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Our 52nd subscription season begins on October 5 with a concert entitled Palestrina and the Mystics: Pärt, Palestrina, and Tavener that features Palestrina’s monumental contribution to the Renaissance literature, his Missa Papae Marcelli (c.1562). This fabled work was noted from its inception, and a 1828 biography called Palestrina the “Savior of Church Music” for his presentation of this Mass setting on the historic occasion of the debate over the use of polyphony in the sacred services at the Council of Trent. Palestrina’s setting aptly demonstrated that polyphonic music — multiple voices in motion at different times — was not only beautiful but could, in fact, be textually intelligible. The Cardinals were pleased!
Alongside Palestrina’s masterwork, we will perform music of the composers Arvo Pärt and Sir John Tavener. While drawing on minimalist values, both composers incorporate elements of medieval and early music into their work. The works of Pärt, in particular, echo elements of medieval chant and organum, while the works of Tavener evoke earlier music from the Orthodox Church. Pärt’s Magnificat (1989) is now a classic of the choral canon; Tavener’s Funeral Ikos (1981) and Ikon of Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (1986) evoke an enchanting sense of time and place. This concert takes place in the Great Choir of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, an ideal acoustic and setting for this mystical music within the world’s largest Gothic cathedral.
On March 8, 2017, we will present a program of Britten, Bach and Brahms, beginning with a signature Musica Sacra work, J. S. Bach’s great motet Jesu, meine Freude (c. 1723). This work features choir divided into five voices and uses variegated textures and contrasting musical strategies to create a unique and deeply satisfying aural journey. Johannes Brahms’s motet, Schaffe in mir, Gott (1860), is one of his most challenging. His use of fugue evokes his devotion to the works of Bach, and this setting of the first verses of Psalm 51 is, in miniature, another musical and emotional journey from longing to elation. We celebrate the music of Benjamin Britten with a concert performance of his Festival Te Deum (1944), a uniquely mystical — and then triumphant — setting, along with his joyous cantata Rejoice in the Lamb (1943). The poetry of Christopher Smart moved Britten to some of his finest compositional moments, including the enchanting “Hallelujah” that closes this work. This concert also takes place in the Great Choir at St. John the Divine, where Britten’s War Requiem (1961-62) is to be performed on April 6 and 7, thus providing a beautiful opportunity for lovers of Britten’s music to enhance a month of exploration!
You can get your tickets now by subscribing to the entire season or by ordering single tickets. I also appeal to you to support Musica Sacra. Ticket sales alone cover less than 30% of our costs, so your support enables us to continue our glorious tradition of presenting the greatest music performed by New York's finest singers and players!
I look forward to seeing you often during our 2016-2017 season!
Kent Tritle, Music Director