"Alnight by the Rose" was recorded at St. James Cathedral, Seattle, Washington October 15 - November 5, 2000.
The subject of love has captivated and inspired poets and composers throughout recorded history. The worship and love of God as an expression of humankind's link with the divine is represented in a multitude of choral and vocal works, spanning millennia. And poets writing of earthly love have been no less prolific, creating a rich body of work to rouse the emotions of performers and listeners alike.
During the 15th century, the Burgundian provinces (today comprising the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France) were the center of European music, producing some of the most important and influential composers of the era - notably Guillaume Dufay. During his lifetime, Dufay was regarded as the greatest composer in Europe. As a young man, he served as a singer and composer in the papal choir in Rome, and later worked for some of the most important courts in Italy and Burgundy. He was constantly sought after as a teacher, and virtually every 15th-century composer was affected by his writing. Ave regina caelorum is a paean of praise to the Virgin Mary, significant as a focal point of veneration and divine love. The veneration of the Virgin Mary is exemplified in a more obscure fashion in the text of Gedeonis area. Gideon's fleece and the burning bush are taken as prefigurations of the virgin birth.The other images refer to the paradox of a created being giving birth to the creator.
Hildegard von Bingen is one of the few 12th-century composers whom we know by name, and about whose life we have any information. So famous that she had two biographers during her lifetime, Hildegard's career and sphere of influence spanned music, poetry, healing, science, politics and the church. Born to noble parents in 1098 near Mainz, Germany, in her mid-teens she entered the convent attached to the monastery of St. Disibod. She learned music and Latin by reading and singing the daily office - not through formal study, as did her male counterparts.While Hildegard would refer to herself in later life as being "unlearned," this was not entirely true: As a woman she would not have received formal schooling, but as a cloistered nun she certainly was intimately familiar with the extensive sung liturgy of the Benedictine order. Throughout her life she had been subject to visions, which enabled her to see hidden things. In 1141, she saw a vision of tongues of flame and received a divine call which commanded her to "tell and write" what she saw and heard in her visions. It was at this point that she began to write down her visions via poetry and music, which were collected together as the Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum (Symphony of the Harmony of Celestial Revelations). She also wrote encyclopedic works on natural science and the healing arts, a glossary of a secret language (the Lingua Ignota), and maintained an extensive correspondence totaling hundreds of letters. She firmly believed that all of her music and writings were given to her directly from God, through her visions. Most of her music was certainly intended for the nuns of her convent. It is likely that much of it was sung by a small group of nuns, while the most complex pieces might have been sung by a soloist, and the simpler antiphons sung by the entire community of up to fifty nuns.
The abundant riches of Hildegard's poetry are beautifully matched in her highly unusual and florid musical language. Her music is generally through-composed, rather than relying on conventional strophic forms, thus it is at all times responsive to the meaning of her texts. The vocal range of her music is extreme by 12th-century standards, regularly extending to two full octaves and sometimes beyond. The power of Hildegard's musical and poetic imagery still speak strongly to us today, resulting in an explosion of performances and recordings of her music over the past twenty years.The strength of her vision and writings also has an influence on 20th-century composers, as evidenced by the works of Frank Ferko, among others.
Frank Ferko is established as one of Chicago's leading composers. His works have been performed by many distinguished artists and also through the sponsorship of New Music Chicago, the Chicago Composers' Consortium and the American Composers Forum. Mr. Ferko has received the 1989-1990 American Guild of Organists /Holtkamp Award and annual ASCAP awards since 1989. In 1997 the Dale Warland Singers awarded him their choral commission in the New Choral Works Program for Emerging Composers. Frank Ferko's compositions based on his research on the life, music and writings of Hildegard von Bingen have recently gained international attention.
Mr. Ferko writes of his music:
" 'The Hildegard Motets' were composed in 1992 and 1993 as a commissioned work to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Chicago chamber choir His Majestie's Clerkes. In 'O verbum Patris,' a solo voice praises the work of the Creator - in a slow-moving, rising melodic line with each of the notes sustained by the women's voices - rather like large droplets of water falling into a pool. The men's voices, and eventually the entire chorus, enter as the unfolding of a large, blooming flower. The motet concludes with the return of the solo voice singing the opening phrases in inversion, thus giving the impression that the music is constantly doubling back on itself in a kind of cycle or continuum. 'O splendidissima gemma' is based on a poem praising Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Set in a rousing 12/8 meter, the music is derived from the words 'a fountain leaping' found in this text. The music of 'Laus Trinitati' is based on the number "3," in direct relation to the text. Three melodic ideas are presented - often heard three times in each presentation - within the context of a triple meter (again 12/8). At first the melodic ideas are presented in succession, but then they are placed one on top of another until all three are sounding simultaneously to represent the Trinity as three persons in one God."
Arvo Pärt was born in Estonia in 1935, studied at the Tallin Conservatory, and worked as a sound engineer for the Estonian radio from 1958-67. In 1980 he immigrated to Vienna, and then to Berlin, where he has lived since 1982. His early music from the 1950s and 1960s consists mostly of serial works, although he also wrote film music and participated in avant-garde "happenings" in the late 1960s. After writing Credo in 1968, Pärt entered a period of self-imposed compositional silence during which he made an intense study of medieval music. The product of this introspective period is the "tintinnabuli style," which Pärt began using in 1976 and which defines all of his recent music. He describes "tintinnabuli style" as a process which begins with two voices: One uses a fixed set of pitches (usually the three pitches of a minor triad), and the other voice is free. The two voices are separate yet simultaneously interdependent, and their combination creates one entity from which consonance and dissonance results. The non-changing voice arpeggiates a triad which rings constantly throughout the piece, against which free-flowing chant lines constantly weave. The style has been compared to the ringing of bells, in which the resulting overtones create their own rich set of consonant and dissonant sounds. In the Magnificat, six voices alternate the ringing of a constant F minor chord, sometimes expressed only as a single note. This simple triad combines with chant lines distributed among the various voices, creating a constant fluctuation of pitch within an impression of harmonic stasis.
Medieval Lyrics by Karen P. Thomas are settings of 14th -and 15th-century English lyric poetry describing the delights of love. The work was commissioned by Seattle Pro Musica for its 20th Anniversary season (1992-93), and was premiered in 1993. In 1994 the composer made a transcription of the work for the Hilliard Ensemble, which they have performed in numerous concerts and radio broadcasts.
The Italian madrigal of the 16th century is regarded as the most important compositional genre of the late Renaissance. By 1540 it had achieved such popularity that virtually every professional composer in Italy wrote madrigals by the dozens, and many avowed amateurs had madrigals published. Many of these works were intended for use by accomplished amateur singers in their homes. Others, however, posed greater vocal challenges and were composed for performance by professional singers employed by the nobility. Madrigals were written in a free, through-composed form that corresponded with the free verse form of madrigalian poetry, each section of music illustrating a single phrase of text. Most of the poetry dealt with love in various forms: sentimental, passionate or erotic. A common theme in much madrigalian poetry is the metaphorical use of fire, flame and burning to describe love's effects.
Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, represents one of the most original voices of the 16th century. His unique harmonic voice, exemplified by extreme chromaticism and "wandering" tonality, disturbed his contemporaries and even today can strike modern ears as surprisingly dissonant. His is a style of extreme mannerisms: The poetry is darkly intense and obsessed with the equivalence of life and death, pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow. His rich chromatic wanderings and elusive rhythms are expressive of the torment and opposition in the texts. By all accounts, his later years were not spent happily: In 1590, upon discovering his wife and her lover in flagranti delicto, he had them both murdered. After a second marriage and the death of his four-year-old son, he spent much of the rest of his life in seclusion, suffering from guilt, melancholia and fits of madness. Dolcissima mia vita exemplifies the rich chromatic harmony and word painting which distinguish Gesualdo's style: Witness the rapid ascending scales on the word foco (fire) and the slow descent at the end of the piece on the word morire (death) as each voice drops away.
One of the most innovative and accomplished masters of the madrigal was Claudio Monteverdi. He published eight books of secular madrigals over a period of fifty years, each one representing a different stage in the development of his compositional style. In the fourth and fifth books we observe the madrigal at its zenith: Monteverdi's clarity of line and careful use of word painting create a sensitive expression of the poetry, resulting in a collection of miniature masterpieces. Sí, ch'io vorrei morire is notable for the use of bold melodic and harmonic gestures which clearly exemplify the emotions of the text.
Morten Lauridsen, Composer-in-Residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and longtime Chair of the Composition Department at the University of Southern California, is one of America's most widely performed composers. His six vocal cycles - Les Chansons des Roses, Mid-Winter Songs, Madrigali: Six "FireSongs" on Italian Renaissance Poems, Cuatro Canciones, A Winter Come and Lux Æterna - have become standard works in the literature and are featured regularly by distinguished ensembles and soloists throughout the world. His O Magnum Mysterium has had thousands of performances since its premiere in 1994 by Maestro Paul Salamunovich and the Los Angeles Mater Chorale. Dirait-on (from Les Chansons des Roses) and O Magnum Mysterium have become the all-time best-selling choral octavos distributed by Theodore Presser, in business since 1783. Lauridsen's works have been widely recorded, including RCM's Grammy-nominated, all-Lauridsen CD by the Los Angeles Master Chorale in 1998. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Mr. Lauridsen divides his time between Los Angeles and his summer home on a remote island off the northern coast of Washington State.
Mr. Lauridsen writes:
"The choral masterpieces of the High Renaissance, especially the sacred works of Josquin and Palestrina and the secular madrigals of Monteverdi and Gesualdo, provided the inspiration for my own 'Madrigali.' Italian love poems of that era have constituted a rich lyric source for many composers, and while reading them I became increasingly intrigued by the symbolic imagery of flames, burning and fire that recurred. I decided to compose an intensely dramatic a cappella cycle based on Renaissance poems employing this motif while blending stylistic musical features of the period within a contemporary compositional idiom. In doing so I wanted the music to emanate (like ripples from a pebble thrown into a pond) from a single, primal sonority - one dramatic chord that would encapsulate the intensity of the entire cycle and which would provide a musical motivic unity to complement the poetic. This sonority, which I've termed the 'Fire-Chord,' opens the piece and is found extensively throughout all six movements in myriad forms and manipulations...the 'Madrigali' are designed in an arch form with significant sharing of materials between movements one and six, two and five. The cycle has its dramatic high point in movement four, 'Io Piango,' where the music gradually builds from pianissimo to a fortissimo, seven-part explosion of the 'Fire-Chord' before settling to a quiet return of the opening measures."
Liner Notes by Karen P. Thomas
Seattle Pro Musica, winner of the 1995 ASCAP/Chorus America Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music, is a critically-acclaimed and award-winning choral ensemble, recognized as one of the Pacific Northwest's finest choral organizations. Under the direction of Karen P. Thomas, Seattle Pro Musica produces and performs an annual concert series in the Northwest, in addition to touring and performing by invitation at music conventions and other concert series. With a repertoire ranging from medieval chant to world premieres of works by living composers, Seattle Pro Musica is known for its unique and innovative programming, as well as its sensitive interpretations of early and modern music. Critics have praised the group for its precision, its fine-tuned balance and the beauty of its choral sound.
Karen P. Thomas, composer and conductor, is the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Seattle Pro Musica. Her conducting repertoire includes a wide variety of choral and orchestral music, from early music performed on period instruments to world premieres of new works. Guest conducting engagements have taken her to various locations, including the Bergen International Music Festival in Norway. Her numerous compositions are performed and broadcast throughout the United States, Europe and Latin America by international performers such as the Hilliard Ensemble. Ms.Thomas is a recipient of grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, ASCAP, New Langton Arts, and Artist Trust, among others.
Recording, editing and mastering: Sarah Holberg, Roger Sherman and Bill Levey at e.power productions www.epowerproductions.com
Booklet design: Magrit Baurecht Front illustration: Elida Rose by Rebecca Allen
Keith Axelsen, President, Seattle Pro Musica Leigh Falconer, Assistant Conductor Liz Reed, booklet editing
St. James Cathedral: The Most Reverend Alexander J. Brunett, Archbishop of Seattle The Very Reverend Michael G. Ryan, Pastor of
St. James Cathedral Dr. James Savage, Director of Liturgy and Music Joseph Adam, Cathedral Organist Clint Kraus, Assistant Cathedral Organist Michael Vreeburg, Jim Bowman, Corinna Laughlin,
This recording was made using minimal microphone techniques and the highest quality components available for the most natural sound. Special attention was given to capturing the low-level details of St. James Cathedral's reverberant acoustics, while retaining a wide, present sonic image of the choir. Two DPA 4003 omni-directional microphones, Millennia Media microphone preamps and 24-bit digital technology were employed to produce the master tapes.
Madrigali: Six "FireSongs" on Italian Renaissance Poems by Morten Lauridsen, Southern Music Publishing Co. Inc. Madrigali translations by Erica Muhl, used by permission.The Hildegard Motets by Frank Ferko, used with permission of E.
C. Schirmer Music Company, a division of ECS Publishing, Boston, MA. Magnificat by Arvo Pärt, Universal Edition. Medieval Lyrics by Karen P. Thomas, used by permission. Hildegard von Bingen editions prepared by Margriet Tindemans, used by permission. Hildegard translations by Barbara Newman, reprinted with permission of Cornell University Press.
Manufactured and printed in the USA. Â© 2001. All rights reserved.
Recorded in digital stereo.