The Oratorio Society of New York presents an all-Czech program featuring a masterwork of the choral repertoire and a world premiere to conclude its 139th season tonight, Thursday, April 26, 2012, at 8:00 PM at Carnegie Hall. OSNY Music Director Kent Tritle conducts, for the first time, Dvorák's Stabat mater, as well as the world premiere of an OSNY commission: Song of Solomon by Juraj Filas, one of the most prominent composers of the Czech Republic. The program's soloists are Rachel Rosales, soprano; Charlotte Daw Paulsen, mezzo-soprano; John Bellemer, tenor; and Ben Wager, bass.
The program is presented in partnership with Carnegie Hall as part of its 120th Anniversary Celebration. Carnegie Hall and the Oratorio Society of New York both have a long association with Dvo?ák – the OSNY has been performing his works since 1895, and in 1993 gave the New York premiere of his oratorio St. Ludmilla. In 2004, the group performed the Stabat mater at Dvo?ák's church in Zlonice in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of his death. The composer made four appearances at Carnegie Hall, and the hall hosted the world premiere of his "New World" Symphony in 1893.
Filas's Song of Solomon
This cantata for soprano, tenor, chorus, and orchestra, commissioned for the Oratorio Society by member Joanne Spellun, was written to be performed with the Dvo?ák Stabat mater. Kent Tritle became acquainted with Filas's work when he performed his double concerto, Concertino-doppio per virtuosi,"Salamadra-immortale," in November 2010, and led the U.S. premiere of his Requiem, Oratio spei, to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11. He says of Filas, "Juraj's musical language draws from the music of Janá?ek and folk idioms from the Austro-Hungarian region, creating a voice that is both romantic and lyrical but also completely of our time."
Filas wrote his setting of text from the Bible's Song of Songs to give "hope and joy and harmony to the audience." (Watch a brief video of Filas discussing his new work.) Born in 1955 in the Slovak Republic, he is one of the most prominent composers of the Czech Republic, where he has lived and worked for the past 35 years. Also a singer who has won several vocal competitions, Filas writes music that has been described as belonging to the Czech neo-Romantic movement. Dvo?ák was a major influence-one of Filas's teachers at the Prague Conservatory had studied with Josef Suk, Dvo?ák's student and son-in-law.
Kent Tritle on Dvoák Stabat mater
To Kent Tritle, the Stabat mater "offers a window into the soul of Dvo?ák," who wrote the work-setting of text about Mary at the foot of the cross-in response to the loss of an infant daughter, and subsequently, two other children. This work for four soloists, chorus, and orchestra alternates solo, ensemble, and choral sequences and "expands and develops the whole palette of colors that is available to Dvo?ák to grapple with these emotions...and he progresses from the lament to astounding hope." (Watch a brief video of Kent Tritle talking about the work.)
"The Oratorio Society has held the line for choral grandeur," said The New York Times of the Society's performance of Handel's Messiah at Carnegie Hall in 2008. Since its founding in 1873, during which time many thousands of singers have passed through its membership, the OSNY, New York's own 200-voice volunteer chorus, has become the city's standard for grand, joyous choral performance. Since 2005 the chorus has been led by Music Director Kent Tritle, called "New York City's foremost choral conductor" by Time Out New York, and who was recently appointed Director of Cathedral Music and Organist for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. "The sheer energy of the society's sound had an enveloping fervor," wrote Allan Kozinn in The New York Times of a 2008 presentation of Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem; and of a 2005 performance of Messiah, Jeremy Eichler said in the Times, "this was...a vibrant and deeply human performance, made exciting by the sheer heft and depth of the chorus's sound."
The Oratorio Society of New York has the longest continuous relationship of any musical organization with Carnegie Hall, which this season celebrates its 120th anniversary. The Society was onstage at the hall's opening night concert on May 5, 1891, and a few days later performed the U.S. premieres of Tchaikovsky's Legend and Pater noster conducted by the composer. The Society was central to the inception and building of the hall. (Andrew Carnegie was a member of the board of directors, serving as its president from 1888 to 1919.)