THE WINNIPEG SINGERS
CHANCES ARE GOOD that you know a musician in one of Canada’s finest choral ensembles. After all, Winnipeg is host to more than a few. Take The Winnipeg Singers. Led by conductor Yuri Klaz, the choir has toured Europe and Asia to great fanfare. They are an ensemble on the international stage — but they are our choir, a bedrock of the Winnipeg cultural community whose reputation resonates well beyond.
At this concert, they join the MCO (conducted by Alexander Weimann) to perform Bach’s F major Lutheran Mass, filled with glorious choruses and deeply moving arias. Its name seems like a conundrum. The mass is a Catholic form, while Bach was a strict Lutheran during an era of tense relations between Catholics and Protestants. Some suggest Bach’s masses were designed to strengthen his ties with the Catholic king who had just come to the throne in Dresden. It wouldn’t be the first time a composer wrote something to flatter a royal. Consider Handel’s Water Music suite (1717), which the MCO also performs at this concert. It was written to give the unpopular King George a regal soundtrack to announce his arrival as he floated down the Thames in his royal barge!
All this context is interesting, but these works’ beauty transcends the worldly squabbles and maneuverings that may surround their creation. Bach’s Lutheran Masses are filled with the sincerity and passion that marked his spiritual devotions, and Handel Water Music is a joy from beginning to end. They are timeless works to be enjoyed by all.
The concert begins at 7.30pm on Wednesday, October 26th, in Westminster United Church, 745 Westminster at Maryland. There will be no intermission for this concert. Casual tickets will be available 10 August 2022 here and on MCO’s Ticketline at 204-783-7377.
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Westminster Church in Wolseley
7.30pm, Wednesday, 26 October 2022
Online presentation 8 December 2022
Alexander Weimann, harpsichord / leader
The Winnipeg Singers
Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestral Suite No.1 in C Major, BWV 1066
Johann Sebastian Bach
Lutheran Mass in F Major, BWV 233
The Winnipeg Singers
George Frideric Handel
Water Music Suite No. 1 in F Major, HWV 348
Alexander Weimann is one of the most sought-after ensemble directors, soloists, and chamber music partners of his generation. After travelling the world with ensembles like Tragicomedia, Cantus Cölln, the Freiburger Barockorchester, the Gesualdo Consort and Tafelmusik, he now focuses on his activities as Artistic Director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in Vancouver, and as music director of Les Voix Baroques, Le Nouvel Opéra and Tempo Rubato. Recently, he has conducted the Montreal-based baroque orchestra Ensemble Arion, Les Violons du Roy, and the Portland Baroque Orchestra; both the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec and the Montréal Symphony Orchestra have regularly featured him as soloist. In recent years, he has repeatedly conducted the Victoria Symphony and Symphony Nova Scotia, most recently with Handel’s Messiah.
Alexander Weimann can be heard on over 100 CDs. He made his North American recording debut with the ensemble Tragicomedia on the CD Capritio, and won worldwide acclaim for his 2001 release of Handel’s Gloria. Volume 1 of his recordings of Scarlatti’s complete keyboard works appeared in 2005. Critics worldwide praised it, and in the following year it was nominated for an Opus Prize. Recently, he released an Opus Prize-winning CD of Handel oratorio arias with superstar soprano Karina Gauvin; a recording of Bach’s St. John’s Passion with his Montréal-based ensemble Tempo Rubato; and various albums with Les Voix Baroques of Buxtehude, Carissimi and Purcell. His latest album with Karina Gauvin and Arion Baroque Orchestra won a JUNO Award in 2013. A complete recording of Handel’s Orlando was released in 2013, with an exciting group of international soloists and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra.
Alexander Weimann lives in the Vancouver area with his wife, three children and pets, and tries to spend as much time as possible in his garden and kitchen.
The Winnipeg Singers
The Winnipeg Singers has long been regarded as one of Canada’s finest choral ensembles. The choir’s mandate is to make a diversity of choral music, performed to the highest standard, accessible to a growing audience. The Winnipeg Singers consists of 24 trained voices, performing music that spans the times from the Renaissance to the present. Each year the choir commissions new Canadian works and premieres other new works for its Manitoba audiences. It presents a concert series each year, engaging some of North America’s finest musicians as guests. The Winnipeg Singers have performed joint concerts with such diverse organizations as Shakespeare in the Ruins, The Ron Paley Trio, MusikBarock Ensemble, Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers and Les danseurs de la rivière Rouge. The Singers regularly appear as guests of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, and have given concerts and workshops for local social agencies, business firms, and high schools.
The Winnipeg Singers, established in 1972, has twice been recognized for its excellence in choral music by the Canada Council with the awarding of the Healey Willan prize. The choir is regularly heard on local and national CBC radio. In July 2005, the choir represented Canada at the 6th Taipei International Choral Festival and at the 7th World Symposium on Choral Music in Kyoto. In July 2016, the choir toured Germany, Austria and Italy. At the 2016 International Choral Festival in Florence, Italy, The Winnipeg Singers was recognized with the Most Outstanding Choir award.
Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066
Johann Sebastian Bach
The Baroque-period orchestral suite developed along parallel lines in several countries. Its principal origins lie in France. The first great figure in its history was Jean-Baptiste Lully, who developed the one movement overture (a name derived from the French verb ouvrir, to open) to introduce performances of other, longer works such as operas and ballets. The combination of the overture and instrumental pieces extracted from the larger work, mainly dances, made up another form, the suite (from the verb suivre, to follow).
By Bach’s time, virtually every significant Austro-German composer had written independent overture-suites for large instrumental ensemble (Telemann wrote 600 of them!). Some of Bach’s four surviving examples (it’s likely he composed more) probably date from his years in service to Prince Leopold, others from the later period in Leipzig. No. 1 opens with a substantial Ouverture. A sequence of sometimes energetic, sometimes graceful dances follows. Most of them are in French forms, and they usually appear in pairs, where the first dance returns after the second.
Lutheran Mass BWV 233 in F Major
Johann Sebastian Bach
By the time Bach composed the four brief, so-called ‘Lutheran’ Masses, BWV 233-236 (c. 1738-39), he had virtually given up composing new music to sacred texts. To create the church music of his later years, including the large-scale works Christmas Oratorio and Mass in B Minor, and these shorter Masses, he took music from previously existing, German-language cantatas and matched it up with different, Latin texts. This procedure is known as parody, with no trace of the word’s other, satirical meaning. In the case of this Mass in F Major, his sources included cantatas 11, 40 and 102.
Bach had recently been appointed as church composer to the royal court of Poland and the electoral court of Saxony in Dresden. He may have written the short Masses for the Protestant court services in Dresden, where (and in some other large centres) Latin texts were still used in services on major feast days. Another possibility behind their creation was a commission from his Bohemian Catholic patron, Count Sporck.
The four ‘Lutheran’ Masses have similar structures, pointing to a common purpose and a common period of compilation. The scoring, on the other hand, varies considerably. The F Major calls for three vocal soloists (there is no tenor), four-part chorus, two horns, one each of oboe and bassoon, strings and continuo.
It opens with a lovely Kyrie (Lord, have mercy). Bach featured the horns to brilliant effect in the festive following section, Gloria. The bass soloist is featured in the gently flowing Domine Deus (Lord God), soprano and solo oboe in the heartfelt lament of Qui tollis (Who takes away). Quoniam tu solus (Since only you are holy, countertenor solo) continues the reflective mood, which is joyously put aside in the concluding section, Cum Sancto Spiritu (With the Holy Spirit).
Selections from Water Music Suite No. 1, in F Major, HWV 348
George Frideric Handel
The history of this utterly delightful music—the result of one of those heavenly occasions when a first-rate artist brings all his skills to bear strictly upon providing entertainment—is clouded with uncertainty and legend. Its precise origin may never be known, but such matters pale in comparison with the joy it brings.
Here is one familiar version. Handel secured the prestigious post of Music Director to the court of Georg, Elector of Hanover, Germany, in 1710. Winning huge successes in England around the same time, however, led him to turn his back on his obligations and relocate to London instead. The death of England’s Queen Anne in 1714 threw a wrench into his not-altogether-admirable plans. Through a tangled web of trans channel relationships, her successor proved to be none other than the employer Handel had abandoned in Germany. Handel came to fear that Elector Georg—now King George I—might justifiably hold a grudge against his wandering, unreliable Maestro. He took care to avoid contact with the King for as long as possible.
According to John Mainwaring, Handel’s first biographer, an appropriately international pair of the King’s courtiers, Englishman Lord Burlington and Baron Kilmansegge of Germany (who had been Handel’s protector in Hanover), devised a scheme to reconcile composer and monarch. They persuaded the King to stage an elaborate boating party on the River Thames, to take place on the evening of 22 August 1715.
“Handel was apprised of the design, and advised to prepare some music for the occasion,” Mainwaring wrote. “It was performed and conducted by himself, unknown to His Majesty, whose pleasure on hearing it was equal to his surprise. He was impatient to know whose it was. The Baron then produced the delinquent, and asked leave to present him to His Majesty as one who was too conscious of his fault to attempt an excuse for it. This intercession was accepted without difficulty. Handel was restored to favour.”
Other accounts mention this excursion but do not name Handel as the composer of the music. Similar royal festivities were held over the next two summers. It’s possible that Handel spread the creation of the three enchanting suites for small orchestra known as ‘Handel’s Celebrated Water Music’ among those occasions or even, as related in another well-known and possibly more reliable account, composed them all for a particular royal excursion that took place on 17 July 1717. This version casts doubt on Handel’s ever being out of favour with the King.
A contemporary newspaper account of that occasion reported that the King and his party, in an open barge, “went up the river from Whitehall towards Chelsea. Many other barges with Persons of Quality attended, and so great a Number of Boats, that the whole river in a manner was cover’d; a City Company’s barge was employed for the Musick, wherein were 50 Instruments of all sorts, who play’d all the Way from Lambeth while the Barges drove with the Tide without Rowing, as far as Chelsea the finest Symphonies, compos’d express for this occasion, by Mr. Handel, which his Majesty liked so well, that he caus’d it to be played three times in going and returning.”
A third account was dispatched to Germany by Friedrich Bonet, the Prussian ambassador in London. According to this version, Baron Kilmansegge organized the festivities of July 1717 at his own expense, including the lavish fee of ₤150 for the musicians alone. Bonet related that the music had been specially written “by the famous Handel, a native of Halle and His Majesty’s Principal Court Composer.” Handel may have done so in reply to a request from the Baron. Bonet added further details regarding the event: the party left the royal residence at Whitehall about eight o’clock in the evening, dined at one in the morning and returned to their point of departure three or four hours later. The weather was perfect for the occasion, and “the number of barges and above all of boats filled with people desirous of hearing was beyond counting.”
The Water Music collection is quite varied in character, from a rather formal and substantial Overture to numerous sprightly dances and sweet, relaxed airs. Handel everywhere demonstrates a keen ear for instrumental colour. Together, these qualities keep the music fresh, inventive and diverting from first bar to last.
Handel’s manuscript score has not survived. The music as it is now known was established from printed editions dating from the 1720s through the 1740s. In some early versions, the full score is divided into three suites. Each is dominated by the sounds of particular instruments: No. 1 in F Major by horns; No. 2 in D Major by trumpets; and No. 3 in G Major by flutes.