Romantic and beyond
Brahms, Stenhammer, Schönberg, Webern, Distler, Micheelsen
8:15 pm, Friday 15 May 2009
Oud-Katholieke kerk, Juffrouw Idastraat 7, The Hague (kaart)
8:15 pm, Saturday 16 May 2009
Eendrachtskerk, Eendrachtsstraat 95, Rotterdam (kaart)
The romantic period and what happened next, that is the theme of Cappella Gabrieli’s new programme. Chronologically speaking, we start with Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), not just because he is one of the greats of the romantic period, but principally because he composed the beautiful motet Warum is das Licht gegeben den Mühseligen (1879). Our finishing point in history is Hans Friedrich Micheelsen (1902-1973).
These two Germans lived in very different centuries, but have points in common. Brahms looked for his musical inspiration in the past (reassessment of earlier times is a typically romantic idea). Warum is das Licht gegeben is unthinkable without Bach and Schütz, while being pure Brahms. This also applies to his German-language requiem; we are not singing that this time (a symphony orchestra not being on the cards), but we are singing Micheelsen’s: in Tod und Leben (1938), just like Brahms, there are many early music influences, as well as the same text used by Brahms (‘Tod, wo ist dein Stachel’, ‘Die mit Tränen säen, werden mit Freuden ernten’) and Schütz.
In between Bach and Micheelsen we find our way to other romantic pastimes, such as nature (lily of the valley, rustling birch trees, thoughtful clouds), which the Swedish composers Stenhammar and Wikander draw richly from, folk tunes that celebrate the delights of May and dancing girls (Distler and Schönberg) and unsophisticated languishing lyricism from the middle ages (Hindemith). In fact, poetry’s simplicity was well able to blend with musical complexity.
This is most evident in Entflieht auf leichten Kähnen, Anton Webern’s brilliant, almost atonal and still romantic miniature from 1908, which has caused many choirs to bite off more than they could chew.
Entflieht auf leichten Kähnen
Der Liebe Schrein
Die Traurige Krönung
Der Mai tritt ein mit Freuden
Veni creator spiritus
Tod und Leben
Warum is das Licht gegeben