All-American Song Showcase

Artists from Ravinia’s Steans Institute
Michelle Areyzaga
, soprano
Welz Kauffman
, piano

Bennett Gordon Hall
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
7:00 PM
Gates Open
8:00 PM
Concert Starts
Reserved $10
No lawn sales

Program

World premiere of Lita Grier’s “Anne Rutledge,” the newest in the Ravinia-commissioned “Spoon River” song cycle; this one celebrating the woman considered the true love of Abraham Lincoln’s life.  

Also Grier’s adaptation of Emily Dickinson’s “I Could Not Live With You.”


STEANS INSTITUTE FOR YOUNG ARTISTS SHOWCASE:
AMERICAN SONG RECITAL

MICHELLE AREYZAGA, Soprano
KATHARINE DAIN, Soprano
KATHERINE WHYTE, Soprano
JENNIFER ZETLAN, Soprano
JONATHAN BEYER, Baritone
EUGENE CHAN, Baritone
EDWARD PARKS, Baritone

WELZ KAUFFMAN, Piano
DAVID SHIMONI, Piano
IN SUN SUH, Piano
JONATHAN WARE, Piano
BRIAN ZEGER, Piano


GRIFFES
Das ist ein Brausen und Heulen *
Mein Herz is wie die dunkle Nacht *
Des müden Abendlied *
An den Wind *

Jonathan Beyer, Jonathan Ware


BARBER
Mélodies passagères, Op. 27
    Puisque tout passe
    Un cygne
    Tombeau dans un parc
    Le clocher chante
    Départ

Eugene Chan, David Shimoni


HARBISON
Selections from Simple Daylight
    Your Name *
    Somewhere a Seed *
    The Wild Irises *
    Odor *

Katharine Dain, Jonathan Ware


HARBISON
Selections from Mirabai Songs
     It’s True, I Went to the Market
     Where Did You Go?
     The Clouds

Jennifer Zetlan, David Shimoni


GRIER
Anne Rutledge from Songs from Spoon River +
I Cannot Not Live with You +

Michelle Areyzaga, Welz Kauffman


WEILL
Selections from Four Walt Whitman Songs
    Dirge for Two Veterans *
    Oh Captain! My Captain! *

Edward Parks, In Sun Suh


MOORE
Selections from So Free Am I
    Mutta *
    Interlude *
    Orinda upon Little Hector Philips *
    Nervous Prostration *
    Mettika *

Katherine Whyte, Brian Zeger


+ World premiere
* First performance at Ravinia Festival

 

About The Artist

MICHELLE AREYZAGA, Soprano
Since her successful debut in Ullmann’s The Kaiser of Atlantis for Chicago Opera Theatre, soprano Michelle Areyzaga has performed with such companies as Chicago Opera Theater, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s “In the Neighborhoods,” Opera Theatre North, DuPage Opera Theatre, Chicago Light Opera Works and Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de México. Most recently she reprised the role of Zerlina (Mozart’s Don Giovanni) for her Opera Birmingham debut and sang Pamina (Mozart’s The Magic Flute) as part of Chicago’s Silk Road Initiative. Recent concert engagements include the New York Festival of Song, Poulenc’s Gloria with the Flint Michigan Symphony, Gustavo Leone’s Mundo at the Grant Park Music Festival and “Bernstein on Broadway” with the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Festival and at the Tilles Center in Long Island, NY. Areyzaga made her European concert debut as soloist in Vaughan Williams’s Mass in G Minor at England’s York Minster Cathedral, Ely Cathedral and St. Mary’s Church in Oxford. In Paris she received standing ovations as soloist in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with the orchestra of London’s Royal Academy of Music and the St. Charles Singers. A 2001 participant in Ravinia’s Steans Institute for Young Artists, Areyzaga has performed with pianist Welz Kauffman on numerous occasions, including songs by Lita Grier for Ravinia’s free summer celebrations in 2006 and ’07 and works by Rachmaninoff and Dvořák with Luna Negra Dance Theater in March 2005. She released the CD The Sun Is Love on the Proteus label, and Pioneer Press named her Chicago’s “Artist of the Year” for 2006. This is Michelle Areyzaga’s second festival season at Ravinia, where she made her debut in 2007.

WELZ KAUFFMAN, Piano
Pianist Welz Kauffman has fostered a love for music since age 4, when his father introduced him to a variety of types of music through recordings. By the age of 5 he was playing the piano himself. He continued his musical education at Occidental College and attended Tanglewood. Kauffman has taken master classes with such artists as Leonard Bernstein, John Browning, Gilbert Kalish, Alicia de Larrocha, Lang Lang, Alfred Brendel, Tamás Vásáry, Malcolm Frager, Johanna Harris, Rudolf Serkin and Karl Schnabel, and has numerous competition prizes to his credit. He takes special satisfaction in collaborating with soloists, including such acclaimed vocalists as sopranos Sylvia McNair, Harolyn Blackwell, Nicole Cabell and Michelle Areyzaga and baritone Stephen Salters, in addition to participating in Luna Negra Dance Theater productions. He has been heard not only on the stages of Ravinia’s pavilion and Martin Theatre, but also on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight and WFMT, most recently on their live broadcast from Ravinia’s 2009 Customer Appreciation Day. He has also performed the world premieres of works by Ramsey Lewis commissioned for Ravinia’s One Score, One Chicago project, which he initiated. As Ravinia’s president and CEO, he has expanded the programs of the Steans Institute for Young Artists, commissioning new works from such composers as Ned Rorem and Jake Heggie, and featuring Steans alumni in Ravinia’s main-stage festival concerts. Deeply committed to furthering music education, he has also strengthened Ravinia’s Education and Community Partnerships programs, which reach more than 75,000 Chicago-region residents through a variety of  services brought to the community and put music back into budget-strapped Chicago schools under the “REACH. TEACH. PLAY.” umbrella.

Program Notes

CHARLES GRIFFES (1884-1920)

German Songs

Death at age 35 robbed Charles Tomlinson Griffes of the widespread and lasting acclaim his talent and originality so richly deserved. As a boy he took piano lessons with his sister. However, Griffes switched in his mid-teens to an instructor at Elmira College, Mary Selena Broughton, who exposed him to contemporary works by European composers. With her backing Griffes entered the Stern Conservatory in Berlin as an aspiring concert pianist. While in Germany Griffes discovered a passion for composition and left the keyboard program at the conservatory. Lessons under Engelbert Humperdinck (composer of the opera Hansel and Gretel) continued for a few months before Griffes returned to the U.S. as director of music at Hackley School, Tarrytown, New York, where he taught until his untimely death. Griffes’s early works strongly reflect his Germanic training. Several songs, in fact, utilize German and occasionally French texts. During his last decade, Griffes turned away from this Teutonic heritage in preference to oriental and other “exotic” influences. 

 

SAMUEL BARBER (1910-81) 

Mélodies passagères, Op. 27

Very early Barber displayed an interest in composition, especially vocal writing. He possessed an impeccable poetic sense, drawing from ancient English texts, translations of foreign texts, and the finest original verses by modern English-language writers. Barber possessed an unsurpassed ability to convey subtle meanings in his texts. Though his output was rather small, due to his highly self-critical nature, Barber contributed superior representatives to American art song. Barber set five poems from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Poèmes français (French texts by the great German poet!) in the Mélodies passagères, Op. 27. He composed three songs (“Puisque tout passe,” “Le clocher chante” and “Départ”) in January and February 1950 for soprano Eileen Farrell. Barber accompanied Farrell in the first performance on April 1, 1951, at a Friend of Music of Dumbarton Oaks concert in Washington, D.C. Two more Rilke songs (“Un cygne” and “Tombeau dans un parc”) joined the collection later in the month, on April 21 and 26. French baritone Pierre Bernac and pianist-composer Francis Poulenc premiered the complete Mélodies passagères in February 1952 at an International Music Council meeting in Paris. Barber dedicated the song cycle to Bernac.

 

JOHN HARBISON (b. 1938)

Selections from Simple Daylight

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Harbison grew up in Orange, New Jersey, the son of a Princeton history professor (father) and magazine writer (mother). While attending Harvard University (bachelor of arts, 1960), he received the prestigious Paine Traveling Fellowship, which allowed further compositional study in Berlin with Boris Blacher. He later attended Princeton University (master of fine arts, 1962), where his teachers included Roger Sessions and Earl Kim. Harbison has served as composer-in-residence for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (1982-84), the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood (1984) and new music advisor (1985-86) and composer-in-residence (1986-88) for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. The song cycle Simple Daylight, written for soprano and an ensemble of up to six instrumentalists, was commissioned by Lincoln Center and is dedicated to Dawn Upshaw. Upshaw and pianist James Levine gave the world premiere in 1988. Harbison selected poems by his close friend Michael Fried: “My ordering of his poems makes a sequence closer in tone to a Bach cantata text than to a 19th-century song cycle, and evokes a kind of subcutaneous narrative very favorable for musical purposes, but no doubt unintended by the poet.”

 

JOHN HARBISON

Selections from Mirabai Songs

John Harbinson’s Mirabai Songs celebrate the famed 16th-century Indian poetess, singer and religious devotee—Mirabai, or Meera (1498?-1546). These six songs, with texts translated into English by Robert Bly, portray Mirabai’s complex mixture of religious devotion and sensuality. When her husband was slain in battle, Mirabai rejected the typical widow’s fate: death on the funeral pyre alongside her husband. Instead she devoted herself entirely to Krishna by singing and dancing in the Hindu temple of Chitor. Harbison composed the Mirabai Songs in 1982 for voice and piano. In that form, mezzo-soprano Susan Larson and pianist Craig Smith gave the world premiere on September 9, 1983, at Emmanuel Church in Boston. The composer subsequently reworked the score for voice and chamber ensemble. 

 

LITA GRIER (b. 1937)

Selections from Songs from Spoon River

I Cannot Not Live with You

The composer writes: A collection of some 244 poems, written in free verse in the form of “verse epitaphs,” Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters shines a spotlight on “ordinary” people of every age, social and economic class, buried in the cemetery of the imaginary small town of Spoon River in Illinois, who speak from the grave to tell their life stories. Masters divides the characters by groups, beginning with the fools, drunkards and failures and works his way to the more enlightened spirits, which we meet toward the end. Each poem is a character, and as the characters multiply, the town’s character is gradually built up before us. It is a world in microcosm. Choosing from 244 poems turned out not to be as difficult as one would first imagine. I selected the ones that “sang” to me and offered the opportunity to paint distinct psychological portraits, which were musically complementary. Sarah Brown, first, then Zenas Witt, with the nervous and restless energy of a young boy who knows he is marked for an early grave. The third portrait is that of Lucinda Matlock, one of the best known in Spoon River Anthology, said to be a portrait of the poet’s grandmother. Ravinia Festival commissioned Songs from Spoon River in 2004 for the vocal chamber music fellows at the Steans Insitute for Young Artists. Malia Bendi Merad (soprano), Brenda Patterson (mezzo-soprano), Benjamin Sosland (tenor), Matthew Shaw (baritone) and Margo Garrett (piano) gave the world premiere at Ravinia on July 29, 2004. “Anne Rutledge,” the most recent addition to Songs from Spoon River, and a setting of Emily Dickinson’s “I Cannot Not Live with You” receive their world premiere performances this evening.

WELZ KAUFFMAN, Piano
Pianist Welz Kauffman has fostered a love for music since age 4, when his father introduced him to a variety of types of music through recordings. By the age of 5 he was playing the piano himself. He continued his musical education at Occidental College and attended Tanglewood. Kauffman has taken master classes with such artists as Leonard Bernstein, John Browning, Gilbert Kalish, Alicia de Larrocha, Lang Lang, Alfred Brendel, Tamás Vásáry, Malcolm Frager, Johanna Harris, Rudolf Serkin and Karl Schnabel, and has numerous competition prizes to his credit. He takes special satisfaction in collaborating with soloists, including such acclaimed vocalists as sopranos Sylvia McNair, Harolyn Blackwell, Nicole Cabell and Michelle Areyzaga and baritone Stephen Salters, in addition to participating in Luna Negra Dance Theater productions. He has been heard not only on the stages of Ravinia’s pavilion and Martin Theatre, but also on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight and WFMT, most recently on their live broadcast from Ravinia’s 2009 Customer Appreciation Day. He has also performed the world premieres of works by Ramsey Lewis commissioned for Ravinia’s One Score, One Chicago project, which he initiated. As Ravinia’s president and CEO, he has expanded the programs of the Steans Institute for Young Artists, commissioning new works from such composers as Ned Rorem and Jake Heggie, and featuring Steans alumni in Ravinia’s main-stage festival concerts. Deeply committed to furthering music education, he has also strengthened Ravinia’s Education and Community Partnerships programs, which reach more than 75,000 Chicago-region residents through a variety of  services brought to the community and put music back into budget-strapped Chicago schools under the “REACH. TEACH. PLAY.” umbrella.

 

Adapted from program notes © Lita Grier 2004

 

KURT WEILL (1900-50)

Selections from Four Walt Whitman Songs

Shocked by the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Weill searched the poetry of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass for suitable song texts. Weill composed and orchestrated three songs (“Oh Captain! My Captain!,” “Beat! Beat! Drums!” and “Dirge for Two Veterans,” orchestrated in collaboration with Irving Schlein) as contribution to the Fight for Freedom organization’s promotion of American intervention in the European war. Weill completed a fourth song, “Come Up from the Fields, Father,” in 1947 after returning from Europe to the United States. “Coming home to this country,” he wrote at the time, “had some of the same emotion as arriving here 12 years ago.” Later that year tenor William Horne and pianist Adam Garner recorded all four songs in concert. 

 

BEN MOORE (b. 1960)

Selections from So Free Am I

American composer and lyricist Ben Moore traverses musical theater and classical worlds with extreme ease. His cabaret and theater songs have attracted a number of well-known vocalists—Audra McDonald, Marla Schaffel, Karen Mason and Charles Cermeli, among others. On the classical side, Moore has compiled a highly regarded body of art songs, including three collections (Eight Irish Songs, Five Songs on English Poets and So Free Am I), parody pieces and isolated songs. So Free Am I incorporates seven texts by women poets: two anonymous Buddhist nuns, Amy Lowell, Katherine Philips, Anna Wickham, Dorothy Parker and Muriel Rukeyser. Moore composed this song cycle for soprano Monica Yunus, who gave the world premiere with pianist Brian Zeger on January 25, 2006, in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.

 

—Program notes © Todd E. Sullivan 2009