The second concert of the 2011–2012 OSSCS season features two masterpieces from the early 1920s selected by guest conductor Joseph Pollard White.
Both works draw upon music of centuries past: Ralph Vaughan Williams sought inspiration from English Renaissance choral music for
his a cappella Mass in G Minor, while Igor Stravinsky based the music in his Pulcinella Suite on compositions attributed
(at the time) to Italian Baroque composer Giovanni Pergolesi.
Double bass soloist Nick Masters, winner of the 2011 Seattle University Concerto Competition, joins Mr. White and Orchestra Seattle for a selection from a concerto
by Johann Baptist Waṅhal, a contemporary of Mozart and Haydn. Rounding out this eclectic program: a Handel concerto grosso; Five Hebrew Love Songs, an
enchanting work for soprano, violin and piano by American composer Eric Whitacre; and the world premiere of Short Stories, a wind quintet by Northwest composer
About the Conductor
Joseph Pollard White, a native of New York,
studied as an undergraduate at the Eastman School of Music, where his teachers included violist Heidi Castleman,
violinist Isador Saslav, orchestral conductors David Effron and Taavo Virkhaus, and choral conductor Robert DeCormier. He earned his Master of Music in Viola Performance at the Indiana University School of Music, where he studied with Georges Janzer. After advanced training in conducting as a student of Charles Bruck at the Pierre Monteux School in Hancock, Maine,
he completed his Doctor of Musical Arts in Orchestral Conducting at the University of Washington as a student of Robert Feist.
As conductor and violist, Mr. White has performed across the United States and Europe, including the Spoleto Festival, Virginia Opera, Bronx Opera, Connecticut Philharmonic,
Pittsburgh String Consort, Swiss Radio Orchestra of Lugano, Switzerland, and the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic of Zlín, Czech Republic. A longtime resident of
the Pacific Northwest, he has worked with the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, Seattle Chamber Players and Northwest Mahler Festival, and served as music director of the
Rainier Symphony and Civic Light Opera.
In addition to the concert stage and orchestra pit, Mr. White has worked extensively in the recording field, especially in music for films.
Recent projects have included School for Scoundrels, One Hour Photo, Bring it On, Air Bud,
La Doña Barbara and the Academy Award–nominated documentary Legacy. Mr. White is also active as a composer.
Recent projects include a concerto for oboe d’amore, several pieces for string orchestra and music for the play
Actus Fidei by Steven Breese, written for the Jamestown 400th anniversary celebrations.
Joseph Pollard White has previously taught at Northern Kentucky University, Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania,
Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, and Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia.
About the Soloists
Double bassist Nick Masters has served as a principal in the Western Washington University Symphony and as a
member of the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Seattle and Texas Festival Orchestra. He currently studies
with Joseph Kaufman at Seattle University, where he placed third in that school’s 2010 Concerto Competition and took
first prize in the 2011 competition, resulting in his solo appearance this afternoon. He previously studied with Ben
Musa at WWU and has performed in master classes for Jeff Bradetich, Max Dimoff and Jordan Anderson.
Soprano Catherine Haight is well known to Seattle audiences for her performances of Baroque music. She is an
accomplished performer of the oratorio repertoire, including all of the major works of Handel and Bach. Ms. Haight has been a
guest soloist with the Pacific Northwest Ballet in their acclaimed production of Carmina Burana; her recordings
include Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang with Philharmonia Northwest, Orff’s Carmina Burana with
Seattle Choral Company and Handel’s Messiah with OSSCS.
Mezzo-soprano Kathryn Weld has performed extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan.
Her expertise extends from Baroque ornamentation to bel canto opera, from Mahler song cycles to world premieres of contemporary works.
She has made two solo appearances with the New York Philharmonic, under the direction of Charles Dutoit
(de Falla’s Three-Cornered Hat) and Kurt Masur (Grieg’s Peer Gynt).
She made her Carnegie Hall debut to critical acclaim in a performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor with Musica Sacra.
Tenor Dustin Kaspar began his Northwest performing career in 2002 in the Seattle Chamber Singers, shortly
after graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelors in Music Education. Since
2004, he has been heard in the chorus and as a soloist with The Esoterics, Seattle Bach Choir, Cascadian Chorale, Northwest
Opera in Schools Etc. (NOISE) and East Shore Unitarian Church Choir. Mr. Kaspar is currently a regular chorister with Seattle
Opera and studies with Stephen Wall.
Baritone Charles Robert Stephens has enjoyed a career spanning a wide variety of roles and styles in
opera and concert music. At New York City Opera, he sang the role of Prof. Friedrich Bhaer in the New York premiere of
Mark Adamo’s Little Women, and was hailed by The New York Times as a “baritone of smooth
distinction.” He has sung on numerous occasions at Carnegie Hall in a variety of roles with Opera Orchestra of New York,
the Oratorio Society of New York, the Masterworks Chorus and Musica Sacra, as well as with ensembles throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Georg Frideric Handel
Concerto Grosso in G Major, Op. 6, No. 1 (HWV 319)
Handel was born in Halle, Germany, on February 23, 1685,
and died in London on April 14, 1759. He composed the 12 concerti
of his Op. 6 in a single burst of energy during the fall of 1739.
Handel completed work on this G major concerto on September
29, scoring it for a concertino group (two violins and cello), string
orchestra and continuo.
At the end of his life, the Italian composer Arcangelo
Corelli prepared his classic set of 12 concerti grossi for publication;
they appeared in 1714, shortly after Corelli’s death,
as his Op. 6. Each of these works was scored for strings,
with solo parts for two violins and a cello. In 1739, Handel
implicitly paid tribute to Corelli with his own great set of
12 concerti, also Op. 6. While Corelli refined his concerti
through years of performances, Handel produced his set
in about five weeks: either Handel’s muse was particularly
strong, or his creditors especially anxious to be paid!
Handel was able to work so quickly in part because
he recycled several of the concerto movements from compositions
for other forces (and in some cases from music
by other composers). The musical material for the opening
movement of HWV 319, for example, reportedly came from
an overture Handel wrote—and discarded—for his opera
Imeneo, which he had begun in 1738 but did not complete
until 1740. Handel’s publisher sold the set of 12 concerti
by subscription for a fee of two guineas, attracting over 100
interested musicians and members of the aristocracy.
Following Corelli’s example, Handel employed a concertino
group of two violins and a cello in the bulk of his
own Op. 6 set (the one exception being the seventh concerto).
While most of the works in Op. 6 alternate fast and slow
movements, the first concerto differs in that it contains but
a single true slow movement bookended by pairs of faster
ones. The brief, stately opening (marked A tempo giusto—“in
strict time”) leads without pause to a livelier Allegro. About
the central Adagio Handel biographer Charles Burney wrote:
“[W]hile the two trebles are singing in the style of vocal
duets of the time, where these parts, though not in regular
fugue, abound in imitations of the fugue kind; the [bass],
with a boldness and character peculiar to Handel, supports
with learning and ingenuity the subject of the two first bars,
either direct or inverted, throughout the movement, in a
clear, distinct and marked manner.” The fourth movement
provides another example of fugal writing while the concluding
Gigue—a spirited dance in 6/8 time—recalls the spirit
of the Corelli works that inspired Handel.
Johann Baptist Waṅhal
Double Bass Concerto in D Major
Waṅhal was born in Nechanicz, Bohemia, on May 12, 1739,
and died in Vienna on August 20, 1813. His concerto for double
bass calls for an orchestra consisting of strings plus pairs of oboes
Although most modern references render his surname
“Vanhal,” Paul Robley Bryan’s authoritative reference work
about this musician of Bohemian heritage asserts that the
composer himself used the spelling “Waṅhal” during his
lifetime. Born into indentured servitude, Waṅhal relocated
from Bohemia to Vienna at age 20, where he earned enough
money to purchase his freedom. Over the next two decades
he became known as a symphonist, churning out more than
75 symphonies—all before 1780, when changes in the musical
tastes of the Viennese aristocracy prompted him to
concentrate on other forms.
Waṅhal also produced dozens of string quartets, concertos
and keyboard sonatas, plus a significant amount of
religious music—despite the fact that he never held a church
post. Mozart famously performed one of Waṅhal’s many
violin concertos, and later played in a string quartet with
Waṅhal as the cellist (Haydn and Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf
were the other two members). While most of Waṅhal’s
concerti were for violin and keyboard, he also produced several
for other instruments, including one for two bassoons—and at least one concerto for double bass.
Johann Mathias Sperger (1750–1812), a Viennese double
bass virtuoso and a composer of some renown (including
18 concerti for his own instrument), inspired a number of
musicians, among them Dittersdorf, to write solo works
for him. Waṅhal likely composed his D major concerto for
Sperger around 1780, although little evidence of this exists
other than the fact that the only surviving copy of the work
surfaced in Sperger’s library.
The instrument Sperger played is unlike the modern
double bass you will see played this afternoon: it sported
five strings instead of four, tuned to the pitches F♮–A–D–F♯–A.
Furthermore, Sperger often tuned his instrument up a half-step, so that the work sounded in E♭ rather than D major.
The opening movement of Waṅhal’s concerto, which we
hear this afternoon, lies firmly in the Classical-era concerto
tradition, and affords the soloist opportunities to display
flashy technique as well as lyrical expresssiveness.
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Mass in G Minor
Vaughan Williams was born at Down Ampney, Gloustershire,
England, on October 12, 1872, and died on August 26,
1958, in London. He composed this work for a cappella double
chorus with SATB vocal soloists during 1920 and 1921. Joseph
Lewis conducted the City of Birmingham Choir in the work’s first
performance at Birmingham Town Hall on December 6, 1922.
“There is no reason why an atheist could not write
a good mass,” Ralph Vaughan Williams once observed.
Indeed, according to Ursula Vaughan Williams, the composer’s
second wife, artistic collaborator and biographer,
“He was an atheist during his
years at Charterhouse and
at Cambridge, though he later drifted into a cheerful agnosticism:
he was never a professing Christian.” The composer—
son of an Anglican clergyman and great-nephew of Charles
Darwin—did, however, retain a profound affection for the
Church of England and its music as lying at the heart of
the country’s spiritual and artistic heritage. His harrowing
experiences as a stretcher-bearer during World War I might
have attracted him more strongly to the spiritual texts on
which he based a number of the works he wrote following
In contrast with the sacred music of the German-influenced
English composers of the late 19th century,
Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G Minor was the first substantial
a cappella setting of the Latin mass text since pre-Reformation
times to display the unique, essentially “English” sound that
today’s listeners so readily recognize. The work’s notable
features include: liquescent, plainsong-inspired melodic
lines (take, for example, the opening phrase of the Kyrie);
Renaissance-style imitative polyphony; parallel voice movement
and “false relations” (a kind of dissonance in which
a pitch in one part is rapidly followed in another part by
the same pitch altered by a half-step, as at “Benedicimus te”
in the Gloria); iridescent modal harmonies (such as those at
the ethereal opening of the Sanctus, characteristic of both
Tudor music and the folk songs that Vaughan Williams collected
and transcribed); and constantly shifting, kaleidoscopic
Vaughan Williams dedicated the Mass to the Whitsuntide
Singers at Thaxted in north Essex and their conductor
Gustav Holst, the noted English composer whose friendship
Vaughan Williams valued highly. The premiere, however,
occurred at a concert in Birmingham, even though
Vaughan Williams had envisioned it for use in a worship
setting. The first liturgical performance took place at Westminster
Cathedral on March 12, 1923, conducted by Sir
Richard R. Terry, a preeminent organist and choirmaster
largely responsible for the resurrection of English sacred
choral music of the Tudor period (1485–1600). Terry, thrilled
with Vaughan Williams’ composition, wrote to the composer:
“I’m quite sincere when I say that it is the work one
has all along been waiting for. In your individual and modern
idiom you have really captured the old liturgical spirit
Listen for the compelling textual illuminations (of such
phrases as “et in terra pax” in the Gloria and “et homo factus
est” in the Credo), as well as for the “early English” characteristics
of the Mass mentioned above. Then let the work lift
your heart into the shimmering, timeless world Vaughan
Williams creates by blending elements of the 16th and 20th
centuries that transport listeners of all ages.
Five Hebrew Love Songs
Eric Whitacre was born January 2, 1970, in Reno, Nevada,
and currently lives in Los Angeles. He composed this song cycle
for soprano, violin and piano (with the vocalist also playing
tambourine) in 1996, later rescoring it several times for various
choral and instrumental forces.
Over the past decade, American composer Eric Whitacre
has achieved widespread success with numerous works
for choral groups and wind ensembles, ranging from the
sublime (Lux Aurumque) to the outrageous (Gawd$illa Eats
Las Vegas). Whitacre’s music has appeared on more than 40
recordings, which the composer has effectively marketed
using such online venues as MySpace. In 2009, he launched
a “Virtual Choir” project on YouTube. About Five Hebrew
Love Songs, Whitacre writes:
In the spring of 1996, my great friend and brilliant violinist
Friedemann Eichhorn invited me and my girlfriend-at-the-time Hila Plitmann (a soprano) to give a concert with
him in his home city of Speyer, Germany. We had all met
that year as students at the Juilliard School, and were inseparable.
Because we were appearing as a band of traveling
musicians, “Friedy” asked me to write a set of troubadour
songs for piano, violin and soprano. I asked Hila (who was
born and raised in Jerusalem) to write me a few “postcards”
in her native tongue, and a few days later she presented me
with these exquisite and delicate Hebrew poems. I set them
while we vacationed in a small skiing village in the Swiss
Alps, and we performed them for the first time a week later
Each of the songs captures a moment that Hila and I
shared together. Kalá kallá (which means “light bride”) was
a pun I came up with when she was first teaching me Hebrew.
The bells at the beginning of Éyze shéleg! are the exact
pitches that awakened us each morning in Germany as they
rang from a nearby cathedral. These songs are profoundly
personal for me, born entirely out of my new love for this
soprano, poet, and now my beautiful wife, Hila Plitmann.
Huntley Beyer was born November 17, 1947, growing up in
New Jersey; he currently resides in Redmond. His wind quintet
(for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon) receives its premiere
Composer Huntley Beyer met OSSCS founder George
Shangrow in 1969 in the classroom of harpsichordist Sylvia
Kind at the University of Washington. He later played oboe
in Orchestra Seattle for 15 years. Under Shangrow’s direction,
OSSCS premiered numerous Beyer compositions,
including three of his four symphonies, the powerful St. Mark Passion,
Songs of Illumination and the song cyle The Turns of a Girl.
About Short Stories, the composer writes:
There are three things I like about the short story. One
is that a tale is told. Things happen. A character undergoes
development. The second is that sometimes a closing image
or idea suggests a different way to view what has happened.
The third is that they are short, which means an idea does
not have to undergo any “tedious development” as sometimes
happens in longer forms. I am playing with these
three characteristics in this piece.
In the first movement, the opening idea is like someone
taking a peaceful walk. A sad, bluesy thought (in the clarinet)
comes into the mind, threatening to ruin the walk, or
to make it a sad one. Then, a bird-like idea pops in (either
a bird, or a different, free, almost happy idea). Gradually
the mournful thought follows the free bird, and so the blues
The second movement is a sequence of various fun
rhythms. My image was of a bunch of old Model T cars
getting together for a race. At first they just putt around
together, showing off their different engine sounds, and
then things get a little rowdy and there’s a horn blast. The
cars slowly get ready, then take off. The third movement
is mostly a pretty tune, but near the end things get a little
faster and then the bird from the first movement flaps in.
The fourth movement starts with a dense cluster, and is
more of a color or texture than a tune. Then, the bassoon and
horn play a bossa nova dance idea under that same coloristic
sound, giving it a different interpretation, or changing the
whole picture or image. At the end, the bassoon takes the
bossa idea and just goes off alone, happily bopping away, as
if the character were simply playing at a dance, and is now
going home. She is a happy character. Finally, “synapse
detour” is a basic rondo, but at the end two other familiar
ideas hop in for a fun ending.
Suite from Pulcinella
Stravinsky was born born at Oranienbaum, near St. Petersburg, on June 17, 1882, and died in New York on April 6, 1971.
He began work on his ballet Pulcinella
during the summer of 1919 and completed it on April 20, 1920,
with the premiere given by the Ballets Russes on May 15 at the
Paris Opera. Pierre Monteux conducted the Boston Symphony in
the first performance of the concert suite on December 22, 1922.
The suite calls for pairs of flutes (with one doubling piccolo), oboes,
bassoons and horns, trumpet, trombone and orchestral strings
(including five solo players).
In 1917 Sergei Diaghilev—the famed impresario of
the Ballets Russes—successfully staged The Good-Humoured
Ladies, set to keyboard works of Domenico Scarlatti as orchestrated
by Italian composer Vincenzo Tommasini. Two
years later, Diaghilev turned to Ottorino Respighi to arrange
music of Gioachino Rossini for a similar stage work, La Boutique
fantasque, and in 1920 he approached Manuel de Falla
(with whom he had collaborated on The Three-Cornered Hat),
to adapt music for a third such ballet, this time drawing
upon compositions of Italian Baroque composer Giovanni
Battista Pergolesi (1710–1736). Preoccupied with another
project, the Spanish composer declined, so Diaghilev turned
to fellow Russian Igor Stravinsky, who had exploded onto
the scene a decade earlier in three collaborations with the
Ballets Russes: The Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring.
Surprisingly, Stravinsky exhibited interest in the project,
even though he “wasn’t in the least excited” by the
few Pergolesi compositions he had heard previously. But
when Diaghilev supplied him with various musical selections
(which the impresario claimed had come from Italy,
but actually derived from manuscripts in the British Library),
Stravinsky “fell in love,” perhaps because much of
the music—unbeknowst to him or anyone else at the time—
was mostly the work of composers other than Pergolesi.
For the ballet’s story, Diaghilev chose an episode from
a book of stories concerning Pulcinella, a traditional comic
hero of the Neapolitan commedia dell’arte. The plot involves
Pulcinella—with whom various young women are in love—switching
places with a double to avoid being killed by the
girls’ suitors, who then dress up as Pulcinella and present
themselves to their sweethearts. Pulcinella arrives on the
scene and arranges marriages for all involved—including
himself. Léonide Massine choreographed the work, based
on sketches in dance manuals from the 17th and 18th centuries,
with sets designed by Pablo Picasso.
Recent musicological research has shown that much
of the music Stravinsky selected for use in the ballet—including
the familiar opening movement and the work’s
jubilant finale—derived from trio sonatas by a little-known
Italian composer, Domenico Gallo (1730–c. 1738). Two movements
came from keyboard works of Carlo Ignazio Monza
(?–1739), while a Tarantella—the first number Stravinsky
tackled—came from a Concerto Armonico by Dutch nobleman
Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer (1692–1766). Stravinsky
also drew upon excerpts from operas and cantatas, including
the ballet’s second number (Serenata), a tenor aria from
Pergolesi’s 1735 opera Il Flaminio; for these, he retained the
original texts (in spite of the fact they had nothing to do with
the ballet’s story) and employed three singers, in addition
to a Mozart-sized chamber orchestra.
Stravinsky left the source material largely untouched,
superimposing new harmonic elements on top of existing
melodic lines, while occasionally elongating or shortening
phrases. Although the use of concertino string solos recalls
the practice of Baroque composers such as Handel
and Corelli, Stravinsky’s ingenious orchestration utilizes all
manner of instrumental effects—from string harmonics to
trombone glissandi—unthinkable during the 18th century.
Not long after the work’s premiere, Stravinsky extracted
a concert suite, using the ballet’s first five and last
five numbers along with the Tarantella, and excising all but
two vocal numbers, which he recast in purely instrumental
form. (He later arranged many of the same selections for violin
and piano, and for cello piano, each of which he dubbed
Suite Italienne.) In the years that followed Pulcinella, Stravinsky
made increasing use of Baroque and Classical forms
in many of his compositions, including the Octet for Wind
Instruments, Dumbarton Oaks Concerto and Symphony in C.