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Article Published April 17, 2019
The GMChorale Presents a Rarely-Heard Choral Masterwork on May 5
By GMChorale Media
The GMChorale, now in its fifth decade, with 90 dedicated singers from 40 Connecticut communities, has developed a reputation for taking a chance on lesser-known music and presenting it with artistry, skill, and verve to music lovers across central Connecticut.
On Sunday, May 5, 2019, the ensemble will present a program of choral music by Anton Bruckner, featuring the “unexpectedly ethereal and luminous” Mass in E Minor for voices and wind orchestra. The program begins at 4:00pm at Middletown High School, 200 La Rosa Lane, in Middletown. A pre-concert talk begins at 3:15pm.
“Most people know Anton Bruckner only for his eleven gigantic, hugely-orchestrated symphonies,” said the ensemble’s Artistic Director, Joseph D’Eugenio. “Each of the symphonies takes, on average, an hour to play! But Bruckner’s ‘day job’ was as a church organist and choirmaster, and he composed for his singers a wealth of fine choral music which, in its smaller scale and crystalline texture, is entirely different from his symphonic music. People who don’t care for Bruckner’s symphonies will probably love his gem-like choral music.”
Bruckner was organist and choirmaster at Saint Florian monastery near Linz, Austria, and at the cathedral at Linz, both on the banks of the Danube River. His Mass No. 2 in E minor, composed in 1866 to celebrate a new chapel in the Linz cathedral, and widely acknowledged as among Bruckner’s best works, evokes the cathedralesque musical architecture of the Renaissance masters overlaid with the rich harmonies of the nineteenth century.
“Bruckner’s Mass is truly exquisite, with soaring lines and astonishing moments of harmonic revelation,” said D’Eugenio. “I have always wanted to do this work especially after having visited the breathtaking space at Saint Florian when the GMChorale toured in Europe several years ago. I hope that we will re-create that sense of floating grandeur when we present Bruckner’s choral music on May 5.”
The GMChorale has a long history of presenting “classic” choral masterworks, but also embraces new music, especially in the form of commissions and special collaborations. In 2013, the GMChorale premiered a new oratorio, Letter from Italy, 1944, that had been commissioned by the Chorale of Connecticut Grammy nominee and composer Sarah Meneely-Kyder. Music has also been commissioned from well-known choral composers such as Gwyneth Walker, Eugenie Rocherolle, Peter Niedmann, Colin Britt, Ellen Gilson Voth, Lee McQuillan, and Henry Mollicone.
“It’s easy to program familiar music,” said D’Eugenio, who has led the ensemble for more than twenty seasons. “It’s easy for the singers to prepare familiar music, and it’s easy for an audience to come to listen to an old favorite like Handel’s Messiah. And we love Messiah, too, and plan to perform it again soon. But at the GMChorale, we are also looking for every opportunity to broaden our experience as musicians, and to offer a wider variety of great choral music to the community, including music that may have fallen by the wayside, not because it is less worthy, but because it gets crowded off the stage, so to speak, by the ‘big hits’ of Mozart, Brahms, and other mainstream choral composers. Presenting Bruckner’s Mass in E Minor is a great opportunity to make this happen. I’m aware of only about a half dozen performances of this music in the United States this season – and one of them will be here in Connecticut on May 5.”
The May 5 program also includes a selection of choral motets by Bruckner, to be performed by Alchemy, the 24-voice chamber ensemble of the GMChorale, and mezzo-soprano Lindsay Cabaniss will perform Bruckner’s solo setting of “Ave Maria,” accompanied on the organ.
The Mass in E Minor and a motet will be accompanied by a professional orchestra of wind and brass instruments, and the wind orchestra will also present two instrumental works on their own.
“Yes, we include instrumental music in our choral programs,” said D’Eugenio. “It’s always interesting to hear music that complements and perhaps illuminates the choral selections, and the audience enjoys the contrasts of texture and color.”
In a series of informative newsletters, easy-to-understand printed program notes, and a pre-concert talk by Dr. Neely Bruce, Professor of Music at Wesleyan University, the GMChorale will share information about Bruckner and his choral music.
The concert takes place on Sunday, May 5, 2019, at 4:00pm at the Middletown High School Santo Fragilio Performing Arts Center, 200 La Rosa Lane, in Middletown. There is ample parking, and the site is fully accessible. A pre-concert talk by Neely Bruce, John Spencer Camp Professor of Music at Wesleyan University, will begin at 3:15pm for all ticket-holders.
Tickets are on sale now at www.gmchorale.org. Discounts are available for seniors, students, and groups of 8 or more.