Saturday, June 9, 2018, 8 PM
Marigny Opera House
Featuring Amy Pfrimmer, Soprano and Ivan Griffin, bass-baritone
Maxim Samarov Conducts
Vivaldi: Sinfonia in B Minor, "Al Santo Sepolcro"
Sibelius: Romance in C Major
Sibelius: Andante Festivo
Purcell: Chaconne in G Minor
Jerry Sieg: Sinfonia XIII, “Mourning” (World Premiere)
Maxim Samarov: Ars Moriendi (World Premiere)
Our next performance:
Jerry Sieg: Sinfonia XIII, “Mourning”
Notes by Jerry Sieg
In the book of Lamentations, chapter 5, verse 19, it is written: "The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning." This composition is a small attempt at musically depicting the emotional effects of mourning a lost loved one. The piece opens in the low strings with musical intervals often associated with emptiness. The violins then enter with a melodic expression symbolizing the same sound. These are the primary building blocks of the composition. There is one episode near the end in which a sense of joy and dance attempts to disrupt the mourning but it fails to do so. As a result the composition returns to the opening and ends with a sense of despair, portrayed by the violins in its high register and the final sound of the double bass in its lowest register.
Maxim Samarov: Ars Moriendi
Notes by Maxim Samarov
This piece took shape slowly and developed gradually. There was a handful of texts I had wanted to set to music for a long time—the canticle Nunc Dimittis, my own translation of Cesare Pavese’s Verra la morte a avra gli tuoi occhi (The Death will come and it will have your eyes) and the famous Macbeth’s monologue “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,” so I just started with these; eventually I realized that I need a few more companion texts, which I found in the “death poem” by medieval Korean statesman Seong Sam-mun, Holy Sonnet X “Death Be Not Proud” by John Donne, “Perhaps the Death is Kind” by American poet Sara Teasdale, “Death Stands Above Me” by Englishman Walter Savage Landor and “Poet’s Death” by Russian Vassily Zhikovsky, which I translated.
I struggled for a while with both the title and the definition of the genre of this piece. “Ars moriendi” does pay homage to the great Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich by the way of being modeled upon his Symphony #14, which had been one of my favorite pieces for many years—my piece is scored for the same performing forces as the Shostakovich piece, so I considered calling it a symphony, but settled on calling it a cantata. As for the title—I considered a few, including “Memento Mori,” which seemed close enough, but not quite right, and when I came across the concept of “Ars Moriendi”—“The Art of Dying,” I knew I had my title. The original medieval text with this title advised the reader on ways to achieve a good and honorable death. This is not quite what I attempted to do with my piece; rather, I tried to portray the situation of facing one’s mortality from the point of view of various individuals, belonging to a wide variety of cultures, spiritual traditions, and time periods. Every setting is like an operatic scene, and these scenes are connected by instrumental interludes, so the piece, approximately half an hour in length, is performed without stopping. Some of the characters within the piece view the subject of death with fear, despair, or consternation, while the others are at peace or even are looking forward to it. My hope is that the composer’s point of view will be made clear by the music.