Gerald Finzi: Ode For St. Cecilia
Gerald Finzi (1910-1956)- For St. Cecilia– It is largely due to the support of Vaughan Williams that Finzi was able to leave us so much wonderful music. He lived a very tragic life; by age 17 he had lost his father and three brothers, had contracted tuberculosis, and had run away from school. He disliked his formal studies and received little support for his musical composition. He died in 1956 from chicken-pox. With the support of Vaughan Williams, however, he did write over 40 works, mostly for voice or chorus and orchestra. The Mastersingers have previously presented Lo, the Full Final Sacrifice, For St. Cecilia, Requiem Da Camera andIntimations of Immortality. There were other Poetic and Philosophical influences in his music.
For St. Cecilia was commissioned by the St. Cecilia’s Day Festival Committee and first performed, Sir Adrian Boult conducting, November 22, 1947. As would befit such a celebration the work is a festal and majestic piece in praise of the patron saint of music. A grand fanfare leads directly to the choral proclamation to St. Cecilia “Thine be our devotion.” Finzi mixes broad lyrical lines with shifting rhythms and syllabic accents. The sense of ceremony and the majestic harmonies are contrasted with vivid tone painting such as the polytonal chords depicting St. George and war, or the parallel tritone (the devil’s interval) when St. Dunstan “clipt” Satan’s powers. Lyrical lines, shifting modulations over delicate orchestration express the delight from “Cecily,” but all gives way to a grand and glorious celebration of her dream and her song.
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Toward the Unknown Region
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) Toward the Unknown Region is a setting of a section of Walt Whitman’sLeaves of Grass. Whitman’s ideals of individualism and democracy struck an agreeable chord with many of the young British composers; Vaughan Williams was particularly inspired by him. Two of Vaughan Williams’ most successful early works were Whitman settings, Toward the Unknown Region (1906) and Sea Symphony(1909).
Vaughan Williams called Toward the Unknown Region “a ‘Song’ for chorus and orchestra.” It is an inspirational work with Wagnerian influences and choral models based upon Elgar and Parry. It is a ‘song’ of great adventure utilizing abrupt key changes and swift climaxes. There are two primary themes – one solemn and the other aspiring – but the final section climaxes with a new, exultant theme. It is a work of elation perhaps best described by a quote from the choreographer Agnes de Mille, “To take the air. To challenge space with patterns of shining splendour. To be at once stronger and freer than at any other time in life. To lift up the heart…”
J. S. Bach (1685-1750) Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott – Cantata BWV 80
W. A. Mozart (1756-1791)
Requiem– First Movement- Introit and Kyrie
Placido e il mar– Voyagers’ Chorus from the Opera Idomeneo.
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924l)
Un bel di from the Opera Madama Butterfly
Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945)
Easter Chorus from the Opera Cavalleria Rusticana