Abigail Nims, mezzo-soprano
Lawrence Wiliford, tenor
Aaron Wardell, baritone
David Danzmayr, conductor
ProMusica, LancasterChorale, and guest vocalists present Mozart’s powerful and final masterpiece, his Requiem. Soprano Kathrin Danzmayr sings Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov’s Three Songs to complete this program of musical intimacy, intensity, and imagination.
Golijov – Three Songs for Soprano and String Orchestra
Mozart – Requiem
Tonight’s program features three works that explore the potential of the human voice within an orchestral setting. The “Three Songs for Soprano and String Orchestra” of Osvaldo Golijov, showcasing our own Kathrin Danzmayr, are an emotional tour de force, both for the vocalist and for the orchestra’s strings as well. In the second half, the ProMusica orchestra will be joined by four vocal soloists and our friends of the Lancaster Chorale for a performance of one of the most moving works in the choral repertoire, Mozart’s mysterious and gripping Requiem, a work the thirty-five-year-old composer never lived to complete.
Osvaldo Golijov (b. 1960): Three Songs for Soprano and String Orchestra
Duration is 23 minutes.
Composer Osvaldo Golijov, the product of an Eastern European Jewish household in La Plata, Argentina, was raised among the eclectic sounds of classical chamber music, Klezmer and liturgical Jewish chant, and the new tango of Astor Piazzolla. After studying piano and composition at the local conservatory, Golijov furthered his formal musical studies in Israel and then Pennsylvania and Tanglewood, where he worked respectively with avant-garde composers George Crumb and Oliver Knussen. Since then, he has gone on to work intensely with various ensembles and individuals, including the Kronos and St. Lawrence String Quartets, whose recordings championed Golijov’s “volatile and category-defying style.” The songs performed here, each cast in a different language, were not originally composed as a set; Golijov later rearranged them as “Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra.” Yet they make for a convincing group, united as they are by their achingly expressive vocal lines and impressively evocative orchestral settings, as evident, for example, in the alluring and expansive Klezmer-style writing of Night of the Flying Horses and the haunting, agitated rhythmic pulse that underpins How Slow the Wind.
The klezmer-inspired Night of the Flying Horses opens with a Yiddish lullaby Golijov composed for the film The Man Who Cried, which, in the composer’s own words, “explores the fate of Jews and Gypsies in the tragic mid-years of the 20th century, through a love story between a Jewish young woman and a Gypsy young man. The lullaby metamorphoses into a dense and dark doina (a slow, gypsy, rubato genre) featuring the solo viola and “ends in a fast gallop boasting a theme that I stole from my friends of the wild gypsy band Taraf de Haïdouks. The theme is presented here in a canonical chase between two orchestral groups.”
Lúa descolorida, a hauntingly beautiful lament about the “colorless moon,” is based on a poem by the great Galician poet Rosalia de Castro (1837-1885) and thus reflects the language of her native Spain. Though Golijov would subsequently incorporate the lament into his groundbreaking opera La Pasión Según San Marcos, the original was scored for voice and piano and championed by soprano Dawn Upshaw. As opposed to the outer songs of the set, the orchestra here functions largely in an accompanimental role, laying a static carpet for the soprano’s soaring lines.
Based on two short poems of Emily Dickinson, How Slow the Wind was Golijov’s response to the death of his friend Mariel Stubrin. As with the other songs of the group, this one is carried as much by the stunning vocal writing as the orchestral landscape. As to the score’s inspiration, the composer addressed that himself: “I had in mind one of those seconds in life that is frozen in the memory, forever—a sudden death, a single instant in which life turns upside down, different from the experience of death after a long agony.” Among the many noticeable facets of Golijov’s writing are the variety of his orchestral colors and the emotional potency of his vocal lines. All of this is couched within a tonal fabric that moves in and out of a romantically tonal pallet, drawing a unique and satisfying musical life from Dickinson’s powerful poetry.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Requiem
Scored for 2 basset horns in F, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets in D, 3 trombones (alto, tenor & bass), timpani (2 drums), violins, viola and basso continuo (cello, double bass, and organ). The vocal forces include soprano, contralto, tenor, and bass soloists and an SATB mixed choir. Duration is 55 minutes.
Anyone who has seen Shaffer’s play or Forman’s 1984 film Amadeus is unlikely to forget the drama surrounding Mozart’s Requiem. Of course, Mozart’s downfall, as plotted by his ‘rival’ Antonio Salieri, is the stuff of fiction but the truth behind the Requiem is only a little less intriguing. It starts with Count Franz von Walsegg, an aristocrat and musical dilettante who owned a castle in Lower Austria. Walsegg was in the habit of commissioning works by composers and then performing them in his chapel and passing them off as his own. A few years following the death of his wife, the count sent his steward to Mozart in Vienna—hence, the inspiration for the mysterious visitor in the film and play—to commission a requiem in her memory (not unexpectedly, Walsegg had planned to claim the work as his own at the memorial service). Mozart accepted the offer and sketched some 40 pages before setting it aside to work on his operas La Clemenza di Tito and The Magic Flute. Before his death, he returned to the Requiem, but managed only to sketch out the vocal and bass parts (that is, the principal themes and accompanying bass line), along with a few orchestral hints, among them the trombone solo that opens the Tuba mirum.
Several others, then, literally had their hands in the work, as is evident by the handwriting styles found on the autographs. Mozart’s student, Jacob Freystädtler, and composer-colleague Franz Xaver Süssmayr, filled in some of the details early on, including the string doubling of the vocal lines and the completion of the trumpet and timpani parts. After Mozart’s death, his wife Constanze, fearing that the entire commission might be lost, sought additional help to see the Requiem through to completion. Maximilian Stadler and Joseph Eybler both took steps to this end but Constanze waivered, and she ultimately placed the score once more in Süssmayr’s hands. 100 days after her husband’s death, Süssmayr returned it to her, complete.
A conductor and respected composer in his own right, Süssmayr was, most importantly, intimately familiar with both Mozart and his music. He had not only served as copyist for Mozart’s final operas but is believed to have composed a number of recitatives for La Clemenza di Tito. And according to Süssmayr, he had “often played and sung the completed parts through with Mozart, who had very often discussed with him the completion of the work and the course of his instrumentation with his reasons.” No doubt Süssmayr’s greatest and most critical challenge was composing movements that were altogether absent from Mozart’s drafts. While elsewhere he was able to draw on the prior work of Stadler and Eybler, the Sanctus, Benedictus and the Agnus Dei were, as Süssmayr openly declared out of respect and honor of his revered master, entirely of his own doing. As for the return of the final fugue, Süssmayr held that this idea was his own, although Constanze told the publishers that that had been Mozart’s plan all along.
In sum, we can consider those movements up through the Hostias (the 3rd portion of the Offertorium) to be by Mozart, if not entirely scored by him. Listening to this music today, we have no doubt that much of Süssmayr’s contribution, while hardly unattractive, lacks the lofty spark of inspiration that seemed to flow so effortlessly from Mozart’s pen and that distinguishes his work from a host of lesser composers. One need only consider the terrifying orchestral writing near the start of the Introit and the miraculous vocal writing that follows, or the intense drama of the Dies Irae, so reminiscent of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, to appreciate the extent to which the proverbial deck was stacked against Süssmayr (or anyone attempting to finish what Mozart had begun); how, indeed, could any mortal endeavor to keep pace with a genius of the highest musical order? Sensing Süssmayr’s occasional wooden and perfunctory writing, others have attempted their own solutions, and to be sure, some are impressive; listen, for example, to the version by Robert Levin, available on YouTube. Still, Süssmayr’s remains the most often performed and for good reason, for he gathered up Mozart’s threads in timely fashion and wove them into a largely satisfying tapestry. In particular, his Agnus provides a convincing conclusion to this magnificent and moving work.
In the end, while we may lament that Mozart did not live to complete his swansong, there remains something rather intriguing about the Requiem ultimately being the product of several composers, characters who revered Mozart’s work at a time when many failed to recognize his genius, and who were honored to provide what they could to ensure one of his last works not be abandoned.
© Marc Moskovitz
Celebrated as central Ohio’s premier all-professional chamber choir, LancasterChorale has established its role as a vital force in choral music by performing challenging repertoire drawn from the rich treasury of the past, commissioning new works to inspire the American public to more fully understand its present, and supporting educational programming with young singers to promote the future of the choral arts.
Engaging the region’s leading professional vocal artists, LancasterChorale garners high praise for its beauty of tone, musical integrity, remarkable blend, and exceptional commitment to elegant text phrasing. Under the direction of the nationally recognized composer Stephen Caracciolo, the ensemble performs an astonishingly wide range of choral literature including plainchant, Renaissance and Baroque motets, German-Romantic part songs, French chansons, the sacred literature of the English and Russian churches, opera choruses, carols of every variety, American folk songs and spirituals, and works by living composers. LancasterChorale performs in cities throughout Ohio and appears periodically with ProMusica Chamber Orchestra and the Lancaster Festival Orchestra.
Bavarian soprano Kathrin Danzmayr came first to international attention when she sang the role of Pamina in a production of W. A. Mozart’s The Magic Flute during the Salzburg Festival Summer. During this production she had the pleasure to collaborate with Grace Bumbry, who became one of her most important mentors. Further career highlights include the role of Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro) in Dinkelsbühl and Clorinda (La Cenerentola) in Hamburg.
In 2010, Kathrin became a member of the distinguished Salzburg Concert Society, where she sang more than 70 concerts a season, touring throughout central Europe, including appearances in Munich and Stuttgart. In addition, she worked as a soloist with the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, the Glasgow Sinfonietta, Greenock Philharmonic, as well as the Breckenridge Festival Orchestra and the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra to name a few.
Last season, Kathrin performed for Opera Columbus and Opera on the Edge, where she performed Mimi (La Boheme) and Frasquita (Carmen). This season she will debut with Opera Project Columbus in Puccini’s Suor Angelica. She will also perform as soloist with ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, at the New Year’s concert in Zauchensee, and with the Zagreb Philharmonic among others.
Kathrin Danzmayr received her musical training at the University of Leipzig and the University Mozarteum in Salzburg where she studied with Lilian Sukis and graduated with the highest honors. Further teachers include Barbara Bonney, Angelika Kirchschlager, Malcolm Martineau and Patricia MacMahon. Mrs. Danzmayr has received several awards, was the youngest finalist at the Robert Stolz competition in Hamburg, and was selected as one of the winners of the Samling Foundation in the UK.
Kathrin has recorded for Universal Records as lead singer of the band “iMozart” and has also toured extensively with the group. Their debut album “iMozart Lounge” topped the Austrian album charts.
Mezzo-soprano Abigail Nims has quickly established herself as a musician of integrity and versatility with her performances of repertoire spanning from Bach, Handel and Mozart to Crumb, Ligeti and premieres of contemporary works. Her 2017-18 season appearances include Mozart’s Requiem with the Colorado Symphony and a premiere performance of Missy Mazzoli’s newly commissioned opera, Proving Up, with Opera Omaha. Engagements during the 2016-17 season included Handel’s Messiah with the Naples Philharmonic and Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Mahler’s 2nd Symphony with the Duluth Superior Symphony.
Abigail Nims is particularly praised for her performances of the concert repertoire. Recent concert appearances include Handel’s Messiah and a staged performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Bach’s Mass in B-minor with the San Francisco Symphony; Bach’s St. John Passion with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Mexico; Mahler’s Rückert Lieder at the Colorado MahlerFest; Bach’s Magnificat with the São Paulo Symphony; and Handel’s Messiah with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, the Masterwork Chorus at Carnegie Hall, and the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra. Her opera engagements from previous seasons include Melanto in Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria with Boston Baroque; Veruca Salt in Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket at the Wexford Opera Festival and Atlanta Opera; Lazuli in L’Étoile with New York City Opera; Despina in Così fan tutte with Palm Beach Opera and Opera Grand Rapids; Nancy in Albert Herring with Florentine Opera; Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus with Virginia Opera; and Zerlina in Don Giovanni with Opera New Jersey and Opera Grand Rapids.
Ms. Nims is currently a member of the voice faculty at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
Lauded for his luminous projection, lyrical sensitivity, and brilliant coloratura, American-Canadian tenor Lawrence Wiliford is in high demand in concert, opera, and recital repertoire. His performances during the 2017-18 season include Mozart’s Requiem with Hamilton Philharmonic and ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Handel’s Messiah with Phoenix Symphony, and Bach’s St John Passion with Grand Philharmonic Choir.
During the 2016-17 season, Lawrence made his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra performing Messiah under Nathalie Stutzmann. Other engagements included Mozart’s Requiem with the Milwaukee Symphony under Matthew Halls, Messiah with the Tucson Symphony and Naples Philharmonic, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle with Luminous Voices in Calgary, Elgar’s The Apostles with the Pax Christi Chorale, and a return to the Aldeburgh Festival for performances of ‘Flute’ in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
He has performed in concert with the major symphony orchestras and early music groups in the US and Canada. His recent appearances include Messiah with the Louisiana Philharmonic, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra; the Evangelist in St. Matthew Passion with the Calgary Philharmonic, Orchestre Métropolitain, and Toronto Bach Consort; Mass in B-minor with Music of the Baroque, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfónica Naciónal de Mexico, Oregon Bach Festival, Toronto Symphony, and Vancouver Chamber Choir; the Evangelist in St. John Passion with the Orquesta Sinfónica Naciónal de Costa Rica; Mozart’s Requiem with Tafelmusik and the National Arts Centre Orchestra; Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings with I Musici de Montréal; Elijah with the Colorado Symphony; Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 at the Oregon Bach Festival; Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with the National Arts Center Orchestra; and Beethoven’s Mass in C-Major and Stravinsky’s Pulcinella with the Houston Symphony.
Aaron Wardell, baritone, is in demand as a performer of opera, oratorio and concert in the Midwest and beyond. He was most recently seen as Angelotti in Tosca with the Fort Wayne Symphony, Emile de Becque in South Pacific with the La Porte Symphony and Yamadori in Madama Butterfly with the Castleton Festival. Last season he sang Giove in La Calisto and will appear as Le Roy in the modern-day premiere of Ariane et Bachus by Marin Marais with Chicago’s Haymarket Opera. He has also appeared with Chicago Fringe Opera, Chamber Opera Chicago, Main Street Opera, Dayton Opera, Opera Tampa, Central City Opera and internationally at Teatro National de Sucre in numerous operatic roles including Marcello (La Bohème), Junius (Rape of Lucretia), Sam (Trouble in Tahiti) Don Pizarro (Fidelio) and the title role in Don Giovanni.
Equally at home on the concert stage, he recently appeared with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra in Brahms’ Ein Deutches Requiem. He has also sung as a soloist with the Illinois Philharmonic, North Shore Chamber Arts Ensemble, Aurora University, Concordia University, Harper College, George Williams College, Downers Grove Choral Society, The Bach Ensemble of Naples, FL and Cincinnati Baroque in numerous works such as Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s St. John Passion, Schubert’s Mass in Ab, Arvo Pärt’s Passio and Haydn’s Creation.
Aaron completed his formal musical training at Western Michigan University, and earned a Master of Music in Vocal Performance and an Artist Diploma certificate in Opera from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.