Vier Zigeunerlieder op. 112b for choir and piano
on Hungarian Folksongs (Leipzig 1891)
No. 1 Himmel strahlt so helle und klar
No. 2 Rote Rosenknospen
No. 3 Brennessel steht an Wegesrand
No. 4 Liebe Schwalbe, kleine Schwalbe
The Zigeunerlieder or Gypsy Songs of Johannes Brahms are well-known among choral music enthusiasts; they are some of Brahms’ most performed works for vocal ensembles. The texts are an adaptation of Hungarian folk songs and Brahms set the texts in a with clear harmonic and melodic references to this musical style. It is important to note that Hungarian folk music was often called ‘gypsy music’ in the 19th century. In total, there are fifteen Gypsy songs, in two sets of 11 and 4.
Six chansons (Switzerland Valais 1939)
on poems by Rainer Maria Rilke
La Biche – Un cygne – Puisque tout passe – Printemps – En hiver – Verger
Paul Hindemith a German composer, conductor and pedagogue, was born at the tail end of the 19th century. The National Socialist regime described its music as “degenerate art”, although shortly before he was praised as an ideal modern German composer. By 1938 though, he and his wife (who was of Jewish origin) left Nazi Germany for Switzerland.
In 1940, Hindemith moved to New Haven (USA) and became a professor at Yale University, where he taught for thirteen years. The original manuscript for his Six Chansons can be found in Yale’s library.
In 1953, Hindemith returned to Europe and became a professor in Zurich, Switzerland.
He composed the Six Chansons as a tribute to French music. They describe the ambivalence of the natural world: the beauty of the seasons, the excesses of nature, and nature as a place of refuge, but also its symbolism for death and impermanence.
Sweet Spring (Stockholm 2002)
No. 1 Spring*
No. 2 Elegiac Sonet
No. 3 O the sun
*Soloists: Iris-Anna Deckert, Sisu Lustig, Philipp Classen, Malte Fial
Arne Mellnäs was a Swedish composer and pedagogue. He studied under György Ligeti and worked together with minimalist composer Steve Reich. Mellnäs made significant contributions to developments in avantgarde music, with a special interest in electronic music. In Sweet Spring, he creates a microcosm of exciting sounds and vocal possibilities, including with the imitation of birdsong.
Mellnäs set texts from three separate poets for the three movements of his work from vastly different eras. Thomas Nashe (I. Spring) lived in the second half of the 16th century; he was a contemporary of Shakespeare. Charlotte Smith lived 200 years later and wrote her “Elegiac Sonnets“ from an English debtors’ prison. e. e. cummings was an American poet and lived from 1894 to 1962, about 150 years after Smith. Mellnäs embraces the various styles of poetry, yet weaves the three pieces together into one cohesive work.
From “Choralis Constantinus” (Konstanz 1508) - US Premiere
for the Feast of Saint Conrad
Introitus: “Sacerdotes tui Domine”
Soloist gregorian chant: Claudia Böhme
The Renaissance experienced its first heyday in the “Choralis Constantinus” collection. Commissioned by Heinrich Isaac in 1508 from the Constance cathedral chapter, it contains motets for every Sunday of the church year and its scope can be compared to Bach’s cantata work. The American Isaac expert Dr. James Feiszli published as a new edition of the Office of the Holy Conrad of Constance especially for the Yale concert of the ensemble cantissimo.
Entflieht auf leichten Kähnen op. 2 (Vienna 1908)
Anton Webern was an important source of inspiration for the new music of the 20th century. His only a cappella composition “Escape on Light Boates” op. 2 was written in Vienna in 1908, It can be interpreted metaphorically as a farewell to tonality and is in a strictly canonical sentence. A clear reference to the role model Isaac, about whom Webern wrote his dissertation and published the entire Choralis Chonstantinus collection.
Drei Gesänge for choir and piano
on poems by Friedrich Hebbel mit Klavier op. 73 (Leipzig 1891)
No. 1 Nachtlied
Soloist: Alexandra Busch, Alt
Heinrich von Herzogenberg was a co-founder of the Bach Association in Leipzig and is one of the composers in the circle of friends around Johannes Brahms who, unlike during their lifetime, are little known today. From 2010 to 2013, the ensemble cantissimo recorded three CD’s with its choral works for Carus-Verlag Stuttgart. Herzogenberg celebrated his 175th birthday in 2018 and his “Three Songs” based on beautiful Hebbel poems thematize the night, nature and in the last piece “Sea Lights” the famous ascent of the goddess Aphrodite from the sea floods.