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Ein Deutsches Requiem By Johannes Brahms
(A German Requiem)
GMChorale and Alchemy, Joseph D'Eugenio, Conductor and Artistic Director
Elm City Girls' Choir, Tom Brand and Rebecca Rosenbaum, Music Directors
Orchestra New England, James Sinclair, Music Director
Sherezade Panthaki and Mark Womack, soloists
Sunday - April 30, 2023 - 4:00pm
Santo Fragilio Performing Arts Center at Middletown High School, Middletown, CT
Kindly hold applause until the end of the concert.
Please silence all devices and refrain from texting or taking photos during the concert.
Ein Deutsches Requiem (op. 45) - Johannes Brahms (1833-1897).
1. Selig sind, die da Leid tragen.............................................................................(chorus)
2. Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras....................................................................(chorus)
3. Herr, Lehre doch mich.........................................................................................(baritone and chorus)
4. Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen.................................................................(chorus)
5. Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit.....................................................................................(soprano and chorus)
6. Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt.....................................................(baritone and chorus)
7. Selig sind die Toten..............................................................................................(chorus)
GMChorale and Alchemy
The Elm City Girls' Choir
Jo Anne Burgh
*GMChorale Section Leaders
+GMChorale Section Representatives
Tom Brand and Rebecca Rosenbaum,
Marion Magnolia Eno
Elise Fernandez Hsu
Violet Willcox Johnson
Aurelia Mae Keberle
Miriam Elizabeth Levenson
Ursula June Zebrowski
Orchestra New England
James Sinclair Music Director
Raphael Ryger, concertmaster
Jill Pellett Levine
Tamar Beach Wells
Sara Della Posta
*ONE Section Players
Meet Our Featured Artists
Mark Womack (baritone). Critics have praised Mark Womack’s singing as “strikingly warm and gracefully honey toned.” His recent performances include Fred Graham in Kiss me Kate and the title role in Eugene Onegin with Intermountain Opera Bozeman, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with Opera Connecticut, Carmina Burana with the Utah, Fargo-Moorhead and Allentown Symphonies, The Verdi Requiem with The Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra, Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony at Jorgensen Auditorium with the UConn Symphony, Carl Magnus in A Little Night Music with Syracuse Opera, Marcello in La Bohème with Opera Birmingham, Danilo in The Merry Widow with The Northern Lights Music Festival and Juan Peron in Evita with Opera North. Mark is privileged to have performed both Marcello and Schaunard in the Tony Award-winning Broadway production of La Bohème, under the direction of Baz Luhrmann. Following its run at the Broadway Theater, he continued with the production in the role of Marcello at the Ahmanson Theater in Las Angeles. Other notable performances include Giorgio Germont in Knoxville Opera’s La Traviata, Macheath in The Threepenny Opera with Amarillo Opera, Sharpless Madama Butterfly with Sarasota Opera, Guglielmo in Skylight Opera Theater’s Così fan Tutte, Henry Higgins in Opera North's My Fair Lady, the title role in Don Giovanni with both Utah Festival Opera and Anchorage Opera, Friedrich Bhaer in Little Women with Syracuse Opera, Marcello in La Bohème and Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor with Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, Escamillo in Carmen with Utah Festival Opera, Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro with Mississippi Opera, Lescaut in Manon Lescaut with Dicapo Opera Theater, and numerous appearances with Connecticut Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, El Paso Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera. Mark has been baritone soloist at Carnegie Hall in the Faurè and Duruflè Requiems, The Dewi Sant by Arwell Hughes, Mozart’s C Minor Mass and Schubert’s Mass in G. Mark is on faculty at the Hartt School, The University of Connecticut School of Music, and formerly the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. http://www.markwomack.com/
Sherezade Panthaki (soprano), enjoys ongoing international collaborations with many of the world’s leading conductors including Nicholas McGegan, Masaaki Suzuki, Martin Haselböck, Mark Morris, Nicholas Kraemer, Matthew Halls, Stephen Stubbs, and Gary Wedow. Celebrated for her “full, luxuriously toned upper range” (The Los Angeles Times), and “astonishing coloratura with radiant top notes” (Calgary Herald) particularly in the music of Bach and Handel, recent seasons have included performances with the New York Philharmonic, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Bach Collegium Japan, Wiener Akademie (Austria), NDR Hannover Radiophilharmonie (Germany), the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Boston Early Music Festival, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra (Canada), Minnesota Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Mark Morris Dance Group, St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue New York, The Choir and Orchestra of Trinity Wall Street, and Voices of Music. Ms. Panthaki is no stranger to classical and modern concert repertoire; she is in high demand for her interpretations of Mozart, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Poulenc, and Orff, as well as numerous new music premieres, many written specifically for her voice. Her discography includes the recently released recording of Handel’s Joseph and his Brethren with Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque, solo Bach cantatas with the Cantata Collective, and Graupner's opera Antiochus und Stratonica with the Boston Early Music Festival. Born and raised in India, Ms. Panthaki holds graduate degrees with top honors from the Yale School of Music and the University of Illinois, and a Bachelor's from West Virginia Wesleyan College. She is a founding member and artistic advisor of the newly-debuted Kaleidoscope Vocal Ensemble - a vocal octet celebrating racial and ethnic diversity in performances and educational programs of early and new music. Ms. Panthaki is a frequent guest clinician and masterclass leader across the United States. She has taught voice to graduate music students at Yale University, and currently heads the Vocal program at Mount Holyoke College.
GMChorale has become one of New England’s finest and most engaging choruses since its founding in 1977 as The Greater Middletown Chorale. Today, the GMChorale is celebrated for its innovative symphonic choral presentations. Under the leadership of Joseph D'Eugenio, performs a wide range of choral repertoire, from beloved masterworks to newly commissioned pieces. As the GMChorale enters its fifth decade, the organization is broadening its mission and the scope of its offerings to bring the power and beauty of choral music to people and communities across Connecticut. It is a core principle of the Chorale that the power of music is should be enjoyed for a lifetime.
Alchemy, the vocal chamber ensemble of GMChorale, was established in 2016 as a company of skilled ensemble singers, professional soloists, music educators, and instrumentalists. Alchemy’s mission is to advance GMChorale’s mission of “Singing for a Lifetime” through concert tours, collaborations, musical leadership, education, and community engagement. In 2018, Alchemy was a featured ensemble at the convention of the Connecticut Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association. The ensemble is known for its ability to adapt its sound to a broad variety of repertoire.
Joseph D'Eugenio (Artistic Director / Executive Director) has been bringing music to life across Southern New England for three decades as a conductor, artistic director, executive director, educator, pianist, organist, and coach for vocalists and conductors. He frequently conducts productions of major choral-orchestral masterworks, most often with GMChorale, New Haven Symphony Orchestra, Hartford Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestra New England. Performances include the oratorios of Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Carissimi; the masses of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, and Bruckner; the requiems of Mozart, Duruflé, Brahms, Fauré, and Cherubini; newly-commissioned works; and music of all genres, styles, and periods. D’Eugenio has been Artistic Director of GMChorale since 1999. Under his leadership, the chorale has become known as one of New England’s finest choruses, awarded and celebrated for its creative choral presentations, commissioned works, and dynamic collaborations. In 2009, D’Eugenio was named Conductor of the Year by the Connecticut Chapter of ACDA. In demand as a guest conductor, clinician, and collaborative pianist, D’Eugenio has led various workshops and festivals, and has conducted choral groups in high schools, colleges, and universities across Connecticut, including as visiting instructor at Wesleyan University in Middletown. D’Eugenio has served as Director of Music and organist at First Congregational Church in Cheshire, Connecticut since 2003, where he directs the church’s vibrant music program and chancel choir. D’Eugenio earned the Bachelor of Music (cum laude) in piano performance from The Hartt School, University of Hartford, and the Master of Music in choral conducting from the University of Connecticut.
Robert O'Brien (Managing Director) joined GMChorale in February 2020 after having worked with many Hartford area arts organizations, including the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and TheaterWorks. He brings a wealth of experience in arts management to GMChorale having previously completed a Masters Degree in International Arts Management at HEC Montreal, Southern Methodist University, and Bocconi University. Robert is an experienced performing arts producer and production manager having completed many projects in theater, music, dance, and interdisciplinary arts. Additionally, he has participated in virtual talks to various groups on Arts Management including at Universidad de los Andes located in Bogotá, Colombia. In addition to his work with cultural organizations, Robert is an accomplished vocal musician, holding a Bachelors of Music from McGill University where he studied under the renowned baritone, Sanford Sylvan.
Allan Conway (Accompanist) is in constant demand as a pianist, organist and accompanist, with extensive experience in the choral, vocal, operatic and instrumental literature. His commanding technical facility at the keyboard, ease and familiarity with a wide array of repertoire, sensitive interpretations, and keen sense of musical collaboration inform his many and varied performances. Mr. Conway received his Bachelor of Music Degree in Piano Performance from the Hartt School of Music, where he studied with Raymond Hanson and was recipient of the prestigious Harold Bauer Memorial Scholarship. Active in the liturgical field, Mr. Conway has served numerous churches. Presently, he is Minister of Music at the United Congregational Church of Tolland. Mr. Conway is Organist and Choir Director at Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford a position he has held since 1977.
Elm City Girls' Choir
The Elm City Girls’ Choir, founded by Thomas Brand in 1993, has earned the reputation of being one of America’s finest youth choirs. The Saecula Singers ensemble of girls and young women is known for its vibrant sound, infectious energy, and creative programming, with a repertoire ranging from Renaissance polyphony to Broadway show tunes.
Tom Brand (Elm City Girls' Choir) grew up singing in New Haven’s Trinity Boys Choir under Walden Moore and in the American Boychoir under James Litton. He earned degrees in choral conducting at Yale University and is Music Director of the Saecula Choir Institute, Earthly Sound Vocal Ensemble, Saecula Women’s Choir, VocalJoy, and St. John’s Episcopal Church in Bridgeport, CT.
Rebecca Rosenbaum (Elm City Girls' Choir) has conducted various ensembles of Elm City Girls’ Choir, Saecula Singers, and United Girls’ Choir, and also served as Director of Choral Activities at Vassar College, where she taught classes and conducted the Vassar Women’s Choir. She also has taught at Yale University and Bay Path College, and has appeared as guest conductor and clinician for several regional choral festivals and music programs throughout the country. Rebecca earned a BA in music from Vassar College and her MM and DMA in choral conducting at Yale University.
Orchestra New England
Orchestra New England (O.N.E.) is one of the most versatile and exciting orchestras in America. Since its founding in 1974, Orchestra New England has presented over 700 concerts with a passion for excellence, signature enthusiasm and innovation. Most of these performances were presented at Yale’s Battell Chapel, with other engagements taking place in concert halls throughout New England. From its 1974 debut performance of an unpublished work by Charles Ives to its almost 150 performances of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, O.N.E. continues to set the standard for outstanding performances of both familiar and neglected works. O.N.E. has made commercial recordings for many prestigious labels.
James Sinclair (Orchestra New England) has served as the Music Director of Orchestra New England since its founding in 1974. His versatility in delivering superb performances in a variety of styles – from the Baroque to pops literature – drives the remarkable success of Orchestra New England. James Sinclair is also among the world's pre-eminent scholars and champions of the music of Charles Ives. He is the Executive Editor for the Charles Ives Society, supervising the work of Ives scholars throughout the United States. A native of Washington, DC, James Sinclair earned his bachelor's degree in music at Indiana University and taught at the University of Hawaii, where he earned his master's degree. He relocated to New Haven in 1972, where he served as an Assistant Professor and a Visiting Lecturer in Music at Yale University. Sinclair is an Associate Fellow of Berkeley College at Yale and oversees both the John Kirkpatrick Papers and the Charles Ives Papers at Yale.
Apr 24, 2018
A Human Requiem: Brahms’ German Requiem
On February 2, 1865, Johannes Brahms received an urgent telegram from his brother Fritz: “If you want to see our mother once again, come immediately.” At age 76 their mother, Christiane Brahms, had had a stroke. Brahms hastened to her from Vienna, but she had already passed away by the time he arrived in Hamburg. Christiane Brahms’ life had not been an easy one; she had begun work as a seamstress at 12, and only married Brahms’ father Johan Jakob (a poor musician seventeen years her junior) at 41. After 34 years, the marriage deteriorated, and her husband left her in 1864. Brahms, who loved both his parents dearly, had tried to reconcile them to no avail. The loss affected the composer profoundly, and almost immediately he began work on A German Requiem.
Though the death of his mother was the immediate catalyst for the work, it is possible that the idea for it originated after the death of his mentor Robert Schumann nine years earlier. It was Schumann who had first made the young, unknown Brahms famous by declaring him Beethoven’s heir in a widely read music publication. In the years since, however, Brahms had struggled to convince the musical world that he was worthy of Schumann’s prophecy. A German Requiem would at last convince many that Schumann was right.
A (NON)TRADITIONAL REQUIEM
The requiem mass was a venerable musical genre by the time Brahms began to compose his, but Brahms’ requiem would be unlike any other. Instead of setting the traditional Catholic, Latin text used by Mozart Berlioz, and countless others, Brahms created his own highly personal version from excerpts of the Lutheran Bible and apocrypha. Though this gives Brahms’ requiem a uniquely Protestant character that reflects his Northern German upbringing, sectarian dogmas could not have been farther from his mind when composing it.
Indeed, after the conductor of the Bremen premiere expressed concern that the requiem omitted any reference to Jesus, Brahms responded by writing that “As far as the text is concerned, I will confess that I would very gladly omit the ‘German’ as well, and simply put ‘of Mankind,’ also quite deliberately and consciously do without passages such as John 3:16.”
John 3:16 is perhaps the most famous Christian bible verse: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” At the same time, Brahms did set explicitly Christian excerpts from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, which describes the miraculous resurrection of the dead during the apocalypse. His letter to the conductor explained: “On the other hand, however, I did accept many a thing because I am a musician, because I was making use of it, because I cannot challenge or strike out the text of my revered bards, not even a ‘from henceforth.’”
Brahms was an intensely private man; he left no written credo, and we will never know exactly what his religious beliefs were. He was confirmed in the Lutheran church as a youth and knew the bible thoroughly; it would remain a key source of inspiration for him throughout his life. At the same time he was profoundly interested in the latest scientific developments of his day, and it is safe to say that he did not interpret the bible as a literal account of history. One reason for his omissions might be his openness to people of other religions. One of his closest lifelong friends, the violinist Joseph Joachim, was Jewish, and Brahms never exhibited the anti-Semitism common in many of his contemporaries.
Whatever the nature of his own beliefs, many have noted that unlike traditional requiems which offer prayers for the souls of the dead, Brahms’ German Requiem is more concerned with offering comfort to the living. His remark that “I would very gladly omit the ‘German’ as well, and simply put ‘of Mankind,’” suggests that he wished to offer this solace to all listeners, regardless of their own religious beliefs or backgrounds.
Nevertheless, the clergy of the Bremen cathedral insisted on presenting more doctrinally sound music after the Requiem was performed there for the first time, including “I know that my redeemer liveth” and the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.
Musically, the requiem was a major milestone in Brahms’ career. Indeed, it would be the longest and most grandly scored piece he would ever write. More notable than its dimensions, however, is the way it engages with musical tradition. One perceptive contemporary noted that “The music of the future, for others a vogue, is for Brahms already a music of the past.” Few of Brahms’ works display their influences as openly as the German Requiem does; numerous passages clearly evoke the music of Schumann, Beethoven and Bach. At the same time, every measure is unmistakably Brahms.
Throughout the nineteenth century there was an increasing awareness of the value of the past that resulted in the creation of new artistic canons. There was also a growing belief in the need for contemporary artists to study the past to learn how to create new works that might equal the old. The idea of “classical music”—a body of great masterpieces by composers of the past—was just coming into its own, and few composers embraced the past with the fervor that Brahms did.
Even as a young man, Brahms had displayed a marked interest in music history, and over the course of his life he would amass an impressive collection of scores, sketches and original manuscripts by composers from the Renaissance through his own day, studying them in order to learn their inner workings. He acutely felt the pressure of being compared to composers he venerated like Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, and struggled to compose music that would live up to their example and satisfy his own exacting standards. With the requiem, the result was an innovative new work that emanated the grandeur, authority and solemnity of music that had withstood the test of time even though it was completely new.
The piece opens with a warm, Brahmsian timbre of divisi violas and cellos that lead to the chorus’s first statement: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The first movement then unfolds as a gentle, lyrical expression of consolation. The frequent unaccompanied choral passages often reveal Brahms’ knowledge of renaissance choral music.
The second begins with what has been described as an unusual funeral march in ¾ time. This theme was salvaged from the unfinished symphony Brahms tried to complete in the wake of Schumann’s madness and death (other material from the symphony was reworked as his Piano Concerto No. 1). The choice of triple meter for a march may be an allusion to the triple meter march of the League of David against the Philistines that Schumann wrote to conclude his Carnival; Schumann’s victory march here becomes and expression of grief. This uncanny melody underpins the chorus’s grim meditation on the vanity of all worldly things as it sings “all flesh is as grass.” This soon grows into a monumental statement that unleashes the full power of the assembled forces; perhaps this is Brahms’ musical response to the disintegration of Schumann’s genius.
After a contrasting episode that implores us to “be patient, dear brothers, until the coming of the Lord,” the march returns, but as it dies away it leads to a defiant statement: “Yet the word of the Lord stands for evermore.” The following music takes on a heroic tone reminiscent of the “Ode to Joy” finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, particularly when the chorus sings the word “Freude”—“Joy.”
The third movement moves into the realm of Schumannesque lieder with a solo for bass-baritone, who asks the Lord to “teach me that I must have an end, and that my life has a purpose,” words then echoed by the chorus. The music grows more intense as the chorus asks, “Now, Lord, how shall I find comfort?” until the tension is resolved in a Bach-inspired pedal fugue, a kaleidoscopic musical texture that occurs above one long, sustained bass note. The solidity and constancy of that bass pedal (a term borrowed from organ music, in which bass notes are played with foot pedals) seems to provide an answer to the question as the chorus sings, “The righteous souls are in the hand of God, and no torment touches them.”
The fourth movement provides respite from the somber thoughts of the previous movements as the chorus years for heaven in waltz-time, singing “How lovely are your dwellings.” The waltz-like melody alternates with more complex contrapuntal episodes. This movement’s untroubled sweetness and beauty have made it a popular and frequently excerpted part of the requiem.
The fifth movement, a song for soprano, chorus and orchestra, is one of the most personal and moving. The soprano solo has a maternal character that Brahms surely associated with his own mother. She sings “You now have sorrow, but I will see you again,” to which the chorus replies, “Thee I will comfort as one whom a mother comforts.” Interestingly, Brahms only composed and integrated this movement into the requiem after the Bremen premiere. Perhaps the reticent Brahms only realized its necessity as the heart of the work after hearing the rest of it performed.
The sixth movement balances the drama of the second with an apocalyptic vision in which the chorus plays the role of souls awaiting resurrection. A mysterious introduction featuring the bass-baritone leads to a powerful chorus: “For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible.” The movement ends in triumph as the chorus sings “Death, where is your sting? Hell, where is your victory?” and a grand fugue praising God.
The final movement brings the requiem to a tranquil conclusion. The music that set the opening words “Blessed are those who mourn” returns at the end, this time to the words “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.”
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Jo Anne Burgh
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In Memory of those GM Chorale singers who performed the BRAHMS Requiem in 2007,
whose…”righteous souls are in the hand of God…” “Sayeth the Spirit, that they rest from their labors
and that their works follow after them.”:
In Honor Of
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