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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Peter Frankl performs piano concertos on Horowitz Piano Series Nov. 16

Concert also features Linden String Quartet & tenor James Taylor

The Horowitz Piano Series at the Yale School of Music presents a concert by the pianist Peter Frankl on Wednesday, November 16. While the series most often presents solo recitals, Frankl will be joined by the Linden String Quartet and double bassist Gregory Robbins. The recital will take place at 8 pm in Morse Recital Hall, located in Sprague Memorial Hall at 470 College Street.

Frankl will perform two concertos with the string players: Mozart’s Piano Concerto in F major, K. 413, and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21. Frankl will also play solo piano works of both composers: Mozart’s Menuet in D major, K. 355, and Sonata in D major, K. 576, and Chopin’s Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49.

Frankl has been described by Auditorium as “not a mere pianist, but a true artist.” The Linden Quartet, currently the graduate quartet-in-residence at the Yale School of Music, has been praised for its “remarkable depth of technique and brilliantly nuanced, sumptuous tonality….” (MusicWeb International). Bassist Gregory Robbins ’12MM was selected as a member of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. MORE

Published October 28, 2011
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Ilya Poletaev and friends perform a tribute to George Enescu

Program includes a newly-discovered violin work by the Romanian composer

Enescu

Enescu

Canadian pianist and Yale faculty member Ilya Poletaev brings together his faculty colleague, tenor James Taylor, guest violinist Jennifer Curtis, and alumni cellist Mihai Marica for a tribute to the Romanian composer George Enescu on Saturday, February 6, 2010 at 8 pm in Morse Recital Hall in Sprague Hall (470 College Street, New Haven). Enescu (1881-1955), described by Pablo Casals as “the greatest musical phenomenon since Mozart,” was a virtuoso violinist, pianist, and conductor as well as an educator and composer. His mature works are noteworthy for their refinement, complexity, and emotional depth, but have been celebrated little outside of Enescu’s native Romania.

This concert will introduce to the public some of the most important chamber works in Enescu’s oeuvre: Sept Chansons de Clement Marot, Op. 15; the newly-discovered Airs in Romanian Style for solo violin; the Cello Sonata, Op. 26, no. 2; the Piano Sonata, Op. 24, no. 1; and Impressions d’Enfance for violin and piano, Op. 28. This will be the first time the Airs in Romanian Style has been performed in New Haven; Curtis recently gave the work its New York premiere. Admission to the performance is free. For a live video stream of the concert, and for more information, visit the School of Music’s website.

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Published January 12, 2010
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“Love and Separation” with tenor James Taylor

Program includes music of Beethoven, Schubert, and Schumann

The Yale School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music present a Faculty Artist Series recital by acclaimed tenor James Taylor on Sunday, January 25 at 5 pm in Morse Recital Hall in Sprague Memorial Hall (470 College St at Wall St). Taylor, who teaches voice at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and directs the Yale Voxtet, will perform with pianist Donald Sulzen, an internationally sought-after accompanist and chamber musician.  Their program’s theme is “Love and Separation,” and will include Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte, Op. 9, Shubert’s  song cycle Auf dem Wasser zu Singen, and Schumann’s beloved song cycle Dichterliebe. For more information, visit the Yale School of Music website, www.yale.edu/music, or call 203 432-4158.taylor_v

The American lyric tenor James Taylor joined the Yale faculty in 2005 after serving as professor of voice at the Musikhochschule in Augsburg, Germany. He is a sought-after oratorio singer, appearing worldwide with such renowned conductors as Eschenbach, Harnoncourt, Blomstedt, and Koopman, and touring extensively with Helmuth Rilling. He has appeared with the Vienna Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, and Tafelmusik.  His more than thirty-five CD recordings include Dvorák’s Stabat Mater, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, and the songs of John Duke. Taylor is one of the founders of Liedertafel, a male vocal quartet that has appeared in major European festivals and recorded for the Orfeo label. Recent engagements include Mozart’s Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the New York Philharmonic, and Britten’s Horn Serenade with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Donald Sulzen is one of the most requested pianists for accompanying and chamber music at the international level. He has performed in the most prestigious recital halls of Europe, the USA, South America, and Japan. His numerous performances on radio and television include stations in Germany, France, and Italy. He has completed more than thirty CDs for Orfeo International, Toshiba-EMI, Koch International, Genuin, Arte Nova, cpo and Amati.  After teaching for several years at the Salzburg Mozarteum, he now teaches at Munich’s Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst.  He has also given master classes for singers and pianists throughout America and Europe.

Published January 28, 2009
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