hear something in their own language. They came to prefer down-to-earth English-language comedies such as The Beggar’s Opera (1728). They also switched their major preference from opera to oratorio. Handel finally twigged to the trend and regained his fame through works such as Messiah (1742).
His opera Giulio Cesare in Egitto premiered in London in 1724. Based on the history of the first century BC, it follows the mighty Roman warrior and statesman Julius Caesar as he journeys to Egypt in pursuit of his rival, Pompey, and to secure the country as a reliable food source for the Roman Empire. He has an affair with Cleopatra, who seeks to become the sole ruler of Egypt by disposing of her brother and co-ruler, Tolomeo. In Act Two she sings the gloriously sensuous aria V’adoro, pupille (I adore you, eyes) as she attempts to seduce Caesar. Handel gave it an exotic ‘Middle Eastern’ sound through an imaginative use of plucked and strummed string instruments.
In Act Three, Cleopatra is put in chains after a quarrel with Tolomeo. She expresses her despair in the poignant aria Piangero la sorte mia (I shall lament my fate). Her mood shifts abruptly and briefly to fury when she considers how she will haunt her foes after she is dead. She sings the aria Da tempeste il legno infranto (When the ship, broken by storms) later in Act Three. In it she spectacularly expresses her happiness that Caesar has survived a fall from a palace window and has returned to her.
The composer has provided the following note:
Autumn Rhapsody was commissioned and premiered by the Vermont Symphony for their 2008 fall tour. The piece is inspired by the autumn landscape in Vermont, when the trees present a multi-colored tapestry, and the wind begins to blow colder than summer. One of my favourite places in Vermont is on the Long Trail, on the top of Mount Belvidere, near Jay Peak. There’s a fire tower on top which one can climb up and see the surrounding mountains of Vermont and Canada for many miles. I grew up near this spot and had this image in mind when starting work on this piece.
Written for string orchestra, the piece, all in one continuous movement, begins with a slow, lyrical and somewhat mysterious music. The music is very still, creating a sense of suspended time. This gradually gives way to a faster, more animated, and energetic music (“the wind begins to blow colder than summer”). This section is characterized by strings playing measured tremolos; the rapid, rhythmic movement of the bow across the strings. This builds to a furious climax until suddenly dissipating and the opening returns, but only for a brief moment.
All through my formative years in Vermont, I studied piano and composition with Arlene Cleary. She was an extremely energetic and tireless advocate for music, always striving to make herself a better musician, and helped me to do so, as well. This piece is dedicated to her.
Divertimento in F Major, K. 138
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ever the practical composer, Mozart never hesitated to write music designed solely to entertain. He did so with as much skill and taste as anyone ever has, and without compromising his magnificent creative gifts in the slightest.
His works in this vein include marches and sets of dances — minuets, German dances, country dances and so on —— plus serenades, divertimentos, cassations and notturnos. These last terms were virtually interchangeable, referring to light-hearted, multi-movement pieces designed as background music for fancy aristocratic functions, name-days and birthdays, betrothals and weddings, ends of university terms, carnivals and so on.
Within this area of his catalogue lies a remarkable range of material. Some of it, such as the work you’ll hear tonight, is as light as a feather. Others, especially the Serenade for winds in C Minor, are remarkably sombre. He also created works of virtually symphonic breadth and grandeur, such as the magnificent orchestral serenades nicknamed ‘Haffner’ and ‘Posthorn.’ Symphonic indeed — he regularly plucked movements from them to produce concert symphonies. Other large-scale Mozart diversions include the Gran Partita for winds in B-flat Major, and the Divertimento in E-flat Major for string trio, whose richness and ample proportions belie its fluffy title.
The sixteen-year-old Mozart composed a set of three divertimenti, of which k 138 is the last, in his native Salzburg during the early months of 1772. He had recently returned from his second trip to Italy. Leopold, his ever-practical, ever-ambitious father, wisely felt that establishing a reputation in that most musical of lands could only enhance his son’s ability to develop his miraculous gifts to their fullest and most lucrative degree. Wolfgang arrived back in Salzburg bearing a commission for a new opera, Lucio Silla, which was to be premiered in Milan.
Why he wrote the divertimenti remains a mystery. He may have planned to take them along on his return trip, hoping like any clever, self-employed entrepreneur that they would (a) bolster his fame, especially since he had taken care to give them gracious, tuneful Italianate features that he felt sure would please that country’s music lovers; and (b) remove some of the pressure he felt likely to come his way to write such ‘occasional’ music during the hectic period leading up to the premiere of the new opera.
They share two unusual features: each has three movements, rather than the four or more that were typical of a divertimento or serenade, and Mozart scored them for strings alone, rather than the standard mixed-instrument ensemble. He may have intended them to be performed by individual players, as string quartets. It is possible that they are the works that his father, Leopold, offered to the publisher Breitkopf in February 1772 — without success. In recent times they have been played most often by a larger group of strings — as will be done tonight.
No record remains of their first performances. One likely possibility is that they debuted in the luxurious private salon of Count Firmian, Governor General of Milan. Mozart had met this generous music lover during his earlier visit. What is known for sure is that Lucio Silla knocked ‘em dead when it first hit the boards on 26 December. Twenty performances followed before Mozart returned to Salzburg in March 1773.
This Divertimento in F Major begins with a lively and melodious Allegro. The following Andante flows gently, radiating sweetness. A lively and hearty Presto, given added appeal through Mozart’s charming use of pizzicato, concludes this truly ‘diverting’ work.
Selections from Alcina, HWV 34
George Frideric Handel
Handel’s opera Alcina premiered in London on 16 April 1735, during the inaugural season of the new opera house in Covent Garden. It enjoyed a successful run of 18 performances through 2 July, the close of the season. The first modern-day revival took place in Leipzig, Germany in 1828. The lofty reputation it enjoys today flowed primarily from a 1957 production in London. It scored monumental success through the performance of Joan Sutherland in the title role.
The anonymous libretto was drawn from Ludovico Ariosto’s epic, early sixteenth-century poem, Orlando Furioso (Mad Orlando). The setting is an island where Alcina and Morgana live, two sisters who are also sorceresses. In Act One, Alcina tells Morgana that she plans to turn the handsome knight Ruggiero, whom they are holding captive, into an animal. Morgana begs him to flee the island and Alcina’s clutches, but he says he’d rather stay, as he loves another. Morgana believes that this other person is herself, and the act ends with her spirited and triumphant aria Tornami a vagheggiar (Return to me to languish). When Handel revised the opera in 1736, he transferred this aria (which he borrowed from an early work of his, the cantata O come chiare e belle) to the role of Alcina. Alcina sings the two-part aria Ah, mio cor (Ah, my heart) in Act Two, after she finds out that Ruggiero has escaped from her. In it she expresses both her sorrow and her anger. This is one of the longest and most demanding arias in any Handel opera.