Alan Gilbert Leads the NY Phil in Britten's 100th Birthday Celebration, 11/21
New York Choral Artists, a professional chorus founded and directed by Joseph Flummerfelt, has been heard with the New York Philharmonic in recent seasons performing repertoire ranging from Michael Tippett's A Child of Our Time to Mozart's Requiem. The chorus opened the Philharmonic's 2002-03 subscription season performing the World Premiere of John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls, commissioned by the Philharmonic with Lincoln Center's Great Performers. Other highlights of the group's history include the 1995 Philharmonic concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, and a televised performance of the 1986 Statue of Liberty Concert in Central Park. The chorus performed Britten's War Requiem and Mahler's Symphony No. 8 during Lorin Maazel's final weeks as Music Director, and over the past few years collaborated with Music Director Alan Gilbert on Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre, Mahler's Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, and Bach's B-minor Mass. For more than 40 seasons Joseph Flummerfelt has been preparing choral performances for the New York Philharmonic. Named Conductor of the Year in 2004 by Musical America, he is founder and musical director of the New York Choral Artists and an artistic director of Spoleto Festival U.S.A. He was conductor of the Westminster Choir for 33 years. He has collaborated with such conductors as Claudio Abbado, Barenboim, Bernstein, Boulez, Chailly, Sir Colin Davis, Gilbert, Giulini, Maazel, Masur, Mehta, Muti, Ozawa, Sawallisch, Shaw, and Steinberg. His choirs have been featured on 45 recordings, including Grammy Award-winning versions of Mahler's Symphony No. 3 with Leonard Bernstein, Barber's Antony and Cleopatra, and John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls. He has also received two Grammy nominations, and his Delos recording of Brahms's choral works, Singing for Pleasure, with the Westminster Choir, was chosen by The New York Times as a favorite among Brahms recordings. Mr. Flummerfelt's honors include Le Prix du Président de la République from L'Académie du Disque Français and four honorary doctoral degrees. He is sought out as a guest conductor and master teacher of choral conducting. New York Choral Artists made its Philharmonic debut in December 1979 performing Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and Mozart's Mass in C minor, Great, led by James Levine. The chorus's most recent appearance will be the November 2013 performances of Mozart's Requiem, led by Bernard Labadie.
Now in its 21st season, the Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus (BYC), under the direction of founder and artistic director Dianne Berkun-Menaker, has performed with major orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, and Mariinsky Orchestra, and conductors Valery Gergiev, Lorin Maazel, Marin Alsop, James Levine, Charles Dutoit, Robert Spano, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Leon Botstein. The BYC has performed with artists including Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Lou Reed, Philip Glass, Kronos Quartet, Grizzly Bear, John Legend, Natasha Bedingfield, Alicia Keys, and Judy Collins. Central to BYC's work is New Voices, an active commissioning program with the goal of creating innovative repertoire that challenges both singers and audiences. Among the composers BYC has commissioned are Pulitzer Prize-winners David Lang and Paul Moravec, Daniel Brewbaker, Bryce Dessner, Phil Kline, Fred Hersch, Andrew Lippa, James MacMillan, Joel Martin, Missy Mazzoli, Nico Muhly, Kirk Nurock, Richard Reed Parry, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Julia Wolfe, and Shara Worden. BYC has performed at BAM's Next Wave Festival, BAM's Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Festival, the Ecstatic Music Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Cincinnati's MusicNOW Festival, Park Avenue Armory's Tune-In Festival, the Prototype Festival, and the Bang on a Can Marathon at the River to River Festival. The young singers, who are drawn from all five boroughs of New York City, receive training from the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy (BYCA), a performance- based vocal music education program. Dianne Berkun-Menaker was the artistic director for the 2012-13 Carnegie Hall Choral Institute, and is creator of BYCA's groundbreaking Cross-Choral Training program. BYC's first appearance with the Philharmonic was in 2002 for the premiere of John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls, conducted by Lorin Maazel; the recording won a Grammy Award in 2005. It most recently participated in the Orchestra's 2012 presentation of Orff's Carmina burana, led by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos.
Repertoire Benjamin Britten composed his Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings (1943) for legendary horn virtuoso Dennis Brain and tenor Peter Pears (the composer's life partner, for whom he wrote all of his most notable tenor roles). English poet and critic Edward Sackville-West, the Serenade's dedicatee and compiler of texts, provides an apt summary: "The subject is Night and its prestigia [tricks], the lengthening shadow, the distant haze at sunset, the Baroque panoply of the starry sky, the heavy angels of sleep, but also the cloak of evil - the worm in the heart of the rose, the sense of sin in the heart of man." Accompanied by string orchestra, the six "nocturnes" set poems by English authors spanning the 15th to 19th centuries; works include Charles Cotton's "The Day's Grown Old" (about the effects of the setting sun on the countryside, lengthening shadows and turning "brambles into tall cedars"), William Blake's darkly evocative "O Rose, thou art sick," and John Keats's "O soft embalmer of the still midnight," in which the poet asks sleep to "seal the hushèd Casket of my Soul." Britten indicates that the Serenade's solo horn Prologue and Epilogue be performed using the instrument's natural harmonics (i.e., without using valves), an unusual tuning for audiences accustomed to the common chromatic stale. The Philharmonic has only performed this work twice, both times with Philip Myers as horn soloist: in 1984, with conductor Gunther Herbig and tenor Peter Schreier, and in 2001, with André Previn and tenor Anthony Dean Griffey.
Spring Symphony (1949) is one of Benjamin Britten's less frequently performed masterworks, largely due to the huge forces required. Cast in four sections - somewhat like movements of a symphony - it is scored for very large orchestra (including cow horn in the fourth section), chorus, boys' choir, and three soloists. It was co-commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Inspired by the Suffolk countryside Britten loved, the work represents "a symphony not only dealing with the Spring itself but with the progress of Winter to Spring and the reawakening of the earth and life which that means," Britten explained. The 14 poems include Edmund Spenser's "The Merry Cuckoo," William Blake's "Sound the Flute," and W.H. Auden's "Out on the Lawn I Lie in Bed." Each of the settings collected within the "movements" has its own personality, something Britten achieves by varying the performing forces and effects (the boys' choir, for example, also whistles), ending with the full-throated climax, "Sumer is icumen in." The Philharmonic's only previous performance of the Spring Symphony was in 1963 conducted by Leonard Bernstein.
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Alan Gilbert / Britten's 100th Birthday / 6
Tickets for these concerts start at $29. Tickets for Open Rehearsals are $18. Pre-Concert Talks are $7; discounts are available for multiple concerts, students, and groups (visit nyphil.org/preconcert for more information). All other tickets may be purchased online at nyphil.org or by calling (212) 875-5656, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets may also be purchased at the Avery Fisher Hall Box Office. The Box Office opens at 10:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and at noon on Sunday. On performance evenings, the Box Office closes one-half hour after performance time; other evenings it closes at 6:00 p.m. A limited number of $13.50 tickets for select concerts may be available through the Internet for students within 10 days of the performance, or in person the day of. Valid identification is required. To determine ticket availability, call the Philharmonic's Customer Relations Department at (212) 875-5656. [Ticket prices subject to change.]
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