The Sacred and the Secular
On the heels of Halloween and All Saint's Day, the Charlotte Master Chorale explores the sacred, the secular—and the sacred versus the secular—in the main chorus's opening concert this season.
Haydn: Te Deum
The Te Deum is a Latin Christian hymn composed in the 4th century. Its title refers to the first few words of the text, Te deum laudamus ("Thee, O God, we praise"). Haydn composed his Te Deum around 1799 as a commission from Empress Marie Therese, wife of Franz I of Austria.
Unlike Haydn's masses and other sacred works, Te Deum does not have any solos—just the full chorus. Two lengthy Allegro passages surround a central Adagio, making the work—at least in structure—a concerto for chorus and orchestra.Te Deum's first Allegro opens in the traditional festive key of C major, and is sung in unison. The Adagio opens with a thunderous unison C major and proceeds in C minor with moving chromatic harmonies. The final Allegro returns to the same cheerful mood as the first passage, concluding with a stirring double fugue on the words In te Domine speravi. A coda-like section, distinguished by overlapping instrumental and choral phrases with syncopated rhythms, brings the piece to a stirring close.
Brahms: Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny)
The Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny), Op. 54, is a choral setting of a poem written by Friedrich Hölderlin, described as the "most German" of German poets and a key figure in German Romanticism. Brahms began the work in the summer of 1868, but did not complete it until May of 1871.
Schicksalslied represents Brahms at the height of his compositional powers, and is sometimes referred to as the “Little Requiem.” It shares many stylistic and compositional similarities with Brahms's most ambitious choral composition—though its romantic characteristics give this piece a closer tie with his "Alto Rhapsody." The first movement, marked Adagio, is in common time and begins in E♭ major. The second movement, in C minor and 3/4 Meter, is marked Allegro. The third movement, marked Adagio, is in C major and returns to common time.
The Sacred vs. the Secular
Mendelssohn: Die erste Walpurgisnacht
Die erste Walpurgisnacht (The First Walpurgis Night) is a light-hearted cantata based on a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The composition consists of ten movements, including a programmatic overture. Goethe's poem tells the story of The Druids and local heathen who live in the Harz mountains in northern Germany. Their traditional May Day celebration begins the night before on what is known as Walpurgis Night. But their celebration has been forbidden by the now-dominant Christians in the area. The Druid priests emphasize that those who fear to sacrifice deserve their chains.
A Druid watchman solves the Druids' dilemma by suggesting a masquerade of the Devil, spirits, and demons to frighten the occupying Christians. The Christians are indeed scared away, and the Druids and heathen are left to celebrate the coming of May.