Due to the omicron variant, this performance will be limited to 50% audience capacity for your safety.
Schubert & Britten
John Matthew Myers
John David Smith
Proof of COVID-19 vaccination and photo ID will be required to attend this performance.
About This Performance
Adolphus Hailstork Essay for Strings
Benjamin Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings
Franz Schubert Death and the Maiden
Hailstork’s “Essay for Strings” brings a beautiful spirit of memoriam and celebration while Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden”, his famous 14th String Quartet arranged here for string orchestra, is the composer’s almost programmatic working through his own impending death. Filled with driving rhythms, lyrical beauty, and a deadly tarantella, this work stands as one of the greatest masterpieces of all nineteenth-century chamber music. Tenor John Matthew Myers, declared an “artist to watch” by Opera News, performs Britten’s formidable Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings – a both sinister and serene rumination on the nature of nighttime and mortality written alongside his opera Peter Grimes after a serious illness.
Read more in the program notes below.
Health and Safety
Vaccine and Mask Requirements
All guests 12 years of age or older will be required to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination (14 days after completing an FDA or WHO authorized single or two dose vaccine) for entry into all public events at Kimmel Cultural Campus venues. Adults 18+ will be required to show photo identification with their vaccination proof. “Fully Vaccinated” means that a guest’s event is at least 14 days after their final COVID-19 vaccine dose.
Valid proof of vaccination include: vaccination card, photo or digital copy of proof of vaccination. Proof of negative COVID test will not be accepted, with the exception of children under the age of 12. Guests under the age of 12 must provide proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the performance. Adults 18+ will be required to show government or school issued identification. Guests under 18 will not be required to show identification.
All patrons are required to wear masks inside the venue at all times (except when consuming food or beverage). Drinks and food are not permitted in the theater. Prolonged periods of mask removal are not permitted. All face coverings must cover the nose and mouth and comply with the CDC guidelines for acceptable face coverings.
Essay for Strings
Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941)
The ESSAY FOR STRINGS was written in 1986 in memory of Glenn Hull, a colleague and the choir director at Norfolk State University during my early years there. His sudden passing was a shock, and I expressed my sadness in this work. It was premiered that year by the NSU orchestra at their Winter concert. In 2000, after conductor-composer Coleridge Taylor Perkinson gave the work its second performance in Chicago (with the ensemble of the Center For Black Music Research), I decided to add it to my catalog of orchestra works.
The designation “Essay” refers to the fact that the piece is based on one idea (like a literary essay). In this case the musical idea (or motive) is made from the initials of my deceased friend, Glenn Hull (G and H in music are represented by the pitches G and B-natural). These two notes are sounded throughout the work in tribute to him.
Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings was written in 1943 on his return to England after a brief, self-imposed exile to the United States. The song cycle was dedicated to Edward Sackville-West and was inspired by similar song cycles of Elgar, Ireland, Bliss, and Vaughn Williams who were resident composers at the Royal College of Music while Britten was a student there.
The Serenade consists of a set of six songs enclosed by a musically identical prologue and epilogue in which a solo horn plays on natural harmonics. Scholar Kevin Salfen in his article “Britten the Anthologist,” describes the ways in which Britten, in the fashion of the Royal College of Music composers, “created the complementary from the diverse, a whole from dissociated fragments.” Thus, the cycle is comprised of six English poems, each by a different author, but chosen because of their evocation of a common literary theme: the English pastorale and the world of night, sleep, and dreams.
Britten replaces the original titles of the poems with singular, generic titles, and yet in spite of this, Salfen argues that Britten’s musical setting of the texts in the Serenade is often in contradiction with conventional readings and expectations of the poetry. In so doing, Britten prevents the Serenade from become merely a nostalgic rendering of the pastorale narrative and instead implores his audiences to question what precisely is the pastorale?
Scholars have argued that the dissent portrayed in this work through use of natural harmonics and unusual settings of the texts against the pastoral themes (the rustic hunting call of the horn, and the ideas of night, stillness and peace) are a reflection of Britten’s own inner turmoil over his nostalgia for home (or the ideal of home) against the reality of war time Britain and his own anti-war sentiments. Britten’s self-claimed pacifism certainly announces itself in the sheer beauty of this work, but not without the delicate yet angsty musical undertones that beg his listeners to question the nature of this very beauty.
String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, “Death and the Maiden”
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) arr. Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
Schubert composed this string quartet in 1824 at a moment when he struggled immensely with failing health and disillusionment with his quality of life. This is directly reflected in his choice of key signature for the work, and the decision to create a set of theme and variations for the second movement based on his earlier song, “Der Tod und der Mädchen” (Death and the Maiden, Op. 7 No.3). The song appears in the string quartet as a set of five variations.
In 1894, Mahler arranged the second movement of the quartet for string orchestra. He intended to arrange the entire quartet for string orchestra but was only able to complete the second movement before his death. As a result of the extensive notes and markings he made to the scores, scholar Donald Mitchell and composer David Matthews were able to complete the other three movements.
The third and fourth movements, a Scherzo and a tarantella in rondo form, frequently vacillate between major and minor keys mirroring Schubert’s inner turmoil over his impending death. This contrast appears most clearly when Schubert references Der Erlkönig (D. 328) in movement four, echoing the Erlkönig’s sweet (major mode) calls of death to the young boy amidst the desperation and fear he and his father face as they attempt to get to safety.
Musicians in this performance
Natalie Rudoi DaSilva
Jesús A. Morales
Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
300 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19102