New Amsterdam Singers Present SHAKESPEARE IN SONG Tonight
The New Amsterdam Singers, led by music director Clara Longstreth, will present the final concert of its season, called Full Fathom Five: Shakespeare in Song (Composers of Many Lands in Love with the Bard) tonight, May 22, 2014, at 8:00 p.m. at Saint Ignatius of Antioch Church, 552 West End Avenue at 87th Street. The program includes four major choral cycles on Shakespeare texts for a cappella choir by 20th- century composers from England, Switzerland, Finland, and Denmark. The evocative poem/song from The Tempest, "Full Fathom Five," appears in three of the cycles.
Also on the program is a 19th-century century work for women's voices and piano, Berlioz's La mort d'Ophélie. American works for men's voices by Alaric Jans, Tom Benjamin, and Robert Washburn will also be sung. A jazz-inflected setting of O Mistress Mine by Hungarian composer György Orban completes the program.
The cycle by Vaughan Williams, a repertoire staple of college and professional choruses, was written for a British Federation of Music Festival in 1951. Frank Martin's "Songs of Ariel" was composed in 1950 as the first element of Der Sturm, his German opera based on The Tempest. A more recent cycle by Jaako Mäntyjärvi was written when he was 21 years old for his own student choir of the University of Helsinki. Its success led to More Shakespeare Songs and No More Shakespeare Songs. The third of the original set, Double, Double Toil and Trouble, the witches' song from Macbeth is extraordinary for its manic pacing and glissando shrieks.
Frank Martin ranks among the most important and influential Swiss composers of the last century. Born in Geneva in 1890 as the youngest child of 10, he trained and performed all over Europe, although he spent long stretches of his adult life in the Netherlands. Martin demonstrated a very early aptitude for music. He studied mathematics for a few years to satisfy his family, but eventually he sought out his own path, first coming to international prominence with his 1944 orchestral work,Petite Symphonie Concertante. The Bach-influenced piece remains Martin's best-known work, and it highlights his command of the 12-tone technique. Before his death in 1974, Martin was heralded not only as a world-class composer, but also as an educator and artistic director. He received honors and awards from all over the world.