Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage
April 25, 2013 at 8:00 PM
David Hayes, Music Director and Conductor
Jennifer Forni, Soprano
Jordan Shanahan, Baritone
Special guest appearance by Kathleen Turner
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Experience the power and majesty of the sea through the music of Ludwig van Beethoven and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Each turned to a great poet, Goethe and Whitman, respectively, to depict the sea as a symbol of the unity of the world’s peoples and ocean travel as a metaphor for mankind’s journey of self-discovery.
The concert will open with a performance of Beethoven’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage. A dramatic cantata for orchestra and chorus, this brief yet powerful work sets the mood for Vaughan Williams’ choral symphony. In composing Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Beethoven was inspired by the poetry of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In striving to evoke the contrasting moods of Goethe’s two poems about the sea, Beethoven wrote some of his most descriptive and evocative music.
The painful experiences of his own life enabled him to profoundly understand the deeper meaning of Goethe’s poems. The magnificence of this work lies not only in Beethoven’s extraordinary ability to paint vivid pictures—of still winds, rippling waves, stirring swells, and massive gusts—but also in his understanding of the power of transformation, expressed masterfully in this work.
Beethoven’s sense of theater was never greater than in Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage. It begins quietly, with almost no sense of movement, and grows as the chorus contemplates the vast expanse of the distant horizon and cries out in anticipation. As the wind shifts and the sea begins to swell, the music continues to build, and ultimately lands on Goethe’s final, “And now I see land!”
“Behold, the sea, itself”—This dramatic statement, sung by the full chorus, sets the mood for one of Vaughan Williams’ most powerful and beloved compositions.
Born into a musical family, Vaughan Williams wrote his first piano piece at the age of six. His early musical influences were folk songs, hymn tunes, the philosophy and music of Sir Hubert Parry, and the glories of Tudor and Elizabethan choral music; but it was Vaughan Williams’ discovery of Walt Whitman’s poetry—with its structural and metrical freedom, its open-air style and spiritual intensity—that liberated his musical imagination and inspired his monumental masterpiece, A Sea Symphony.
Set to the poetry of Whitman, this expansive choral symphony encompasses a vast range of emotion and musical experience, from the exultant full-chorus opening to the buoyant articulation of turbulent wind and waves, the haunting nocturne, and the lyrical, visionary finale. Inspired by the power and majesty of the ocean, the composer presents the sea as a symbol of human unity, and expresses ocean travel as a metaphor for the universal journey of self-discovery.
Begun in 1903 and first performed in 1910, A Sea Symphony was enthusiastically hailed by its audience and helped to usher in a new era of symphonic and choral music. With its extraordinary marriage of poetry, choral singing, and exquisite orchestral writing, A Sea Symphony is one of the first true choral symphonies.
Award-winning stage and screen star Kathleen Turner will introduce Ralph Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony
at Carnegie Hall on April 25 with a reading of the moving and evocative text written by the American poet Walt Whitman.
Join the 180 voices of the New York Choral Society and its music director, David Hayes, for an evening of music sure to take you on an extraordinary musical voyage.