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Thursday, May 21, 2015

An Interesting Year

As I mentioned, I'm leaving ChoralNet blog posting in another week. Next year will be interesting, to say the least.
 
l'll be taking over Jerry McCoy's Director of Choral Studies duties in an interim year at UNT, so conducting the A Cappella Choir, being the primary teacher of conducting for our graduate choral conducting students, being primary in creating their comprehensive exams and advising on dissertations (and four to six will be doing them this year!), and administering the choral program. I'll still be conducting the Collegium Singers (who will sing at the Boston Early Music Festival in June and at the NCCO conference in Portland, OR in November), and will remain chair of the Division of Conducting & Ensembles at the College of Music.
 
For A Cappella, I'm still planning much of the repertoire, but know I'll do Stravinsky's Les Noces in the spring. And I'll conduct the Grand Chorus (the three UNT mixed choirs) and Symphony Orchestra in Haydn's The Creation at the end of the year. This is part of the score study work to be done this summer. But that's one of the processes I really enjoy.
 
I've conducted Les Noces before, but one of the nice things is there's a very good new edition out. Any time I do this kind of work again, I usually want to completely re-study, but the new edition makes it even more important.
 
And with The Creation there are lots of things to decide. We'll do it in English and the libretto by Van Swieten has "issues," to say the least! There are other versions, including the Shaw/Parker translation, one by Nicholas Temperley and another by Neil Jenkins, who has several wonderful articles (1, 2, and 3), plus his own translation. This is the kind of research I love doing and I'll ultimately make individual decisions (collaborating with my soloists) on choices, but probably staying closely with the original text.
 
Peter Brown's book about the early performances of The Creation is wonderful and leads to all sorts of questions to answer, particularly about the size and disposition of the orchestra. In most of Haydn's performances with large forces, he had three sets of woodwinds (Harmonie), 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassons, and two horns. In addition his trumpets (2) were doubled, as well as the 2 trombones (he usually also had two sets of timpani). And he scored for contrabassoon and bass trombone (not doubled). The set of parts that Haydn used (and which have markings in his hand) also had extra parts for the contrabassoon and bass trombone, which I'll certainly use. All three of the Harmonie were not used all the time, but surviving evidence shows that it was likely that Harmonie 1 played everything (meaning some solos in the arias), Harmonie 2 on most big tuttis (even in arias), and Harmonie 3 in choruses and at other special places ("Let there be LIGHT").
 
If I can manage to use the triple Harmonie, it changes the balances and color . . . and in some moments, such as the "roar" of the lion, it will mean that the low Ab will be played by all cellos and basses, six bassoons and contrabassoons, plus bass trombone. A mighty roar, indeed!
 
It's these kinds of things that come from research that I enjoy doing. And hopefully it all comes together in an interpretation that is not just about being "historically correct," but gets to what Haydn wanted to express and how he expressed it. For me, that's part of all performance practice—figuring out how better to express the emotion and ideas of the composer.
 
Wish me luck!

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