Carl Orff, Carmina Burana

Friday, November 3, 2017

David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center

In 1954 American audiences had their first encounter with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, which became an instant audience success. The composer, born in Munich in 1895 and living until 1982, considered that his true composing life began with the writing of this work in l935. After its phenomenal success around the world, he directed his publisher to destroy all of the plates of his earlier compositions still in print, and that was done. The Carmina were songs of medieval goliards: traveling students and ex-monks who left universities and monasteries to pursue a roaring life of gambling, drinking and making love. The texts of the songs, in a mixture of 13th-century “low” Latin and Lincoln Center “low” German, were discovered in a Bavarian monastery near Munich in the early 20th-century. Orff chose 24 of them to set for soprano, tenor and bass soloists, four-part mixed, male and female choruses, and instruments. The effect of Orff’s music is often hypnotic, and includes repetitive chords, multiple stanzas of songs, and many ostinato patterns, coupled with extreme rhythmic repetition. The chorus stars in this work in an unusual way: singing in unison, octaves and parallel intervals, but always immersed in a sea of colorful and unusual instrumental sound. The work features three solo roles: the old Abbot (Andrew Garland), a roistering, gambling drinker and ex-monk; the Young Girl (Elizabeth De Trejo) who is the object of the Abbot’s intentions but hopes for springtime love with a young man; and the counter tenor Swan (Matthew Truss), who sings an actual “swan song” as he is being roasted to feed the hungry patrons of a tavern. A rollicking celebration of the coming of pring, Carmina Burana’s American popularity began with that performance 61 years ago and continues today





Handel’s  Messiah Sing-In      

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Friday, December 15, 2017

David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center

The annual Handel’s Messiah Sing-In at Lincoln Center was created as a celebration of choral singing and is today New York City’s most popular Holiday Season Community Music Event.

The Sing-In audience-chorus includes 3,000 singers of all backgrounds who come from throughout New York City, the greater New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area, across the United States and from countries around the world. It includes choral singers who sing in church and temple choirs, community choral organizations, high school, college and alumni choruses, people who formerly sang in choirs and many vocal music lovers who want to spend this one special evening singing and being surrounded by thousands of stereophonic voices, all singing Handel’s great choral masterpiece together.

The audience is the chorus—there is no chorus on stage. Rather than being seated in block SATB sections, the audience is seated “scrambled” so that attending choral groups and participating singers can sit with those whom they came with. Each participant brings a Messiah vocal score, and the sound of the massed mixed vocal parts in a tapestry of song throughout the hall is glorious.

There are 17 distinguished choral conductors, each of whom, in turn, conducts one chorus accompanied by the Sing-In organist at the Avery Fisher Hall organ. (Almost every well-known choral conductor in the Greater New York Area and beyond either participates or has participated in the Chorale’s annual Sing-In.) There also are 4 splendid professional soloists singing some of the best known solos and providing additional musical inspiration. Everett McCorvey, Artistic Director of the National Chorale and the Sing-In, is the host for the performance.


The Messiah Sing-In was conceived and developed in 1967 by Mr. Josman, the Chorale’s Board  and a group of New York City choral conductors to celebrate choral singing on a community-wide basis. It was agreed by all that the best way to achieve this was to invite the choral singing community to gather one evening annually during a traditional singing time of the year and to sing a great choral work in a major concert hall under the shared leadership of a team of prominent choral conductors. As a result, the name Messiah Sing-In was created. The December Holiday Season was determined to be the best time of year for the event and Handel’s Messiah was selected as the great choral work with which most singers were familiar. Avery Fisher Hall, the exciting new concert hall in the City in the 1960’s was chosen to be the Sing-In location. The plan attracted the enthusiastic interest of New York’s choral community and the public, and the first Messiah Sing-In took place on Friday evening, December 13, 1967. It was an immediate success and has continued as a joyous, traditional choral community singing event every year since then.

The National Chorale has also presented Handel’s Messiah Sing-In in Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver, St. Louis, Rochester, NY, Phoenix, Tulsa, Lawrence, WI, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Amphitheater and the Ocean Grove Auditorium, NJ.

This year is the eagerly looked forward to 49th Anniversary of the New York Messiah Sing-In.

2017 Messiah Sing-In Conductors

Soon to be announced!



Beethoven  Symphony #9                                                            


Friday, April 13, 2018

David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) began his musical studies in his native Bonn, with Christian Gottlob Neefe, who used the works of Bach as composition manuals for his uniquely gifted student. He recommended that Beethoven study with Mozart, but when he moved to Vienna in 1792, Mozart was dead and he studied, instead, with Franz Josef Haydn and Antonio Salierei, two of the most famous composers of their time.  In a composing career encompassing a great variety of works, Beethoven used the complexities he had learned from Bach and the musical forms perfected in the late 18th century by Mozart and Haydn to move into a new 19th-century realm – one which ensures his place in the world’s pantheon of great composers.

Beethoven’s symphonic works reshape, in startlingly original ways, the traditional techniques he inherited from the 18th century, pushing compositional and performance boundaries further, and giving the orchestra a new and increasingly dramatic role. There is nothing abstract in Beethoven’s music: it reflects a complex, contradictory universe and a very beautiful and personal one, and nowhere is this more evident than in his Symphony No. 9.

He began sketches for the 9th Symphony in 1815, but the final shape and content took nearly 10 years to mature. In 1823 he contacted the London Philharmonic Society to see if it would commission a new symphony: the Society offered him L50 for an “unpublished” work, allowing him to premiere it in Vienna. By early 1824 it was complete, and the Viennese premiere took place on May 8, 1824.

By 1824 he was profoundly deaf and unable to hear the performance or the thunderous ovation it received. It seems to have been a scratchy performance: the orchestra, a combination of theater orchestra professionals and amateurs, had difficulty learning the score, and, in performance, some actually stopped playing when the parts became too difficult. Vocal soloists complained of the tessitura and difficulty of the work, and apparently transposed high entrances down or did not sing them at all. The composer, immersed in his score, was unaware of this:, hearing, in his own way, the extraordinary contribution he had made to the choral-orchestral repertoire.

The Symphony No. 9 is in the traditional 4-movement form, but there is nothing traditional about the work’s size and complexity or the unexpected addition of a chorus to the final movement. In four movements, it is scored for solo vocal quartet, chorus, strings, flutes, piccolo, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, contrabassoon, horns, trumpets, timpani and percussion. The last movement recapitulates themes from the first three, making it a small symphony in itself, and the inspired setting of parts of Schiller’s Ode to Joy make it marvelously unique in the symphonic literature.