Two U.S. premieres, three last works, two compositions for chorus and organ, two famous and beloved standard works, two requiems, works by two Frenchmen, one living composer and arguably the most colorful female composer in history, two oratorios of which one is not called an oratorio but a symphony. How many concerts does that add up to? Three! For its 2017-18 season, The Cecilia Chorus of New York presents a mixed bouquet of musical offerings.
December 9, 2017 at 8 pm in Carnegie Hall: J. S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio
This is in fact not one large work but six cantatas that were originally written to be performed over six days starting on Christmas Day and ending on the day of the Feast of the Epiphany, which is traditionally on January 6. The Cecilia Chorus will be singing this work in its entirety, with full orchestra and soloists.
In March (exact date and location to be announced): Messe Romane, by Thierry Escaich, and Charles Gounod’s Requiem
The U.S. premiere of prominent French composer Thierry Escaich’s Messe Romane. Escaich (born in 1965) is an organist-composer in the French tradition of Franck, Louis Vierne, and Messiaen. The Messe Romane premiered three years ago in the magnificent Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. For this work, written for organ and two choruses, The Cecilia Chorus’s Music Director Mark Shapiro will divide our large, 170+ member chorus into two groups, each with their own parts, who will respond to each other.
Following the Messe Romane will be Charles Gounod’s stirring Requiem, which was to be his last work. He had written it for his grandson, but he himself died of a stroke just a few days after completing it, in 1893.
May 11, 2018 at 8 pm in Carnegie Hall: The Prison, by Dame Ethel Smyth, and Mozart’s Requiem
Smyth (1858-1944) based the text on a book of the same name by her soulmate and sometime lover, the little-known writer and philosopher Henry Bennett Brewster. Though The Prison has the form of an oratorio, the fiery composer, political activist, and iconoclast called it a symphony, wishing to avoid the connotations of organized religion which she felt were associated with the term ‘oratorio.’ The Prison is Smyth’s last work.
Mark Shapiro conducted this piece in 2016 with his chamber chorus, Cantori New York, using the composer’s own reduction for piano and bugle. Now, The Cecilia Chorus of New York will perform the piece in its full original orchestration, making this the second U.S. premiere of our season.
Mozart’s beloved Requiem, written as he lay dying and never finished by him, will complete our 2017-18 season. Why program this trilogy of last works? Music Director Mark Shapiro: “Composers, like any of us, engage in soul-searching later in life. An artist’s ‘late style’ typically entails both a summing up and a concentrated seeking that are charged with the wisdom and perspective earned through a lifetime of art-making. All of us are deepened — our lives become fuller and more joyful — when we are confronted with the inevitability of our own mortality and that of those we love. Artists especially can invoke and communicate this deepening, and lead us to experience it ourselves in a beautiful, exhilarating way.”
Tickets for the individual concerts and for the entire 2017-18 season will be available for purchase later this summer.