A decade ago, Winnipegger Andriana Chuchman was a star voice student at the University of Manitoba. Now, she stars alongside the likes of Placido Domingo on the world’s top opera stages.

It is fitting then that the soprano should return to her roots in this concert, performing The Great Miracle, a favourite Ukrainian Christmas carol by Vasyl Barvinsky. In keeping with the festive spirit, Chuchman will also perform Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate and other seasonally-themed works — including an audience sing-along of The Twelve Days of Christmas! We only hope audiences won’t be too humbled to join in after Chuchman’s tour de force performance of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise.

Mark Morash, Director of Musical Studies for the San Francisco Opera Center, joins us for the first time as a guest conductor.

It’s beginning to look a lot like різдво

Many Winnipeg Ukrainians have maintained their national traditions, while also moving in hybrid directions. Our Christmas concert takes place one month before Ukrainian Christmas, but with many Ukrainian-Canadians celebrating Christmas on December 25th its timing is still pretty seasonal.

The concerts begin at 7:30 pm on December 7th in Westminster United Church, 745 Westminster at Maryland. Tickets are $34 for adults, $32 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).

Click above to add ticket to cart; adjust quantity in cart; click ‘Continue Shopping’ for other tickets.

Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Westminster United Church
7 December 2016

Mark Morash, conductor
Andriana Chuchman, soprano

Jean Sibelius
Andante Festivo

Joseph Haydn
Symphony No. 49, in F Minor — ‘La passione’

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Exsultate Jubilate, K 165

Heitor Villa-Lobos
Bachianas Brasileiras, No. 9

Sergei Rachmaninoff
Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14

Vasyl Barvinsky
The Great Miracle
— arr. by Boyd MacKenzie

Adolphe Adam
O Holy Night

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Presenting sponsor / Carpathia Credit Union
Concert co-sponsors / Dr. Bill Pope & Elizabeth Tippett-Pope and Lawton Partners
Guest artist sponsors / Sandi & Ron Mielitz
Concert media sponsor / Nostalgia Broadcasting Co-operative (CJNU 93.7)

Mark Morash

A former faculty member at the University of Toronto, Mark Morash is a conductor and pianist originally from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. He currently serves as the Director of Musical Studies for the San Francisco Opera Center. He has also led productions and concerts with the Merola Opera Program and Western Opera Theater. In recent years, Morash has also led performances of Rigoletto with Opera Colorado as well as Don Giovanni and The Turn of the Screw for the Lincoln Theater in Yountville, California. His work with the San Francisco Opera Center has included such varied repertoire as Così fan tutte, Die Fledermaus, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Donizetti’s Rita, Pasatieri’s The Seagull, Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona and Ibert’s Angélique. As a collaborative pianist, Morash’s performances have taken him throughout North America, Japan and Russia. He has collaborated with such renowned artists as Michael Schade, Tracy Dahl and Sheri Greenawald, and he has accompanied numerous emerging singers in San Francisco Opera Center’s esteemed Schwabacher Debut Recitals. Morash has also been involved with the Opera Center of Pittsburgh Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, the Banff Centre, and Hawaii Opera Theater.

Mark can play that really cool piano riff from Billy Joel’s song “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant.”

Andriana Chuchman

Last season, soprano Andriana Chuchman made her debuts at the Los Angeles Opera as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, Dallas Opera as Magnolia in Show Boat, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as Boonyi in Shalimar the Clown, and returned to the Manitoba Opera as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro. She also sang Handel’s Messiah with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Orff’s Carmina Burana and the world premiere of Larysa Kuzmenko’s Golden Harvest with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and appeared in recital in Toronto.

Recent engagements have included Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore, Miranda in The Enchanted Island, Gretel in Hansel and Gretel; Valencienne in The Merry Widow at the Metropolitan Opera; Gretel on the Glyndebourne Festival Tour; Magnolia at the Washington National Opera; John Adams’ A Flowering Tree at the Opera Omaha; Guinevere in Camelot at the Glimmerglass Festival; Yum-Yum in The Mikado; Cleopatra in Guilio Cesare; staged performances of Orff’s Carmina Burana at the Michigan Opera Theater; Minka in Le Roi le Malgra at the Bard Music Festival; the title role in Flora, an Opera, and Irma in Louise at the Spoleto Festival USA, and Alinda in Giasone and Dorinda in Orlando at the Chicago Opera Theater.

A graduate of the Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Ms Chuchman has appeared on the opera company’s mainstage as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Yum-Yum, Valencienne, and in their productions of Die Frau ohne Shatten and Manon. She also sang student matinee performances of L’Elisir d’Amore and Le Nozze di Figaro. Also a member of the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, Ms Chuchman appeared there as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro, Carolina in Il Matrimonio Segreto, and as Blanche in excerpts of Dialogues of the Carmelites and Clorinda in excerpts from La Cenerentola.

In concert, Ms Chuchman has appeared with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in performances of the Brahms Requiem, the Rhode Island Philharmonic in Orff’s Carmina Burana, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, the Ravinia Festival as a guest on the Prairie Home Companion radio show, and with the International Music Foundation of Chicago in performances of Handel’s Messiah.

In her native Canada, Ms Chuchman recently made her debut at the Canadian Opera Company as Olympia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann. She has also appeared at the Edmonton Opera as Yum-Yum and Marie in La Fille du Regiment, and at the Manitoba Opera as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte. Concert performances have included engagements with the Toronto Symphony, Prince George Symphony, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

Andante festivo
Jean Sibelius

Side by side with Sibelius’s epic symphonies and tone poems rests a series of shorter, lighter works. He devoted as much care to them as he did to his more ambitious creations; only the scale is different.

In 1922, the owners of a factory in a Finnish city, Säynätsalo, commissioned him to compose a celebratory cantata for the twenty-fifth anniversary of their building. He responded with the brief Andante festivo for string quartet instead. He prepared this version for string orchestra eight years later.

Its purity, nobility and passion have led some writers to call it the closest he came to making a religious statement in music. (Is the final cadence an Amen?) These qualities have led to its being performed on state occasions in Finland.

On New Year’s Day, 1939, the seventy-three-year-old composer, who had not conducted an orchestra for more than a decade, led the Finnish Radio Orchestra in an especially intense performance of this piece. That was the last time he stood in front of an orchestra. Beamed by short-wave radio to the World’s Fair in New York, it was recorded on a wax cylinder. It is the only recorded example of his conducting.

Symphony No. 49 in F Minor—La Passione
Joseph Haydn

When Haydn began composing symphonies in the late 1750s, little distinction existed between multi-sectioned opera overtures and symphonies written for concert performance. One of his primary accomplishments was to chart an independent course for the symphony. In his more than 100 examples of the genre, he raised it to the summit of its artistic value.

He composed his initial 15 or so symphonies during the three years he spent working for his first employer, Bohemian nobleman Count Karl Joseph Franz von Morzin. In 1761, after Morzin disbanded his orchestra due to financial difficulties, Haydn took up the position of Vice-Kapellmeister to an even wealthier and more influential family, the Esterházys of Hungary. His numerous responsibilities included composing operas, symphonies, chamber, and vocal music, and maintaining the court orchestra and library. Having a superb orchestra to work with provided a crucial tool in his quest to expand the contents and meaning of the symphony. What more could a composer ask than to have his new pieces played immediately by a crack ensemble?

Between approximately 1768 and 1772, he composed a number of urgent, dramatic works in minor keys, Symphony No. 49 among them. This is often referred to as his Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) period, mirroring an emotionally similar and slightly later movement in German literature. Symphony No. 49 dates from 1768. It would most likely have been premiered shortly after he completed it, under his direction, by the Esterházy court orchestra.

It may contain links to Easter. Its nickname, ‘La Passione,’ which was applied anonymously at a later date, has several other possible sources, including an origin in incidental music for a stage drama, or simply its deeply serious character.

Its sequence of movements is unusual. It opens with a dark, grieving slow movement, one that the eminent Haydn scholar H.C. Robbins Landon feels may suggest “the winding line of penitents before the Cross.” Haydn follows it with three quick movements. For maximum effectiveness and to skirt any possibility of monotony, he places the stately Minuet (its gentle central Trio is the symphony’s sole music in a major key) between two brisk, fiercely dramatic movements.

Exsultate, jubilate, K 165
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart set out on what proved to be his third and final visit to Italy in October 1772. The sixteen-year-old composer bore with him the first sketches for Lucio Silla, an opera he had been commissioned to write for the 1772 Milanese carnival. The opera’s premiere on 26 December at the Regio Ducal Teatro found great favour.

Much credit for this was due to the castrato singer Venanzio Rauzzini. Mozart admired the brilliance and agility of his voice, and gladly agreed to compose a work showcasing these vocal traits. “I am about to write a motet for the primo uomo, which is to be produced at the Theatine Church tomorrow,” he wrote in a postscript to a letter from his father to his mother. He composed the motet ‘Exsultate, jubilate’ in January 1773. Rauzzini performed the premiere on January 17. The author of the motet’s non-liturgical Latin text is unknown.

Nothing save brilliance and energy radiates from the outer sections. An orchestral introduction, delightfully coloured by oboe and horn flourishes, precedes the opening aria, ‘Exsultate, jubilate’ (Exult, rejoice). Mozart reinforces the motet’s resemblance to an instrumental concerto through a brief solo cadenza. After a compact recitative, the second and considerably longer aria, ‘Tu virginum corona, tu nobis pacem dona’ (Crown of all virgins, grant us peace) is launched in its gentle, consoling way. Mozart aptly pares back the scoring to strings and organ. The full ensemble is restored to support the enchanting concluding Alleluja, whose style leans toward popular music. One of Mozart’s best-known vocal compositions, it is frequently performed on its own.

The entire motet contains a good deal of vocal coloratura. To modern ears, such showy brilliance, inspired by Rauzzini’s operatic prowess, might appear out of place in a church work. Audiences of Mozart’s time would have found it neither surprising nor offensive given that no distinction was made between sacred and secular musical styles, and places of worship were typically decorated with completely secular paintings.

Bachianas brasileiras, No. 9
Heitor Villa-Lobos

The music of Bach is the very heart and soul of Brazil. Throughout his long, astonishingly active career, nurturing all things Brazilian remained his primary goal. He spent his early years travelling throughout his country’s vast hinterland, playing the cello, studying native music on location, and composing original works in vast quantities. As a mature artist, he composed hundreds more pieces in every imaginable form, conducted orchestras, bands and choirs, became deeply involved in musical education, and generally served as Brazil’s unofficial musical ambassador to the world.

Villa-Lobos idolized Johann Sebastian Bach, writing “[t]he music of Bach is without question the most sacred gift to the world of art.” While working on transcriptions of compositions by Bach (such as a selection of preludes and fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier, which he arranged for chorus or an orchestra of cellos), Villa-Lobos noticed similarities between them and Brazilian folk music. This inspired him to create nine suites for various instruments in tribute to Bach. They combine original themes in Brazilian folk style with Bach’s European Baroque composition methods. This is the origin of their collective name, Bachianas brasileiras. Villa-Lobos considered them “the kind of music the Leipzig master might have written had he been born a twentieth-century Brazilian composer.” Many of the movements bear two titles. The first is related to traditional European forms, and the second to the popular music of Brazil.

He initially composed Bachianas brasil­eiras No. 9 (1945) for what he called “an orchestra of voices.” When that version proved too challenging for most choirs, he produced the edition for string orchestra that you will hear at this concert. Consisting, à la Bach, of a prelude and fugue, Bachianas brasileiras No. 9 is the most Baroque-orientated piece in the collection. Villa-Lobos strengthened the integration of the sections—the slow, stately Prelude, and the vigorous, rhythmically intriguing Fugue—by basing them on the same theme.

Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14
Sergei Rachmaninoff

It is ironic that out of Rachmaninoff’s more than 70 songs, the one that has become the most popular is the only one that does not have words: this haunting, intensely beautiful Vocalise. It comes from a collection of 14 songs composed between 1910 and 1912. As he often did, he tailored it to the voice of a singer he knew personally. In this case it was Antonina Nezhdanova, coloratura soloist with the Moscow Grand Opera. A vocalise is usually a piece designed strictly as a training exercise for the voice. Rachmaninoff conceived this example more as a wordless aria. He prepared an arrangement for orchestra in 1915, while other hands have prepared many further transcriptions.

The Great Miracle
Vasyl Barvinsky

Barvinsky received his musical education in Lviv and Prague, after which he taught music at the Lysenko Higher Institute of Music in Lviv from 1915 to 1939. From 1939 to 1941, and again from 1941 to 1948, he taught at the Lviv Conservatory. He was highly active in the promotion of Lviv’s musical life and served as the President of the Union of Ukrainian Professional Musicians. In 1948, he was sentenced by the Soviet authorities to ten years’ imprisonment. Released in 1958, he spent most of his remaining years trying to reconstruct his works, which had been destroyed at the time of his arrest. He was posthumously “rehabilitated,” politically speaking, in 1964. His musical style is decidedly neo-romantic, with a touch of impressionism. He created some 30 works in all, instrumental and vocal alike. He also produced arrangements of many Ukrainian folk songs. The lovely Christmas carol, The Great Miracle (also known as Oh, What a Miracle), is one of his best-known works.