Bernstein Chichester Psalms
Britten Rejoice in the Lamb
Saturday 15th February 2014 St John's Church, Ranmoor
Conducted by Robert Webb, with Ian Roberts (organ)
Tickets £12.00; concessions £10.00; Students £5.00; u13s free
Available from http://www.sterndalesingers.org.uk
Maurice Duruflé's subtle and expressive Requiem demonstrates a personal and introvert reading of the requiem texts in stark contrast to the fiery and monumental settings by the likes of Berlioz and Verdi. In common with Fauré, Duruflé omitted the highly dramatic day of judgement text, Dies irae, and replaced it with the serene and comforting In paradisum taken from the burial service.
This Requiem exists in three versions: The first supported by a large orchestra, the second with solo organ accompaniment, and the third scored for voices, organ, strings and ad libitum trumpets, harp and timpani. It is the second version that we are performing, which will demonstrate the majestic organ of St. John’s Ranmoor.
Duruflé himself said of his Requiem:
“Completed in 1947, my Requiem is built entirely from the Gregorian themes of the Mass for the Dead. At times, the text is paramount, and therefore the organ intervenes only to sustain or to comment; at other times an original musical fabric, inspired by the text, takes over completely – notably in the Domine Jesu Christe, the Sanctus, and the Libera me. In general, I have attempted to penetrate to the essence of Gregorian style, and have tried to reconcile as far as possible the very flexible Gregorian rhythms as established by the Benedictines of Solesmes with the exigencies of modern notation.”
Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms were commissioned by the Very Reverend Walter Hussey, whilst he was Dean of Chichester Cathedral, for the 1965 Southern Cathedrals’ Festival. It received its world premiere in New York on July 15th 1965, and was first performed in this country on July 31st 1965, at Chichester.
The work is a setting of selected verses from the Psalms, sung in Hebrew. We will be performing the composer’s own reduced accompaniment of organ, harp and percussion.
The piece is notable for it’s magnificent words painting, and rhythmic energy. The softer, contrasting, second movement has one of the most haunting melodies in the genre, supported by sumptuous, shifting harmonies. It is one of those “must hear” pieces (if you’ll pardon the phrase), once heard never forgotten.
We complete the concert with Benjamin Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb, written in 1943 and based on the poem Jubilate Agno by Christopher Smart (1722–1771). The poem, written while Smart was in an asylum depicts idiosyncratic praise and worship of God by all created beings and things, each in its own way. Like Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Rejoice in the Lamb was commissioned by Walter Hussey, this commission for the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the consecration of St Matthew's Church, Northampton.