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Name of Work

Harbison, John (1938-)
Umbrian Landscape with Saint

Movements:
I.
II. Panels from Giotto's St. Francis Cycle in Assisi
III. Cantico della creature

Performances:


Feb 25, 2007



Jennifer Gunn, Flute
Michael Henoch, Oboe
Larry Combs, Clarinet
Dennis Michel, Bassoon
Gail Williams, Horn
Barbara Butler, Trumpet
Charles Geyer, Trumpet
Jemmie Robertson, Trombone
Randall Montgomery, Tuba
Jasmine Lin, Violin
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Rami Solomonow, Viola
Katinka Kleijn, Cello
Bradley Opland, Double bass
Kuang-Hao Huang, Piano


Feb 26, 2007



Jennifer Gunn, Flute
Michael Henoch, Oboe
Larry Combs, Clarinet
Dennis Michel, Bassoon
Gail Williams, Horn
Barbara Butler, Trumpet
Charles Geyer, Trumpet
Jemmie Robertson, Trombone
Randall Montgomery, Tuba
Jasmine Lin, Violin
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Rami Solomonow, Viola
Katinka Kleijn, Cello
Bradley Opland, Double bass
Kuang-Hao Huang, Piano

HARBISON-Umbrian Landscape with Saint – CCM Commission and World Premiere

Composed in 2001

BACKGROUND
John Harbison's long and comprehensive work list includes four string quartets, four symphonies and the acclaimed opera The Great Gatsby, for which he wrote his own libretto based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work of the same name, and which was premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1999 (Lyric Opera introduced it to Chicago the following year). In 2001, The Chicago Chamber Musicians commissioned his song-cycle North and South, using poems by Elizabeth Bishop, for one of its Composer Perspectives concerts. Among many other notable works are his 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning cantata The Flight Into Egypt, his Partita (written for the Minnesota Orchestra and recently recorded by Chicago's Grant Park Orchestra), the Requiem he composed for the Boston Symphony, Milosz Songs premiered by Dawn Upshaw and the New York Philharmonic last season, and the motet Abraham, written for the 2004 Papal Concert of Reconciliation. Prime sources of inspiration for Harbison's music have been the worlds of poetry, literature, and faith; his new work for CCM's 20th Anniversary season draws inspiration from the realm of faith as expressed through great visual art.

MUSIC
Notes by John Harbison

In May 2001, I accepted an invitation to work for a month at Civitella Ranieri in central Umbria, Italy. As soon as I arrived I felt the landscape to be filled with significance. Working first with this landscape, I began my piece for the entire 15-instrument complement of The Chicago Chamber Musicians.

In Matthew 19:21, a young man eager to be perfect in faith says to Jesus, "What lack I yet?" Jesus answered, "Go and sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me." And the young man? "He went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions."

A millennium later, another young rich man, Francesco (Francis) Bernardone, "King of the Revellers," met this challenge. At the moment when he first gave his cloak to a needy man, his life, and soon the church as a whole, were rejuvenated. Not long after St. Francis' death and canonization, the church capitalized on his great popular appeal, an appeal based on a credo of reverence for all created things, by commissioning the largest basilica in Christendom, in the saint's little hometown of Assisi. It is hard to imagine a less appropriate response to Francis' message than this show of ecclesiastical grandeur. Fortunately, Giotto di Bondone (1267-1377) was commissioned to paint scenes from the life of the saint in the upper church, and anyone even briefly in front of them is brought back to the fundamental facts of the Franciscan message.

So, after my landscape prelude, dominated by simple chords in a short-long rhythmic pattern, interrupted just once by a flock of St. Francis' birds, I present as a second movement ten panels from Giotto's cycle of the life of St. Francis, a set of short variations, as follows:
I. Francis Gives His Cloak to the Poor Man (violin, violin, bassoon)
II. Francis Drives the Demons Out of Arezzo (English horn, trombone, tuba)
III. Vision of the Flaming Chariots (flute, clarinet, piano)
IV. Vision of the Heavenly Thrones (viola, cello, bass)
V. Trial by Fire (trumpet, trumpet, horn)
VI. Francis in Ecstasy (trumpet, trumpet, horn)
VII. Miracle of the Spring (viola, cello, bass)
VIII. Francis Preaches to the Birds (flute, clarinet, piano)
IX. Francis Receives the Stigmata (English horn, trombone, tuba)
X. Death of St. Francis (violin, violin, bassoon)
(The instrumentation of the ten variations is symmetrical, ending as they began with two violins and bassoon, a trumpet duo with horn holding central place in Variations 5 and 6.)

I planned as my third movement a "meditation" on Francis' beautiful Hymn to All Created Things, which stands proudly at the front of many anthologies of Italian poetry. However, I was increasingly compelled to deal more directly with the words, which resisted paraphrase, and soon I was composing the entire hymn for chorus and instruments.

Obviously this is a problem, because The Chicago Chamber Musicians do not include a chorus! I arrived at a way to create two parallel versions – one with singers, one without – by accompanying the stanzas of the poem with distinct instrumental groups so that the listeners who wished to follow the text in a purely instrumental performance could orient themselves.

Few have ever been able, as Francis was, to joyfully accept the toughest and most compassionate elements of the Christian message. He inspires us to conserve, pare down, simplify, and trust.

Text with movement three: Canticle of Living Creatures (Hymn to All Created Things)
Translation: John Harbison

Highest One, all powerful Lord,
to you be praise, glory and honor
and all blessings.
To you alone, Highest One, do these belong,
and no man is worthy to rank with you.

RITORNELLO I: WOODWINDS

Praise to you, my Lord, with all your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
who, on your behalf, brings day and light to us.
And he is beautiful and radiant with a great brightness,
From you, Highest One, he draws his significance.

RITORNELLO II: STRINGS

Praise to you, my Lord, for Sister Moon and the Stars,
in heaven you have made them clear, precious, and fine.

Praise to you, my Lord, for Brother Wind,
and for the air, cloudy or fair, in all weather,
through which you give sustenance to all your creatures.

RITORNELLO III: BRASS

Praise to you, my Lord, for Sister Water,
who is very useful, modest, precious, and pure.

Praise to you, my Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom you light up the night,
for he is handsome, cheerful, robust, and strong.

RITORNELLO IV: WOODWINDS

Praise to you, my Lord, for our sister, Mother Earth,
who sustains and looks after us,
and produces many fruits with colored flowers and grasses.

Praise to you, my Lord, for those who forgive out of love for you,
and bear infirmity and suffering.
Blessed are those who have lived in peace,
For by you, Highest One, shall they be crowned.

RITORNELLO V: STRINGS

Praise to you, my Lord, for our sister, bodily Death,
from whom no living person escapes.
Woe to all who die in mortal sin,
blessed are those who death discovers living by your holy will,
for the second death will not harm them.

RITORNELLO VI: BRASS

Praise and bless my Lord.
Thank and serve him with great humility.

Program notes by Andrea Lamoreaux

Performance date: February 25 & 26, 2007



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