Philadelphia Orchestra Members & The Brooklyn Art Song Society
Music inspired by the Great War, which erupted across the continent of Europe one hundred years ago this month, is featured in a pair of concerts in The Sembrich's ongoing series, 1914: Summer of Destiny.
On Sunday, August 10th, members of the Philadelphia Orchestra present a program of chamber music entitled "The Lark Ascending."
"War's Embers," Art Song of the Great War, follows on Wednesday, August 13th, with the Brooklyn Art Song Society. Both concerts begin at 7:30 pm.
Repertoire for Sunday's program includes "The Lark Ascending" by Ralph Vaughan Williams in its original version for violin and piano, Suite from "Histoire du Soldat" for violin, clarinet and piano by Igor Stravinsky and "Music for Four Stringed Instruments" for string quartet by Charles Martin Loeffler. Tickets are $35.
Inspired by a poem of George Meredith and composed by Vaughan Williams in 1914 as World War I approached, "The Lark Ascending" is often cited as one of the most beautiful pieces ever written.
"We're grateful to Philip Kates, violinist and Sembrich board member, for preparing this evocative pastorale for our series," says Sembrich artistic director Richard Wargo, "and for helping to organize and plan this entire concert with his colleagues from the orchestra."
Other performers for this program include pianist Amy Yang and Philadelphia Orchestra members Paul Demers, clarinet, Dara Morales, violin, Che-Hung Chen, viola and principal cellist, Hai-Ye Ni.
Stravinsky's "Histoire du Soldat" for narrator and seven instruments was composed during the war years, a time when the spectacular ballets for which the composer had become famous were no longer financially feasible. "Stravinsky's 'Histoire du Soldat' is a perfect example of an artist responding creatively to the constraints of war and, in the process, creating a miniature masterpiece," says Wargo.
The Suite in five movements for violin, clarinet and piano was dedicated by the composer to arts patron Werner Reinhard, an amateur clarinetist who premiered the work in 1919. Reinhard "paid for everybody and everything and finally even commissioned my music," noted Stravinsky.
The featured work of the evening is Charles Martin Loeffler's rarely performed "Music for Four Stringed Instruments," composed in memory of Victor Chapman, the first American aviator to be killed in World War I. Premiered by the Flonzaley Quartet in 1919, the piece was described by the New York Times as "a work of poignant interest and beauty... an expression of a phase of the great war in simple means that will be much discussed."
"As always, it is an honor to collaborate on a program which brings our lives into meaningful focus," states violinist Philip Kates, "through some of the most important and strikingly beautiful music ever written."
On Wednesday, August 13th at 7:30 pm, the Brooklyn Art Song Society presents "War's Embers," Art Song of the Great War, a concert of music by composers whose lives were affected by the First World War. The program includes works by Gurney, Ives, Granados, Ravel and George Butterworth. Tickets are $25.
Both George Butterworth and Ivor Gurney were solders in the British army. Butterworth was killed in the Battle of Somme and, although Gurney survived the war, he spent the rest of his life in a sanatorium due to “shell-shock” and nerve damage from exposure to poisonous gas. Maurice Ravel drove an ambulance in the War effort. Enrique Granados was on the Lusitania when German U-Boats sank it in 1916.
Performers for the evening include Dominic Armstrong, tenor, Kyle Oliver, baritone, Kristina Bachrach, soprano and Michael Brofman and Miori Sugiyama, piano.
A highlight of the evening is George Butterworth's song cycle "A Shopshire Lad" on poems of A. E. Housman performed in its entirety by tenor Dominic Armstrong and pianist Michael Brofman.
"Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad reflects on youth, its fickleness and purity," observes Brofman, "as well as what it meant to have an entire generation that, in the words of poet A. E. Housman, 'will never grow old.'"
The Sembrich is located at 4800 Lakeshore Drive in Bolton Landing, New York. The Sembrich Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. Reservations can be made by calling the Sembrich office at (518) 644-2431. For more information, visit the website at www.thesembrich.org.