Tuesday & Wednesday, May 3 & 4, 8pm
Pre-concert talks at 7:15pm
Trinity St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor Street West, Toronto

Programme notes
by Andrea Budgey

"The course of true love never did run smooth", Lysander says to Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream. And while we hope sincerely that this bleak generalization holds only in art and not in life, it is true that we have been fascinated throughout the ages with doomed relationships – with lovers passionately devoted to one another but destined to be separated by the whim of gods and sorceries, the relentless judgement of the law, or the enmity of their families and communities.

Such lovers are Dido, Queen of Carthage and the Trojan hero Aeneas, as well as Orpheus, musician to the gods, and his beloved Eurydice. Such also are the dashing highwayman and the landlord's selflessly faithful daughter; and Tony, ambivalent member of the Jets gang and Maria, sister to the leader of the rival Sharks.

The exception in this programme is the "travelling journeyman" of Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer. He represents, perhaps, the composer himself: his songs express the torment of an unrequited love, the hollowness of a relationship desired and imagined but never shared.

Henry Purcell: 'When I am laid in earth' from Dido and Aeneas. Libretto by Nahum Tate
Christoph Willibald Gluck: 'Che farò senza Euridice' from Orfeo ed Euridice. Libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi
Dean Burry: The Highwayman. Poem by Alfred Noyes
Leonard Bernstein, arr. Laura Jones: Three songs from West Side Story. Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Gustav Mahler, arr. Arnold Schönberg: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer). Poetry by the composer

Henry Purcell: 'When I am laid in earth' from Dido and Aeneas, for voice, strings and continuo. Libretto by Nahum Tate

The first known performance of Dido and Aeneas took place at Josiah Priest's girls' school in Chelsea, in the summer of 1688 or earlier, although it appears possible that the opera was originally composed for a court setting. Dido's famous lament is placed just before the final chorus, after Aeneas has been deviously induced to leave Carthage and abandon her. The ground bass is exquisitely simple, as is the text, gracious even in its despair. The melody, austere and perfectly proportioned, leaves the singer – like the character – no place of concealment and no room for extravagant display.

Christoph Willibald Gluck: 'Che farò senza Euridice' from Orfeo ed Euridice, for voice, strings and continuo. Libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi

Orfeo ed Euridice, the best-known of Gluck's operas on themes from classical mythology, exists in an Italian version, first performed in 1762, and a French one, dating from 1774. The classical version of the story ends tragically: after Orpheo has won his wife's release from Hades, on the condition that he not look at her on the trip back to the land of the living, he falters at the last moment and loses her forever. He himself is killed shortly thereafter. The opera "corrects" this conclusion, so that Orfeo is dissuaded from killing himself in despair, and rewarded for his continuing devotion by being reunited with Euridice. However, the pivotal aria 'Che farò' expresses poignantly the desolation of the moment when the lover believes that the beloved is lost to him forever.

Dean Burry: The Highwayman, for voice, violin, cello, flute, clarinet, and piano. Poem by Alfred Noyes

Newfoundlander Dean Burry studied saxophone at Mount Allison University before moving to Toronto in the 1990s to study composition, and to launch a diversified musical career as a composer, librettist, and educator. He has worked extensively with the Canadian Opera Company, and written numerous works for opera programmes for young people, a body of work for which he received the Louis Applebaum Composers Award in 2011.

Alfred Noyes' neo-Romantic tour-de-force, a tale of forbidden love and tragic sacrifice, attracted Burry's attention from an early age:

The Highwayman made an early impact on me when I first discovered it in a faded book in my elementary school library. I remember committing it to memory for a school concert, delivering the sumptuous descriptive language with all the drama a 10-year-old imagination can muster. The poem has stayed with me since that time…

The make-up of the instrumental ensemble for The Highwayman is based on that used in Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire (1912); both works, as the composer points out, have a narrator, are divided into a number of short sections, and employ the moon as their central image. The atonal style of Schoenberg is a clear influence on the style of the piece, but other styles also appear "as the drama of the narrative dictates". It is interesting to speculate how Noyes', deeply averse to modernism in poetry, would have responded to this highly effective dramatization of his work!

Leonard Bernstein, arr. Laura Jones: Three songs from West Side Story, for voice, flute, oboe, violin, viola, cello and double bass. Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

These three extracts from Bernstein's 1957 American re-imagining of the Romeo and Juliet story follow the progress of Tony and Maria's relationship from the exaltation of their first meeting ('Maria'), through their fond imaginings of a future in which they can be together forever, in spite of the enmity of the rival gangs that control their lives ('One hand, one heart'). The final song, 'Somewhere', sustains this hope, but it is clearly illusory now that Tony has become embroiled in the deadly violence between the two groups – the "place for us" that they long for can have no reality in the world that surrounds them.
Laura Jones' arrangement preserves the rhythmic and harmonic vitality of Bernstein's writing, while the intimate character of the chamber instrumentation sheds a delicate and empathetic light on the pathos of Maria and Tony's doomed relationship.

Gustav Mahler, arr. Arnold Schönberg: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer), for voice, flute, clarinet, string quintet, piano, harmonium and percussion. Poetry by the composer

Mahler's first song cycle, begun in 1884 and published in 1897, set lyrics of doomed, unrequited love by the composer himself, which were heavily influenced by the folk poetry collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn, and inspired by the composer's relationship with the soprano Johanna Richter.

The cycle exists in versions with both piano and orchestral accompaniment. When Arnold Schönberg later selected Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen for performance by his Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen (Society for Private Musical Performance), he re-arranged the orchestral version for the forces at his disposal: flute, clarinet, strings, piano, harmonium and percussion, with the keyboard instruments covering most of the wind and brass parts.

The Society's evenings, which ran from 1918 to 1923, were select occasions, without publicity, paying audience, applause or reviews. They were intended to present significant works in performances which achieved the "utmost clarity and fulfillment." The instrumentation of the chamber ensemble allowed for an extraordinary range of colours and textures within the limitations of such intimate private performances. The technique of paring down textures while revealing more clearly the essential aspects of the work expresses, to some extent, Schönberg's lifelong ambivalence about Mahler: a deep admiration for the artist and craftsman, strongly coloured by the conviction that the day of Romanticism was over.

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