New oratorio by Martin Bresnick to be premiered at International Festival of Arts & Ideas

Martin Bresnick. Photo by Nina Roberts

A new oratorio by School of Music faculty composer Martin Bresnick will be premiered at Yale on June 20 as part of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, which commissioned the piece. The oratorio, Whitman, Melville, Dickinson — Passions of Bloom, will be performed again on June 21 at the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. The oratorio, which celebrates the work of its namesakes — Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, and distinguished literary critic Harold Bloom, the Sterling Professor of the Humanities and English at Yale — will be performed by the Yale Choral Artists and members of the Yale Philharmonia. Vocal soloists include YSM faculty tenor James Taylor, who’ll sing Bloom’s words. The oratorio is modeled on Bach’s St. John Passion. Bresnick assembled the libretto using poems by Whitman, Melville, and Dickinson and excerpts from Bloom’s The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime.

Talking about the poetry of the 19th century writers he’s celebrating, Bresnick said, “These particular works have been part of my mental universe since I was a young student. Still others I only recently got more closely acquainted with.” He’s been familiar with Bloom’s work for many years. In the mid-1980s, Bresnick composed music for the PBS series Voices & Visions, which, through interviews with such experts as Bloom, explored the lives of American poets. At that moment, Bresnick said, he felt that Bloom, who earned his Ph.D. from Yale in 1956, had established himself as a kind of Marlon Brando of critics, inasmuch as the “degree of passion and devotion he brought to his explanations” was “almost poetic.” It was while working on For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise, based on the William Blake poem, that Bresnick got to know Bloom and appreciate the shared “commonalities in our origins and points of departure.” In incorporating excerpts from The Daemon Knows into his oratorio, Bresnick had permission from Bloom to use “anything I wanted.”

Modeling the oratorio on Bach’s St. John Passion was a logical step considering that Bloom’s voice in the piece is not unlike that of the Evangelist — the narrator — in Bach’s passions. And Taylor, Bresnick pointed out, is a “well-known Evangelist in the world of the two Bach passions.” In addition to Taylor, Bresnick said, “I needed some very special singers.” Enter the Yale Choral Artists.

“Several of the soloists for this performance also happen to be YSM alumni, from both the Institute of Sacred Music’s voice program and from Yale Opera, including two former students of Jimmy’s — Paul Tipton and Sherezade Panthaki,” YCA founding director and YSM professor of choral conducting, Jeffrey Douma, said. School of Music alumni who’ll be performing include mezzo-soprano Katherine Maroney ’06MM, soprano Megan Chartrand ’13MM, soprano Sarah Yanovitch ’15MM, tenor Colin Britt ’10MM, tenor Gene Stenger ’15MM, and tenor Steven Soph ’12MM. Bass-baritone Tipton ’10MM will sing Melville’s words, while Maroney and soprano Panthaki ’11AD will sing text by Dickinson. Additional vocal soloists include tenor Brian Giebler, who’ll sing words by Whitman, bass Glenn Miller, who’ll sing the words of Captain Ahab, from Melville’s Moby-Dick, and baritone Thomas McCargar, who’ll sing the words of Melville’s Ishmael.

“During his composition process,” Douma said, “Martin often showed me excerpts of the solo writing he was developing, and would describe the kinds of voices he was hearing. This helped me choose singers from within the ranks of the Choral Artists best suited to each role.”

Bresnick’s oratorio, Douma said, “references not only Bach but also Brahms and other composers. People who know the St. John Passion will hear distinct echoes of its opening chorus (“Herr, unser Herrscher”) in Martin’s opening chorus (“Shine! Shine! Shine!”). For me as conductor, knowing that Bach was a starting point for Martin has influenced my thinking about the melodic writing in the piece and its relationship to the text. Martin may not be quoting Bach, but his careful attention to the natural rise and fall of the language and his singularly expressive way of emphasizing particular words reminds me very much of Bach’s use of melody, especially in the extended recitatives we hear in his passions. It has reinforced how important it will be for the audience to connect with the language in a very direct way.”

Of the literary works that inspired the oratorio, Douma said, “I love all three of the writers who inhabit this piece, but I will admit that my understanding of each of them — especially Melville — has been enriched greatly by the process of preparing this music.”

Originally, Bresnick said, he conceived a piece that would celebrate Bloom’s writings on Whitman. “I found that that wasn’t congenial for me,” he said. “That wasn’t enough.” The piece “needed more contrast.”

Bloom, Bresnick said, is “very shy about the fact that this whole thing, in some ways, is about him.”

Whitman, Melville, Dickinson — Passions of Bloom will receive its world-premiere performance, as part of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, on Tuesday, June 20, at 8 pm, in Morse Recital Hall at the Yale School of Music. The oratorio will be performed again on Wednesday, June 21, at 7:30 pm, at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.

INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS & IDEAS PERFORMANCE
NORFOLK PERFORMANCE

Published June 15, 2017
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Markus Rathey publishes book on Bach’s major vocal works

Markus RatheyYSM Associate Professor of Music History and renowned Bach scholar Markus Rathey has published a new book via Yale University Press, focusing on Johann Sebastian Bach’s major vocal works. Titled Bach’s Major Vocal Works: Music, Drama, Liturgy, the book provides an introduction to the music and cultural contexts of the composer’s most beloved masterpieces, including the Magnificat, Christmas Oratorio, and St. John Passion.

In addition to providing historical information, each chapter highlights significant aspects — such as the theology of love — of a particular piece. This volume is the first to treat the vocal works as a whole, showing how the compositions were embedded in their original performative context within the liturgy as well as discussing Bach’s musical style, from the detailed level of individual movements to the overarching aspects of each work.

To purchase and read more about the book, visit the book’s page on Yale University Press’s website.

Published March 1, 2016
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Cellist Jaques Lee Wood to give DMA recital November 6

Jaques Lee Wood, cello

Jaques Lee Wood, cello

The presents a recital by cellist Jacques Lee Wood on Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 7:30 pm. Mr. Wood’s recital is the culmination of his studies toward the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree. Esther Park will accompany on piano. LIVESTREAM

The program will begin with Beethoven‘s Seven Variations on “Bei Mannern, welche Liebe fuhlen” from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Next will be a 2010 composition by contemporary American composer  Jacob Cooper ’14DMA entitled Arches. Cooper has been lauded by The New Yorker as “a maverick electronic song composer.” The first half of the concert will end with Bach‘s Sonata in G major, BWV 1027. MORE

Published October 27, 2014
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Yale Cellos perform 30th anniversary concert Apr. 10

The Yale School of Music celebrates the 30th anniversary of Yale Cellos in a concert on Wednesday, April 10. Founding director Aldo Parisot will lead the Grammy-nominated ensemble in music from the baroque to the present day, including pieces by Vivaldi, Ravel, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Veracini, and others.

Four virtuoso soloists will open the program, beginning with special guest Patrick Jee, a YSM graduate who is now a member of the New York Philharmonic. Jee will perform the Fantasy by faculty composer Ezra Laderman, a piece that he has recorded for Albany Records. The other soloists are Jennifer Jinhee Park, Jurrian van der Zanden, and finally James Jeonghwan Kim, whose New York debut recital this February the New York Concert Review hailed as “absolute perfection.” MORE

Published March 13, 2013
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Bach Collegium Japan performs Bach motets March 3

On Sunday, March 3, conductor Masaaki Suzuki will lead the Bach Collegium Japan in a performance of motets by J.S. Bach.  The concert will take place at 5 pm in Woolsey Hall (500 College Street). Tickets are $20, $10 for students, and all proceeds will be donated to ongoing earthquake relief efforts in Japan.

Masaaki Suzuki, the founding director of Bach Collegium Japan, is Visiting Professor of Choral Conducting at Yale, where he directs the Yale Schola Cantorum.

Suzuki founded Bach Collegium Japan in 1990 to introduce Japanese audiences to period instrument performances of great works from the Baroque period. The ensemble consists of both orchestra and chorus; major activities include an annual concert series of Bach cantatas and a number of instrumental programs. It enjoys an international reputation through performances all over the world, and through acclaimed recordings of Johann Sebastian Bach’s church cantatas for the BIS label.

The Bach Collegium Japan’s 2013 U.S. tour includes performances in Avery Fisher Hall with the New York Philharmonic and Yale Schola Cantorum March 6–9.

Masaaki Suzuki returns to Yale in April to conduct Yale Schola Cantorum and Juilliard415 in performances of Bach’s Mass in B minor in New Haven, New York, and on tour to Japan and Singapore.

The U.S. tour of the Bach Collegium Japan Chorus is supported by the Japan Foundation and arranged by International Arts Foundation. Yale Institute of Sacred Music sponsors the New Haven concert. Tickets are available at music.yale.edu.

Published February 25, 2013
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Tafelmusik brings House of Dreams to Yale Mar. 5

“One of the world’s top baroque orchestras.”
– Gramophone

The Yale School of Music presents Tafelmusik in the multimedia program House of Dreams on Tuesday, March 5 at 8 pm, in Morse Recital Hall.

House of Dreams is a groundbreaking and world-renowned venture into the collaboration between visual and musical arts in the time of Purcell, Handel, Vivaldi, and Bach. Planned as an international project involving the Handel House Museum (London), the Palazzo Smith Mangilli-Valmarana (Venice), the Golden ABC (Delft), the Palais-Royal (Paris), and the Bach Museum and Archive (Leipzig), in conjunction with extensive historical research, House of Dreams is a performance experience that evokes the locations and exact settings, including the visual artistic masterpieces, that inspired some of the greatest baroque composers of the age.

Tafelmusik has been hailed as “one of the world’s top baroque orchestras” by Gramophone Magazine. In recent seasons, the orchestra made its debut at Carnegie Hall to sold-out performances that The New York Times praised for “stately, buoyant, and crisply etched playing… elegant phrasing and lithe clarity.” The Toronto-based period instrument orchestra has toured worldwide, and is the only Canadian orchestra to have held an annual international residency at the Klang und Raum Festival (Germany).

This concert is presented jointly by the Oneppo Chamber Music Series, directed by David Shifrin, and the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments, directed by William Purvis. Morse Recital Hall is located in Sprague Hall at 470 College Street (corner of Wall Street), New Haven.

Tickets are $25–$35, $15 with student ID. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit music.yale.edu or call the Yale School of Music concert office at 203 432-4158.

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Published February 25, 2013
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Ole Akahoshi and Elizabeth Parisot perform together at Yale Feb. 20

Program includes music of Bach, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn

The Yale School of Music presents a recital by Ole Akahoshi, cello, and Elizabeth Parisot, piano, on Wednesday, February 20 at 8 pm.The concert is part of the Faculty Artist Series, which presents members of the YSM faculty in programs that are free and open to the public.

The program opens with J.S. Bach’s Gamba Sonata No. 2 in D major, BVW 1028, and continues with Beethoven’s Sonata for piano and cello in D major, Op. 102, No. 2.

Mendelssohn’s Sonata for cello and piano No. 2 in D major, Op. 58, will conclude the evening. Of the four movements in Mendelssohn’s sonata, the Adagio reflects Bach’s influence in its rich piano arpeggios and recitative-style cello passages.

Admission to the performance is free. The concert takes place in Morse Recital Hall, located in Sprague Hall at 470 College Street (corner of Wall Street), New Haven.

For more information, visit music.yale.edu or contact the Yale School of Music concert office at 203 432-4158. MORE

Published February 13, 2013
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Reflections on Bach brings together old and new in Feb. 27 concert

UPDATE: This concert was originally scheduled for February 13. It will take place Wednesday, February 27.

Graduate composers collaborate with Yale Baroque Ensemble

The Yale School of Music presents “Reflections on Bach,” a collaboration between the Yale Baroque Ensemble and graduate composers on Wednesday, February 27 at 8 pm in Morse Recital Hall. The concert will include new compositions as well as music by J.S. Bach.

Six up-and-coming composers – Daniel Schlosberg, Paul Kerekes, Benjamin Wallace, Balint Karosi, Stephen Feigenbaum, and William Gardiner – have each chosen a Bach piece as a model to reflect upon in music. The concert will pair the chosen Bach work with the new composition that it inspired.

The composers are all graduate students in YSM’s composition program, directed by faculty composer Martin Bresnick. The members of the Yale Baroque Ensemble are Edson Scheid and Holly Piccoli, baroque violin; Soo Jin Chung, baroque cello; and David Fung, keyboards.

The Yale Baroque Ensemble, directed by baroque violinist Robert Mealy, is a postgraduate ensemble at the Yale School of Music dedicated to the highest level of study and performance of the Baroque repertoire. Using the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments’ set of new baroque instruments, members of the Ensemble go through an intensive one-year program of study, immersing themselves in the chamber and solo repertoire from 1600 to 1785 to create idiomatic and virtuosic performances of this music.

The Yale Baroque Ensemble plays on the YCMI’s collection of new baroque string instruments made by Jason Viseltear of New York City, after del Gesù, Amati, and Testore. Bows are also from the YCMI collection, made by David Hawthorne and Christopher English after seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century originals.

Admission to the performance is free. Morse Recital Hall is located in Sprague Hall at 470 College Street (corner of Wall Street), New Haven. For more information, visit music.yale.edu or contact the Yale School of Music concert office at 203 432-4158.

Published February 4, 2013
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CANCELLED: Orion String Quartet and Windscape perform Bach’s “Art of the Fugue”

NOTE: This concert has been cancelled. We regret that we were unable to reschedule it.

Windscape. Photo by Jeffrey Hornstein.

The Yale School of Music presents The Orion String Quartet & Windscape in a performance of Bach’s complete Art of the Fugue on Tuesday, February 12 at 8 pm in Morse Recital Hall.

The Art of the Fugue, Bach’s study of the fugue form, is as mysterious as it is extensive. Bach did not specify the musical instruments he wrote for, but Samuel Baron’s arrangement for woodwind and string quartet has been called “wistful,” “playful,” “glowing,” and “intelligent” by the New York Times.

In this concert, Bach’s complete Art of the Fugue will be performed by one of today’s most sought-after string quartets and a wind quintet that has won renown for vibrant and inventive performances. The program, which premiered at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, has been recorded on Deutsche Grammophon. The Boston Globe praises the performers as musicians with a “certain aura—that of the fabulously skilled, much sought-after… who can tackle anything.”

This concert is part of the Oneppo Chamber Music Series, directed by David Shifrin, at the Yale School of Music. Morse Recital Hall is located in Sprague Hall at 470 College Street (corner of Wall Street), New Haven.

Tickets are $25–$35, $15 with student ID. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit music.yale.edu or call the Yale School of Music concert office at 203 432-4158. MORE

Published January 31, 2013
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Horowitz Piano Series closes season with Robert Blocker on March 21

“A pianist of purified technique and enormous sensitivity.”
– La Provincia

The Horowitz Piano Series at the Yale School of Music presents a recital by the pianist Robert Blocker, on Wednesday, March 21. Blocker, hailed as “a pianist of purified technique and enormous sensitivity,” will perform a diverse program of music from the Baroque to the present day, including pieces by two Yale faculty composers.

Each half will open with musical fantasies, beginning with Haydn’s Fantasia in C major, Hob. XVII:4. The first half will also feature Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 12, a collection of eight character pieces, and Martin Bresnick’s Strange Devotion. Bresnick’s work, which is dedicated to Blocker, was inspired by Francisco de Goya’s etching Extraña Devoción, from the series Caprichos Enfáticos. Bresnick is a member of the School of Music’s composition faculty.

The second half of the concert reaches back to the Baroque, opening with J.S. Bach’s Fantasia in C minor. Next will be another collection from the Romantic period: Brahms’s masterful Six Piano Pieces, Op. 118.

The concert will close with another piece by a Yale faculty member, Ezra Laderman; Decade was written for Robert Blocker after his first ten years as Dean of the School of Music. After Blocker premiered the work in 2009, the Hartford Courant wrote: Decade is a new piano work worth getting excited about.” MORE

Published March 2, 2012
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