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February 2014 - The Handel and Haydn Society

Harry Christophers leads a heavenly concert of sacred music by J.S. Bach and William Byrd

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In an intimate program, the H+H Chorus performs three Bach motets and choral selections by English Renaissance composer William Byrd 

Choral concert follows the recent critical successes of H+H’s Vivaldi Gloria, A Bach Christmas, and Handel Messiah

 Performances are Friday, March 14, 8 pm and Sunday, March 16, 3 pm at NEC’s Jordan Hall

February 27, 2014 (Boston, MA) —  Handel and Haydn Society Artistic Director Harry Christophers follows recent critical successes with another signature choral program: sacred music by J.S. Bach and William Byrd. Juxtaposing two great vocal traditions, this intimate program features three of Bach’s motets alongside Byrd’s moving Ave verum corpus and other pieces by the English Renaissance composer. All selections will be sung by H+H’s superb chorus—“the Rolls-Royce of Boston chorales” (The Hub Review).

“In their own way, Bach and Byrd were pioneers in sacred music in their respective lifetimes,” says Artistic Director Harry Christophers. “Both wrote with great passion and fervor for the church. But, sadly, one lived in constant fear of persecution because of his devout Catholic faith.”

William Byrd (c. 1540–1623) was an accomplished organist and a favorite composer of Queen Elizabeth I. Yet much of his Catholic service music had to be suppressed for fear of arrest, costly fines, and death. Byrd responded to the times with music that is contemplative, sad, and joyful. One of the most sublime works scheduled on the Bach and Byrd program is the Agnus Dei from his Mass for Four Voices. Music historians have noted how the poignant final words of the movement, “Dona nobis pacem” (“Grant us peace”), could well be a personal plea for greater religious tolerance.

A staunch Lutheran, J.S. Bach (1685–1750) lived a life of greater security. Two of the works on the Bach and Byrd program (Jesu, meine Freude and Komm, Jesu, komm) are funeral motets composed by Bach for wealthy families. “These funeral motets are simply extraordinary, full of mindboggling symmetry and exceptional counterpoint,” says Christophers. “Their technical and aesthetic challenges are virtually unparalleled.”

The program ends on a celebratory note with Bach’s Singet dem Herrn, music that had made a great impression on a young Mozart, then visiting Leipzig. “Hardly had the choir sung a few bars when Mozart sat up, startled,” reported an 18th-century eyewitness. “When the singing was finished, he cried out full of joy, ‘Now there is something one can learn from.’”

CONCERT INFORMATION

Bach and Byrd

Friday, March 14, 8 pm at NEC’s Jordan Hall

Sunday, March 16, 3 pm at NEC’s Jordan Hall

Harry Christophers, conductor

Handel and Haydn Society Chorus

Plainsong: Veni creator spiritus

Byrd: Laudibus in sanctis

Bach: Bist du bei mir

Bach: Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227

Bach: Komm, Jesu, komm, BWV 229

Byrd: Ye gentle muses

Byrd: Agnus Dei

Byrd: Ave verum corpus

Bach: Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 225

Tickets from $20. See below for purchasing information.

TICKETS:       

Tickets are available through Handel and Haydn Society Box Office: by phone at 617 266 3605; online at handelandhaydn.org; or in person at the Handel and Haydn Society offices, Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston (M–F, 10am–6pm). Student rush is available starting 90 minutes before the performance: $15 cash only with valid ID, best available seats subject to availability. Groups of 10 or more receive a 20% discount.

RELATED EVENTS:  

Pre-Concert Conversation

Led by Teresa Neff, Historically Informed Performance Fellow

Friday, March 14 at 7pm

Sunday, March 16 at 2pm

Conversations will take place in NEC’s Jordan Hall

Free with concert tickets

Handel and Haydn Society Announces Ambitious 2014–2015 Season in Celebration of Bicentennial

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200th Season to include a festive Bicentennial kickoff concert,
H+H’s 400th performance of Handel’s Messiah, and a monumental oratorio triptych of Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, and Haydn’s The Creation

H+H to release a commemorative Bicentennial book
and new Messiah CD on CORO label in fall 2014

Bicentennial celebrations continue through 2015 with
free outdoor performances, exhibit, lectures, and other special events

February 16, 2014 (Boston, MA) – The Handel and Haydn Society (H+H) and Artistic Director Harry Christophers are proud to announce H+H’s 2014–2015 Season—its 200th—featuring the Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus performing works from the Baroque and Classical eras. Highlights include a collection of some of the greatest oratorios ever written, stellar guest artists, and two brilliant showcases for H+H Concertmaster Aisslinn Nosky. The season opens with a concert that commemorates H+H’s first public program at Boston’s King’s Chapel on December 25, 1815.

As with recent seasons, H+H will emphasize repertoire significant to its history and perform important works that it premiered in America, including Handel’s Messiah (H+H will present its 400th performance of the popular oratorio), Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (which received its US premiere by H+H in 1879), and Haydn’s The Creation (first performed in this country by H+H in 1819).

“I am delighted to share the details of the Handel and Haydn’s Society 2014–2015 Bicentennial Season,” said Christophers. “We have been waiting two centuries for this moment! It is a wonderful occasion to revisit our heritage and look ahead to a bright future brimming with artistic talent.”

“While 200 years of bringing music to life in America is a monumental milestone for our organization, it is also a testament to this enduring art form and its place in this country’s civic landscape,” said Executive Director and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard. “So many people have made this special celebration possible, especially our musicians, our devoted family of community partners, exceptional members of the Board, and, of course, our loyal audiences.”

The 2014–2015 Season will showcase a wealth of established artists and exceptionally talented emerging artists. H+H is delighted to welcome back two beloved conductors: Conductor Laureate Christopher Hogwood, who will make a triumphant return with Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah, and frequent guest conductor Richard Egarr, who will lead a program of Mozart and Beethoven. Among this season’s acclaimed singers are sopranos Sarah Coburn and Joélle Harvey, tenors Jeremy Ovenden and Joshua Ellicott, and bass-baritones Andrew Foster-Williams and Matthew Brook. In addition, H+H’s dynamic concertmaster, Aisslinn Nosky, will lead her fellow string players in a program focusing on Vivaldi’s virtuosic L’estro armonico concertos. Later in the season, as part of an all-Haydn program, Nosky is featured soloist in Haydn’s Violin Concerto in C Major, a project to be released on the CORO label in 2016.

Beyond the regular season concerts, H+H will present a special choral concert held in conjunction with the 2015 Chorus America conference in Boston. Harry Christophers leads the Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus in some of his favorite choral selections, from the glorious Renaissance counterpoint of Palestrina to the spiritual minimalism of contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Also on the calendar is the return of the Handel and Haydn Society Holiday Sing, a family-friendly celebration of holiday choral music that will feature H+H’s professional chorus and its youth choirs.

As the oldest continuously performing arts organization in the US, the Handel and Haydn Society continues to flourish under the leadership of Harry Christophers. Its musicians play and sing across Massachusetts and New England, in concerts from Portland, Maine to New London, Connecticut. Community partnerships have grown to include regular presentations with the Museum of African American History, Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, King’s Chapel, Massachusetts Historical Society, MIT, and Boston Children’s Museum, among others. With the launch of full-year, weekly music literacy programs for Boston public elementary school students (classes at the Joseph Lee Elementary School in Dorchester and the John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Jamaica Plain), H+H serves nearly 300 students who previously had no access to music instruction during the school day. Additionally, the Karen S. and George D. Levy Education Program brings Baroque and Classical music to well over 10,000 children each year through the Vocal Apprenticeship Program (comprising the Singers, Youth Chorus, Young Men’s Chorus, Young Women’s Chorus, Young Women’s Chamber Choir, and High School Soloists), Vocal Quartet school visits, Collaborative Youth Concerts, and master classes.

2014–2015 Season Highlights

H+H opens the 2014–2015 Season with Baroque Fireworks, a Bicentennial kickoff concert that tips its hat to H+H’s first program from 200 years ago. This festive concert will comprise some of the Baroque era’s greatest hits performed by the full Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus. Among the celebratory pieces on the program are Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks, Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins in B Minor, and Bach’s motet Singet dem Herrn.

Vivaldi’s challenging L’estro armonico concertos, music that greatly influenced Bach, are the subject of the next concert, to be led by H+H Concertmaster Aisslinn Nosky. Timed for Halloween, this all-Italian Baroque program features none other than Tartini’s Devil’s Trill Sonata, a work made famous by its fiendish difficulty and eerie legend of the Devil visiting the composer in a dream.

Late November and December bring three cherished H+H holiday traditions. Harry Christophers conducts the Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus and internationally acclaimed soloists in the 161st annual performances of Handel’s Messiah. Audiences will “rejoice greatly” with soprano Joélle Harvey, countertenor Tim Mead, and tenor Allan Clayton, who, as part of this presentation, will take part in H+H’s 400th performance of Handel’s beloved oratorio. Later in December, Back Bay Chorale Music Director Scott Allen Jarrett takes the Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus on a journey through Christmas past, from medieval plainchant to Bach’s joyous Cantata 40 and Cantata IV from the Christmas Oratorio. Handel and Haydn welcomes families to celebrate the holidays with the returning Holiday Sing. Guest conductor Lisa Graham, the H+H Chorus, and Vocal Apprenticeship Program youth choirs invite audiences to sing along with holiday favorites at Boston’s historic Great Hall in Faneuil Hall.

The year 2015 opens with Harry Christophers and Aisslinn Nosky continuing their critically-praised survey of the orchestral music of Joseph Haydn. The sequel to 2012’s Haydn in Paris, this program has Nosky taking the stage in Haydn’s seldom-heard Violin Concerto in C Major, followed by a powerful foray into the minor key, the dramatic Symphony No. 83 (La Poule).

In February, Richard Egarr, a frequent H+H guest conductor and music director of the Academy of Ancient Music, returns to continue his survey of the Beethoven symphonies, this time with the cheerful Symphony No. 1 in C Major. The program also includes a performance of Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, K. 139 (Waisenhaus Mass), written by the composer at the tender age of 13.

The season culminates with a succession of three of the greatest oratorios in the canon, performed over the course of just two months. Known in the 19th century as the Messiah of its day, Mendelssohn’s Elijah is the first in this oratorio triptych. It features Conductor Laureate Christopher Hogwood and bass-baritone Andrew Foster-Williams in the title role of the Old Testament prophet. Next comes Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, the one-of-a-kind masterwork that H+H last presented in 2012 to sold-out houses. It will be performed this season during the final days of Lent with Christophers at the podium. Christophers will also lead performances of Haydn’s The Creation, a work inspired by the composer’s trips to England where he first heard Handel’s oratorios. Haydn’s crowning choral masterpiece was premiered in the US by H+H in 1819 and hasn’t been performed by the organization since 2001.

Recordings

The live recording of November 2013’s Messiah performance will be released on the CORO label in October 2014. Recorded at Symphony Hall, the CD features the Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus and an all-North American cast of soloists, all under the direction of Harry Christophers. The CD will expand H+H’s catalogue of works recorded under Christophers’ leadership, joining the best-selling Christmas CD Joy to the World (October 2013), the critically acclaimed Haydn, Vol. 1 (September 2013), and the Mozart trilogy of Mozart Mass in C Minor (September 2010), Mozart Requiem (September 2011), and Mozart Coronation Mass (September 2012).

In addition, H+H’s May 2015 performance of Haydn’s The Creation will be recorded for release on the CORO label in the fall of 2015.

2014–2015 Season Subscription Information

Subscriptions to the 2014–2015 Season are now available. Options include nine- and six-concert series and an H2 Young Professionals package, as well as “Choose Your Own” packages and a special 11-concert Bicentennial Series that includes Holiday Sing and the “Handel and Haydn Sings” concert, held in conjunction with the 2015 Chorus America conference. Packages range from three to 11 concerts; package prices begin at only $60. Subscriptions may be purchased through the Handel and Haydn Box Office by phone at 617 266 3605, online at handelandhaydn.org, or in person at Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston (M–F, 10am–6pm). Single tickets go on sale in August 2014.

2014–2015 Bicentennial Season Calendar

Beginning this fall and lasting through the end of 2015, H+H’s Bicentennial will celebrate an incredible 200 years of music that embody the cultural heritage of Boston and the nation. H+H will showcase its rich past and vibrant future through free outdoor concerts, public programming in unique venues, exhibits, lectures, and more.

Highlights include a commemorative book to be published in October 2014 that traces the history of H+H from its first concerts at King’s Chapel to its current status as a professional historically informed ensemble. Co-edited by Teresa Neff and Jan Swafford, the book is full of treasures from the archives and personal accounts from two centuries of Bostonians.

On March 24, 2015, H+H will open an interactive exhibit at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square exploring Handel and Haydn’s 200-year history and the development of classical music in America. Presented in partnership with the Freedom Trail Foundation and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the exhibit will remain on view through September 7, 2015.

Summer 2015 activities include the Chorus America National Conference, from June 17–20, 2015, which will be hosted by H+H. As part of the conference, H+H will present the June 18 Handel and Handel Sings concert at Symphony Hall, with Harry Christophers leading the Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus in a program that ranges from Palestrina to Pärt. On July 26, 2015, H+H will present a free outdoor performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Copley Square as part of Summer Arts Weekend. H+H musicians will be joined by singers from area choirs to celebrate Boston’s choral tradition.

Bicentennial Honorary Committee

The H+H Bicentennial Committee, led by H+H Governor Amy Anthony, has formed a Bicentennial Honorary Committee that represents excellence in the arts, business, education, public service, and philanthropy. The Honorary Committee includes: Governor Deval Patrick, US Senator Ed Markey , LA Philharmonic President and CEO Deborah Borda (a former Manager of the Handel and Haydn Society), Charles River Ventures Co-founder Rick Burnes, tenor and conductor Plácido Domingo (who sang with H+H in the 1960s), Boston Museum of Fine Arts Chair Grace Fey, political analyst David Gergen, Handel scholar Ellen T. Harris, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum President Stephen Kidder, former Massachusetts Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, former Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, University of Massachusetts (Boston) Chancellor J. Keith Motley, bass-baritone Eric Owens (who has recently performed with H+H and is featured on the Mozart Requiem CD), Handel House President Christopher Purvis, MIT President Rafael Reif , Boston Public Library President Amy E. Ryan, and Boston Private Bank & Trust Company CEO and President Mark Thompson.