Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Intermezzo Sunday Concert, January 26, 2014 @ 3 p.m.

James Hall, tenor
Michael Mastronicola, piano
  • Benjamin Britten: Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, Op. 22
       1. Sonetto 16: Sì come nella penna e nell' inchiostro
       2. Sonetto 31: A che più debb io mai l'intensa voglia
       3. Sonetto 30: Veggio co' bei vostri occhi un dolce lume
       4. Sonetto 55: Tu sa' ch'io so, signior mie, che tu sai
       5. Sonetto 38: Rendete a gli occhi miei, o fonte o fiume
       6. Sonetto 32: S'un casto amor, s una pietà superna
       7. Sonetto 24: Spirto ben nato, in cui si specchia e vede
    [YouTube: #1-2 ; #3-7]
  • Reynaldo Hahn: Venezia
       1. Sopra l’acqua indormenzada
       2. La Barcheta
       3. L’Avertimento
       4. La Biondina in gondoleta
       5. Che pecà!
    [SCORE @ imslp.org][RECORDING @ YouTube]
  • Franz Liszt: Tre sonetti di Petrarca
       1. Pace non trovo
       2. Benedetto sia 'l giorno
       3. I’ vidi in terra angelici costume
    [SCORE @ imslp.org][RECORDINGS @ instantencore.com]
Dr. James Hall, tenor, enjoys an active and varied career that includes opera, oratorio, chamber music, and solo recital. His artistic versatility is evident through a diverse repertoire that spans baroque to contemporary music. Consistently praised for his elegant musicality and soaring high register, Hall has performed as a soloist throughout the United States with groups such as Mercury Baroque, Masterworks Chorus and Orchestra of Washington, D. C., Shepherd School of Music Chamber Orchestra, and St. Matthew’s Cathedral. A new music advocate, Hall has participated in projects with renowned composers Kirke Mechem, Daniel Catan, Carlisle Floyd, and Ann Gebuhr. Recent and upcoming engagements include appearances with Miami Bach Society as haute-contre soloist in Andre Campra’s Requiem and as tenor soloist in Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with The University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory Dancers, Choirs, and Wind Symphony. Well-regarded as an accomplished pedagogue, Dr. Hall has presented master classes in Los Angeles, Kansas City, Washington, D.C., and throughout Texas. He maintains an active voice studio at the University of North Florida, where he joined the faculty in 2011. Dr. Hall holds advanced degrees from The Maryland Opera Studio at the University of Maryland as well as Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Dr. Michael Mastronicola teaches Accompanying, Piano Pedagogy, and Class Piano at the University of North Florida, and has taught at Jacksonville University and Front Range Community College.  He is the chair of the annual Outstanding Young Pianists Competition, was artist-coach at the Friday Musicale Emerging Young Artist Chamber Music Festival in 2011,  and has conducted and served as guest clinician for piano festivals in Colorado and Florida. Dr. Mastronicola often adjudicates music competitions, and he is proud of his award-winning students. Among his own awards, Mastronicola received the Harold A. Norblom award in recognition of his “outstanding dedication and exemplary community service” while collaborating with Opera Colorado.  With extensive performance credits as both solo and collaborative pianist, Dr. Mastronicola has appeared in recitals and concerts throughout the United States and Europe, including with the Boulder Philharmonic. Praised for his “intelligent, skilled” and “expressive” playing (Daily Camera), his most recent recording is Then Sings My Soul with soprano Tresa Waggoner.  Additionally, he maintains a busy lecture schedule, and has authored reviews for American Music Teacher.  Dr. Mastronicola holds degrees from the University of Colorado-Boulder (D.M.A), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (M.M.), and Ithaca College (B.M.), with additional training in the Taubman Approach at the Golandsky Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.  He is Organist/Choirmaster at Jacksonville's All Saints Episcopal Church, and is a Colleague with the American Guild of Organists.

PROGRAM NOTES by Ed Lein, Music Librarian

SEVEN SONNETS OF MICHELANGELO, Op. 22 : Song Cycle by Benjamin Britten 

Sir Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) is widely regarded as among the most significant composers of 20th-Century concert music, with an extensive catalog including vocal and choral music, instrumental solo and chamber music, orchestral music, and music for the stage and screen. The British composer first came to international prominence with his opera, Peter Grimes (1945), and his operas remain more frequently performed than those of any other composer born after 1900. Among his best-known works are the orchestral song cycles Les illuminations (1939) and Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings (1943);  the choral A Ceremony of Carols (1942) and War Requiem (1961); and the orchestral The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (1946).  Also a gifted pianist and conductor, Britten performed and recorded his own music, as well as works by other composers. 

Britten lived in the United States between 1939 and 1942, and although he composed the Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo (1940) during these “American years,” the premiere had to wait until September 1942, after his return to England.  Composed for and dedicated to Britten’s partner, tenor Peter Pears, the Sonnets proved to be so challenging that Pears decided he needed additional vocal coaching to improve his stamina and range before putting them before the public. The delay paid off: London critics declared the cycle to contain the finest examples of art songs by an Englishman since Henry Purcell (as they similarly would observe about English opera after the premiere of Peter Grimes). And as soon as the applause died down for the Sonnets, literally, Decca Records approached Britten and Pears about recording the cycle. The recordings became a best-seller, and began a life-long association between the composer and recording company.

Texts: Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564). Translations: John Addington Symonds (1840-1893)

VENEZIA : Chansons in Venetian Dialect, by Reynaldo Hahn

By his fourth birthday, Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947) had moved with his wealthy family from Venezuela to Paris, France, but not before his prodigious musical talents had already begun to manifest—in 1878, Venezuelan poet José Maria Samper published A Reinaldo Hahn (niño a tres años y medio), an ode about the three-and-a-half-year-old singer “Foretelling the symphonies / Of another Beethoven perhaps.” By the age of six Hahn was making the rounds as a salon singer, accompanying himself at the piano in the apartments of Parisian socialites, and by eight he had begun composing his own songs. At 11 he entered the Paris Conservatory, where he excelled as conductor and composer, with Massenet and Saint-Saëns as his particular champions. As conductor, Hahn was a recognized Mozart specialist, and in 1906 he conducted Don Giovanni at the first Mozart Festival in Salzburg, Austria. In addition to composing and conducting, in 1909 he began a career as a respected music critic, and in 1945-1946 was named director of the Paris Opéra. He was an intimate friend of author Marcel Proust, who, in his unfinished early novel Jean Santeuil, portrayed the witty Hahn as a genius. But even less personal observers recalled Hahn’s extraordinary charisma, and how as a singer he was so attuned to the meaning behind the words that he could make poets weep when he performed—this though Hahn’s baritone voice was not in itself particularly memorable nor well-disciplined, with him going so far as to sing with a cigarette dangling from his lips (which, one supposes, was pretty memorable all by itself). Hahn wrote a variety of dramatic, instrumental and vocal music, and is remembered especially for his art-song mélodies.

Although the Venezia cycle was published in 1919, the songs date from 1901, when Hahn first visited Venice while travelling with his mother. As Thea Sikora Engelson observes in The Mélodies of Reynaldo Hahn (2006), the composer made a point of distinguishing the folksy chansons of Venezia, meant to mimic the style of Venetian popular songs, from the rest of his more classically-inspired mélodies, and the set includes a sixth piece, La primavera, for soprano and tenor soloists with chorus. In addition to setting verses in the local dialect (for which he provided a pronunciation guide), to pay further homage to his beloved Venice Hahn opens with the barcarolle rhythm of the gondoliers; and in the second song Engelson suggests he uses the piano to conjure oar strokes rippling through the canals that lace the city.

TRE SONETTI DI PETRARCA : Song Cycle, by Franz Liszt

Hungarian-born Franz Liszt (1811-1886) is widely regarded as the greatest pianist of all time, and his performances excited an hysteria that today is reserved for only the most popular of rock stars. Despite great fame following a sometimes impoverished youth, Liszt remained unspoiled and donated great sums of his concert earnings to a wide variety of charitable causes, and in later life he even took orders in the church. His generosity extended to helping increase the fortunes of struggling musicians, among them Hector Berlioz and Liszt’s future son-in-law, Richard Wagner. An innovative composer, Liszt is credited with creating the symphonic tone poem as a form, developing the technique of thematic transformation, and he even anticipated some of the harmonic devices of Impressionist composers.

Liszt prepared four different versions of his Tre sonetti di Petrarca (Three Sonnets of Petrarch), the first for tenor and piano, two for piano solo, and one for mezzo-soprano or baritone and piano. The original tenor version and the first piano transcription most likely were composed between 1843-45, and it was the piano version that was published first, in 1846. [The second piano version became numbers 4-6 in Liszt's suite, Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année: Italie (Years of Pilgrimage, Second Year: Italy), completed in 1849 and published in 1858. The second vocal version is from 1865, and is perhaps less impetuous and showy than the other versions.] As originally conceived, the Sonetti are operatic in nature, incorporating both a sustained lyricism and more dramatic, declamatory passages. In addition to the interpretive challenges for both performers, as one might expect the virtuosic piano writing offers technical complexities for the pianist, and Liszt provides a couple of opportunities for the tenor to show off high D-flats (above the staff), if so inclined. The composer is ever respectful of the verse of Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374), which teeters between ecstatic joy and hopeless despair, with a touch of reverential awe thrown in for good measure. Liszt's then cutting-edge chromatic harmonies highlight the poet's searching uncertainty, and helped lay the foundation for the tenuous tonality of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (1857-59).

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