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Pictures at an Exhibition & Fauré's Requiem

Pavane, Op. 50 (1887)
Gabriel Fauré (Pamiers, France, 1845 – Paris, 1924)

Gabriel Fauré was a student of Camille Saint-Saëns and the teacher of Maurice Ravel.  His long career was a link between Saint-Saëns’s elegant virtuosity and the more modern sounds of Debussy and Ravel anticipated in some of his work.

The Pavane is one of Fauré’s most appealing shorter works.  Its title refers to a 16th-century court dance from Italy, named after the city of Padua (Padova) near Venice.  Fauré adopted the stately and dignified motion of this dance, following the lead of Saint-Saëns who had included it in his opera Étienne Marcel a few years earlier.  Fauré was, in turn, a major source of inspiration for Ravel’s celebrated Pavane for a Dead Princess.

Originally written for orchestra, the Pavane was later arranged for chorus and orchestra, with words by Count Robert Montesquiou, an amateur poet who was the model for the character Baron de Charlus in Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past.

C’est Lindor! c’est Tircis!
Et c’est tous nos vainqueurs!
C’est Myrtil! c’est Lydé!
Les reines de nos cœurs!
Comme ils sont provocants,
comme ils sont fiers toujours!
Comme on ose régner
sur nos sorts et nos jours!
Faites attention!
Observez la mesure!
O la mortelle injure!
La cadence est moins lente
et la chute plus sûre.
Nous rabattrons bien les caquets!
Nous serons bientôt leurs laquais!
Qu’ils sont laids!
Chers minois!
Qu’ils sont fols!
Airs coquets!
Et c’est toujours de même,
et c’est ainsi toujours!
On s’adore, on se hait!
On maudit ses amours!
Adieu, Myrtil, Eglé, Chloé,
Démons moqueurs!
Adieu donc et bons jours
aux tyrans de nos cœurs!


It is Lindor, it is Tircis,
it is all our vanquishers!
It is Myrtil, it is Lydia,
the queens of our hearts!
How provoking they are,
how proud they always are!
How dare they hold sway
over our fate and our life!
Take heed!
Be moderate!
O mortal injury!
The cadence is less slow,
and the fall more certain.
We shall make them eat their words!
We shall soon be their slaves.
How ugly they are!
Charming faces!
What fools they are!
Winning graces!
It is always the same,
it is always like this!
One loves, one hates,
one curses one’s love.
Farewell Myrtil, Eglé, Chloé,
mocking demons!
Farewell then, and good fortune
to the rulers of our hearts!

 

Requiem, Op. 48 (1888)
Gabriel Fauré
(Pamiers, France, 1845 – Paris, 1924)

Fauré spent forty years of his life as a church musician, including twenty-eight (1877-1905) at La Madeleine, one of the largest churches in Paris, where he succeeded his teacher Camille Saint-Saëns.  While he professed not to be a believer, he was thoroughly trained in sacred music.  He had studied at the École de Musique Classique et Religieuse, founded by Louis Niedermeyer, one of the pioneers in the 19th-century revival of Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony.  Fauré graduated from the École Niedermeyer with a sacred work, Cantique de Jean Racine for chorus, harmonium, and strings in 1865.  During his subsequent 60-year career as a composer, however, he wrote very little religious music:  a few short motets for his church, a mass (Messe basse) in collaboration with André Messager—and his sacred masterpiece, the Requiem.

In a letter to his younger colleague Maurice Emmanuel, Fauré insisted that "My Requiem wasn’t written for anything... for pleasure, if I may call it that!"—this despite the fact that Fauré’s parents both died either shortly before or during the work’s composition.  The main motivation to write the Requiem seems to have been purely musical: as the composer expressed it in an interview given in 1902:  "Perhaps my instinct led me to stray from the established path after all those years accompanying funerals!  I’d had them up to here.  I wanted to do something different."

Indeed, Fauré’s Requiem is very different from other settings of the requiem Mass or from 19th-century French sacred music, which was often influenced by opera.  It is an intimate and introspective Requiem, where the emphasis is not so much on the tragic aspect of death as on the word "Requiem" itself, which means 'rest.'  In order to achieve this expressive goal, Fauré omitted the sequence "Dies irae," which is the culmination point in the Requiem settings of Mozart, Berlioz, and Verdi.  (If the Fauré Requiem were performed in a liturgical setting, the "Dies irae" would have to be sung in Gregorian chant.)  Another omission, and one that is harder to explain, is the "Benedictus."  Fauré did include the "Libera me," however (a movement that is not present in all polyphonic Requiems).  That movement contains a reference to the Last Judgment, with a quote of the words "Dies irae."  In addition, Fauré included two movements that are part of the Latin liturgy of the Mass for the Dead but had not been set polyphonically by any of the other great Requiem composers:  the prayer "Pie Jesu" and "In Paradisum," a short antiphon (a type of chant originally used to frame psalm recitations).  

Fauré’s biographer, Jean-Michel Nectoux, provided a convenient overview of the work:

The structure of the Requiem is organized around the central point of the soprano solo, the Pie Jesu.... Everything radiates from this.... On either side are placed two groups of three movements, alternating chorus alone and chorus with baritone solo.

In "Introit and Kyrie" (No. 1), the chorus sings “Requiem aeternam” in a subdued, recitative-like manner, followed by a more flowing section, where the tenors and the sopranos sing individual phrases before the full chorus joins in.

After a short instrumental prelude, the "Offertory" (No. 2) begins with an unaccompanied duo of the altos and tenors, loosely based on memories of Renaissance polyphony. With the entrance of the basses, the texture is expanded to three-part writing.  The middle section, "Hostias et preces," is given to the baritone soloist, who recites it on almost a single note throughout, accompanied by changing melodies and harmonies in the strings.  The choral polyphony returns, now in complete four-part harmony.

The "Sanctus" (No. 3) features an ethereal violin solo over a  magical background provided by the harp and the violas.  As before, the chorus is used soloistically, primarily with one section singing at a time, except for the end.

"Pie Jesu" (No. 4) has the simple rhythmic structure of a church hymn, but the slow tempo and the pure and delicate harmonies of the accompaniment turn it into something more unique, a sacred art song of surpassing beauty.

In "Agnus Dei" (No. 5), the tenors alternate with the full chorus; the solo passages express the supplication that receives added intensity from the insistent harmonies of the tutti.  There is a brief recall of the first movement at the repeat of the words "Requiem aeternam."

In "Libera me" (No. 6), we hear the baritone soloist again, in an arioso that contrasts with the more austere recitative of his earlier appearance (No. 2).  At the words "Dies illa, dies irae," the tempo becomes more agitated, and a horn call (a single note repeated by the four horns) evokes the trumpet of the Last Judgment with significant understatement.  The lyrical mood returns with the arioso theme of the "Libera me," sung this time by the chorus, with the baritone soloist taking over shortly before the end.

"In Paradisum" (No. 7) is distinguished by the sixteenth-note figurations of the organ, which surround the sweet soprano melody like ivy branches overgrowing the walls of an old church.  The last word the chorus sings is the same as the first:  "requiem."

I. Introit

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus, Deus in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam,
ad te omnis caro veniet.
Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
You are praised, God in Zion,
and to you vows are made in Jerusalem.
Hear my prayer,
to you all flesh will come.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

II. Offertory

O Domine Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae,
libera animas defunctorum
de poenis inferni,
et de profundo lacu.
O Domine Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae,
Libera eas de ore leonis,
ne absorbeat eas tartarus,
O Domine Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae,
ne cadant in obscurum.
Hostias et preces tibi,
Domine, laudis offerimus.
Tu suscipe pro animabus illis,
quarum hodie memoriam facimus.
Fac eas, Domine, de morte transire ad vitam,
quam olim Abrahae promisisti et semini ejus.


O Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
deliver the souls of the departed
from the pains of hell
and from the lowest pit.
O Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
deliver them from the lion’s mouth,
do not let the abyss swallow them up,
O Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
do not let them fall into darkness.
Sacrifices and prayers to you,
Lord, we offer with praise.
Accept them on behalf of the souls of those
whom we commemorate today,
make them, o Lord, to pass from death to life,
as you once promised to Abraham and his children.

III. Sanctus

Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.

Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

IV. Pie Jesu

Pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem,
sempiternam requiem.

Merciful Lord Jesus,
grant them rest,
everlasting rest.

V. Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem.
Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,
cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,
quia pius es.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Lamb of God, who removes the sins of the world,
grant them rest.
May eternal light shine on them, Lord,
with your saints forever,
for you are merciful.
Grant them eternal rest,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

VI. Libera me

Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna,
in die illa tremenda,
quando coeli movendi sunt et terra,
dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem.
Tremens factus sum ego, et timeo,
dum discussio venerit, atque venture ira,
quando coeli movendi sunt et terra.
Dies illa, dies irae,
calamitatis et miseriae,
dies illa, dies magna et amara valde.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Deliver me, Lord, from eternal death,
on that dreadful day,
when heavens and earth shall move,
when you come to judge the world through fire.
I am trembling and full of fear,
at the judgment that shall come, and also at the coming of your wrath,
when heavens and earth shall move.
That day, day of wrath,
calamity and misery,
that great and exceedingly bitter day.
Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

VII. In Paradisum

In Paradisum deducant Angeli,
in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres,
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam, Jerusalem.
Chorus Angelorum te suscipiat,
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere
aeternam habes requiem.

May the Angels lead you into Paradise,
at your coming may the martyrs receive you
and conduct you into the holy city, Jerusalem.
May the chorus of Angels receive you,
and with Lazarus, once a pauper,
may you have eternal rest.

 

In the Steppes of Central Asia (1880)
Alexander Borodin (St. Petersburg, 1833 – St. Petersburg, 1887)

During the reign of Czar Alexander II (1855-81), the Russian Empire conquered vast areas in Central Asia, establishing a Russian governorate there.  In honor of the Czar’s silver anniversary in 1880, Alexander Borodin composed a short “symphonic tableau” that he called simply V Srednei Azii ("In Central Asia"). The work has become known in English as In the Steppes of Central Asia.  It is based on two melodies, one representing the Russians, the other the Central Asians; their combination—at one point, the two are heard simultaneously in counterpoint—symbolizes the union of two cultures (which was much less peaceful  in real life than the music would suggest).  Borodin inserted the following brief description of the work in his score:

In the silence of the monotonous steppes of Central Asia is heard the unfamiliar sound of a peaceful Russian song.  From the distance we hear the approach of horses and camels and the bizarre and melancholy notes of an oriental melody.  A caravan approaches, escorted by Russian soldiers, and continues safely on its way through the immense desert.  It disappears slowly.  The notes of the Russian and Asiatic melodies join in a common harmony, which dies away as the caravan disappears in the distance.

What makes In the Steppes of Central Asia remarkable is its extremely delicate orchestration.  The long-held high note of the violins, which serves as a backdrop to the Russian melody as first introduced by the solo clarinet, is a masterstroke, as is the combination of English horn and cello for the 'Oriental' tune.  Another important element is added by the characteristic string pizzicatos (plucked strings), proceeding in a steady eighth-note motion and moving up and down by half-steps, evoking the travelling caravan.  When the caravan, according to Borodin’s note, "disappears in the distance," the Russian melody from the first scene remains, now played by the flute; and the high notes of the violins return for a poetic conclusion.

 

Pictures at an Exhibition (1874)
Modest Mussorgsky (Karevo, Russia, 1839 - St. Petersburg, 1881)
orchestrated in 1922 by Maurice Ravel (Ciboure, France, 1875 - Paris, 1937)

"What a terrible blow!"  Mussorgsky exclaimed in a letter to the critic Vladimir Stasov in 1874, paraphrasing a famous passage from Shakespeare’s King Lear.  "Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, live on, when creatures like Hartman must die?"  Victor Hartman, a gifted architect and painter and a close friend of Mussorgsky’s, had recently passed away at the age of 39.  A commemorative exhibit of his work inspired Mussorgsky to pay a musical tribute to his friend by writing a piano suite based on his impressions of the paintings.  The suite was not performed or published during the composer’s lifetime, however, and it did not become universally known until Maurice Ravel orchestrated it in 1922.

Following the intitial "Promenade," we encounter the first picture, "Gnomus," representing a toy nutcracker in the shape of a dwarf.  The strange and unpredictable movements of this creature are vivdly depicted.  We hear the "Promenade" again, and are then ushered into "Il vecchio castello" ("The Old Castle"), where a troubadour (a medieval courtly singer) sings a wistful song.  Next, we hear (and can almost see) "Bydlo," the Polish oxcart, slowly approaching and then going away as its ponderous melody gets first louder and then softer.

A much shortened "Promenade," more lyrical in tone than before, leads into the "Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks."  This movement is based on the designs Hartman had made for the ballet Trilbi at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg.  In the ballet, a group of children appeared dressed up as canaries; others, according to a contemporary description, were "enclosed in eggs as in suits of armor," with only their legs sticking out of the eggshells.

The next picture is titled, in the original, "Samuel Goldenburg und Schmuÿle."  Hartman had painted a number of inhabitants of the Jewish ghetto in Sandomierz, Poland, including a rich man in a fur hat and a poor one sitting with his head bent.  Although Mussorgsky left no explanation of the movement, it has traditionally been understood as an argument between two Jews, one rich, the other poor.  The rich Jew is represented by a slow-moving unison melody stressing the augmented second, considered an "Oriental" interval and indeed frequent in certain forms of Jewish chant and folk music with which Mussorgsky was familiar.  The poor man is characterized by a plaintive theme whose repeated notes seem to be choking with emotion.  Then, the two themes are heard simultaneously.  In Ravel’s orchestration, Goldenberg has the entire string section at his command, while Schmuyle tries to defend himself, desperately, to the sound of a single muted trumpet.

"Limoges, the Market: The Big News" follows, portraying the hustle and bustle of an open market in France where people are busy gossiping and quarrelling.  What a contrast to move from here immediately to the "Catacombs."  Hartman’s watercolor shows the artist, a friend and their guide, who is holding a lantern, examining the underground burial chambers in Paris.  On the right, one can see a large pile of skulls which, in Mussorgsky’s imagination, suddenly begin to glow.  The "Promenade" theme appears completely transfigured, as the inscription in the score says, Cum mortuis in lingua mortua ("With the dead in a dead language"). 

The next section, ("The Hut on Fowl’s Legs: Baba Yaga"), evokes the witch of Russian folktales who lives in just such a construction.  According to legend, Baba Yaga lures children into her hut, where she eats them.  According to one recent retelling of the story, she "crushes their bones in the giant mortar in which she rides through the woods, propelling herself with the pestle and covering her tracks with a broomstick."  Hartman had designed a clock in the form of the famous hut; its design survives only as a sketch.  Mussorgsky’s movment, whose rhythm has something of the ticking of a giant clock, has a mysterious-sounding middle section, after which the wilder and louder first material returns.

The "witch music" continues directly into the grand finale ("The Knights' Gate in the Ancient City of Kiev"), inspired by an ambitious design that was submitted for a competition but never built.  For the immense architectural structure, Mussorgsky provided a grandiose melody resembling a church hymn and presented in rich harmonies.  This theme alternates with a more subdued second melody, harmonized like a chorale.  Near the end, the movement incorporates the "Promenade" theme, leading directly into the magnificent final climax that seems to symbolize the grandeur of old Russia.

Program notes by Peter Laki

1035 Pictures at an Exhibition video
Directed by Michael Patterson and Candace Reckinger

The animation for Pictures at an Exhibition was created by the USC School of  Cinematic Arts’ John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts faculty Michael Patterson and Candace Reckinger with 11 of their animation students and graduates. It premiered in 2011 with the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Florida, as part of the celebration of their new building. In Miami, the projections were shown on five screens surrounding the audience. Creative directors Patterson and Reckinger spent several weeks during the summer of 2015 reconfiguring the work for a single panoramic projection at venues around the world.

The work is in 15 segments consisting of ten paintings unified by a recurring promenade of people walking through an art exhibition. The segments are based on paintings by the composer’s friend Viktor Hartmann. They include illustrations of everyday Russian life and sketches he drew while studying art in Italy and Paris. The animators’ vision honors the original spirit of Hartmann’s pictures while bringing them to life with contemporary style and form. The individual animated segments were created by: Ria Ama, Alessandro Ceglia, Melissa Bouwman, Carolyn Chrisman, Seong Young Kim, Steven Day, Emily Eckstein, Cecilia Fletcher, Ryan Kravetz and Elizabeth Willy, Andy Lyons, Michael Patterson, and Candace Reckinger.

TECHNOLOGY NOTES: ABOUT MUSÉIK

Tonight’s visualization of Pictures at an Exhibition is being projected using innovative new technology called Muséik. Scott Winters, inventor and company CEO, will join the orchestra onstage and "play" the film, following the tempo and phrasing of the conductor using a wireless iPad controller. Muséik technology offers a level of dynamic interaction between music and film never before possible. The result is a truly collaborative performance where the film and music become a unified, expressive whole. Visit www.IonConcertMedia.com for more information.
 

 

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