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With its majestic facade, vaulted dome, ornate main altar and impressive side chapels, the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul provides the perfect backdrop for the majestic Bruckner Mass No. 2 in E Minor and the world premiere of Robert Moran’s Angele Dei and the newly commissioned, full-chorus version of the ethereal Trinity Requiem, which originally premiered at Trinity Church on Wall Street for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. In addition to Mendelssohn Club Chorus, this historic concert will feature two of the city’s other musical treasures, the Philadelphia Boys Choir and The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.
Beyond the epic visual qualities of the space, the venue for this concert provides special opportunities and challenges for any musical performance. Music created in the center of the cathedral takes a full seven seconds to disappear. This seven-second “reverb” would render a lot of music played at a quick tempo to be almost unbearable, but the same acoustics are ideally suited for the more carefully paced compositions of Bruckner and Moran, written more than 150 years apart.
Moran’s new work, Angele Dei, is based on a Catholic prayer to one’s guardian angel. It includes passages with several seconds of silence allowing time for the accumulated sounds to travel through the seven-second reverberation of the Cathedral Basilica. This is in some ways paralleled in the Bruckner Mass with its full measures of rest at some cadential points. Mendelssohn Club Artistic Director Alan Harler had to decide what to perform when the chorus was invited to perform in this historic space. “Until 2011, there had been no public concerts in the Cathedral Basilica for over a decade. It was an exciting challenge to create an interesting program that would be compelling for a 21st century audience,” recalls Harler. “I knew the Bruckner Mass in E Minor would be an incredibly beautiful experience here because this music was composed to be heard in a large cathedral.”
When selecting a contemporary work to perform on the same program, Harler immediately thought of composer Robert Moran and his 2011 Trinity Requiem, which originally premiered at Trinity on Wall Street for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. “I asked Bob (Moran) if he would revise his Requiem for a full chorus and if he would compose a new work for Mendelssohn Club to sing in this one-of-a-kind place. “I’m extremely pleased that we will premiere the latest Moran revision on this scale, which includes a new movement, by performing it with the Philadelphia Boys Choir and The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.”
The veteran conductor has conceived a dramatic choreography for the concert that splits both choruses into multiple sections of the church above and around the audience before reuniting them for the climatic Trinity Requiem. Harler is convinced that listening to this music in this space sung by nearly 200 voices will be “a profoundly powerful experience” and even “emotionally transporting for anyone in the audience regardless of their personal spiritual perspective.”
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Trinity: Moran and Bruckner
with the Philadelphia Boys Choir
and The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter and Paul
1723 Race St., Philadelphia, PA 19103
To order your tickets, visit www.mcchorus.org
Special Note: The Catholic Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul (1864) is one of the most architecturally significant structures in Pennsylvania. This historic house of worship is modeled after the Lombard Church of St. Charles in Rome (San Carla al Corso) and is considered one of America’s finest examples of church architecture in the Roman-Corinthian style.
Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
The Austrian composer Anton Bruckner was known for his masses, motets and symphonies. The dissonances, modulations and roving harmonies of his compositions helped to define contemporary musical radicalism. A devout Catholic, Bruckner produced some of the most wonderful music in the 19th century sacred choral repertoire.
Mass No. 2 in E minor
The composer began the Mass in E minor shortly after finishing his First Symphony (1866) and the work premiered at an outdoor concert celebrating the completion of a chapel at Linz Cathedral. Bruckner was intimately familiar with old polyphonic church music, and the work combines Renaissance techniques and chant-like melodies with idioms of the late-Romantic period. His second Mass, written for a chorus accompanied by wind instruments, is both serene and exultant.
Robert Moran (1937 – )
In his long career dating back to the 1960s, Philadelphia resident Robert Moran has composed operas and ballets as well as numerous orchestral, vocal, chamber and dance works. Moran has written for every imaginable ensemble: ancient folk instrument from Syria, Austria, Javanese gamelan, solo instrumental work, scores for six orchestras and six choruses, multiple prepared pianos, etc. Moran has been composer-in-residence in Berlin; Buffalo, NY; and Northwestern University. His music has been recorded on the Argos, Nonesuch, and Polygram labels. He currently lives in Philadelphia, and travels frequent around the U.S., Europe, and parts of Asia and South America for premieres of his works, and to give lectures.
Angele Dei – 2012 World Premiere
This work, based on a Catholic prayer to one’s guardian angel, was designed specifically for the Cathedral Basilica. It consists of continuous music made up of “layers” of color and pitches produced by layered units of sound. A given unit may consist of four celli, brass, woodwinds, two choirs, harp and organ. The organization of time is not metric but indicated as number of seconds in length. Occasionally there will be several seconds of silence to allow time for the accumulated sounds to travel through the seven-second reverberation of the Cathedral Basilica. This is in some ways paralleled in the Bruckner Mass with its full measures of rest at some cadential points.
Trinity Requiem – 2011
Trinity Requiem was commissioned for the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 at the request of Robert Ridgell and the Trinity Youth Group, a chorus made of young people from the five boroughs of New York. The work is scored for treble voices, four cellos, organ and harp. Handbells are employed in the Pie Jesu. And, unusual for a requiem setting, Moran includes In Paradisum, emphasizing a desire to attain peace at last. Moran has said he was initially reluctant to write a Requiem to be performed by a children’s choir, “but then I began to get flashbacks of numerous stories I had heard throughout my life of children who had lost their entire families from plagues, wars, endless catastrophes, vicious governments, etc. That kind of loss made sense to the children. This is what our requiem is about.”