Viva la France
On the Program
Gabriel Fauré Requiem, Op. 48
“It has been said that my Requiem does not express the fear of death, and someone has called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience.” Snug in his organ loft, Fauré had played at many funerals and knew that he definitely did not want to compose a piece full of bombast and drama. Fauré’s Requiem is warm in the style of Johannes Brahms’ Requiem, an opportunity for his talent as melodist to shine through. The Requiem, op. 48, was composed over decades, first sketched out in 1887 and finally ready for performance in 1900. The writing is infused with the sounds of plainsong Fauré had studied as a boy, coupled with emphasis on the atmosphere of rest and the light of the divine. In a letter to Eugène Ysaÿe, the violin virtuoso who was preparing a performance of the Requiem, Fauré said, “altogether it is as GENTLE as I am myself!! And it calls for one quiet bass-baritone, the cantor type, and one soprano.”
For this Requiem we are most assuredly not in the Verdian realm of operatic drama. The standard requiem text appears to have been too forbidding for Fauré’s taste: he begins with an Introit and Kyrie, skips directly to the Offertory (where all the dead are welcomed, not just the “faithful dead”), then to a Pie Jesu, the Agnus Dei, and Lux Aeterna. The only mention of the trials of Judgment Day is in the Libera Me, which is followed by a final In Paradisum. With Fauré as a guide, we are led out of this world into another, one that is warm, and glowing, and star-filled.
Francis Poulenc Gloria
Poulenc’s was the aspect of the kind of boulevardier immortalized by Maurice Chevalier, a sparkling composer who was a witty and popular social butterfly, and his charm and vivacity informed his music. In 1936, a year of disruptive political turmoil in France, Poulenc was stunned by the death of a dear friend in a gruesome auto accident. At the time the composer was visiting relatives in the Aveyron region just west of Lyon, and he asked to be taken to a shrine at Rocamadour, site of a statue of the Virgin carved in black wood, a place often mentioned by his father but not visited by Poulenc before that date. The shock of the calamity and the visit to the quiet church rekindled Poulenc’s Catholicism, and from that point on his music was ever changed. Up until that time, the only choral piece he had written was a drinking song for the Harvard Glee Club, yet immediately sacred choral music began to pour from his pen.
Poulenc had started recording piano performances of his own and others’ music in the late 1920s, and he began touring and performing outside France in 1935 with a trip to North Africa. He visited England and Ireland as early as 1939, and he completed his first tour of North America in 1948. His charm and gentle-but-astute direction when preparing works with orchestras and singers won him great acclaim and appreciative audiences. His opera Dialogues des Carmelites led to an offer of a commission from the Koussevitzky Foundation for a symphony, and after much negotiation because Poulenc was quite modest about his orchestral skills, he began work on a Gloria in May 1959, finishing in December.
The short text is broken into six movements. After a royal brass fanfare, the introduction goes from bright to introspective with a switch from major to minor. The Laudamus te is most like Stravinsky, full of bright, childlike excitement. Following on the heels of the solo soprano Domine Deus, marked “very slow and calm,” there is a “fast and joyous” Domine fili unigenite. Qui tollis is in an old church mode, giving it a slightly oriental sound, and the piece swings through a reminder of the opening in the Qui sedes on the way to the finale that echoes, but does not copy, the end of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. This piece is all honest Poulenc, the optimistic and simple faith and the vibrant energy of the young composer. In short, it is a character sketch of the composer himself.
Claude Debussy’s Nocturnes for orchestra (1898–1899) are considered to be his largest forward leap into the future of music. Sometimes the more quiet revolutions are the deepest, and many times the masterwork is not appreciated until after the death of the creator. Debussy’s musical imagination was inspired by extra-musical stimuli, such as a set of paintings from the 1870s by the American artist James McNeill Whistler. These artworks, also titled Nocturnes, are studies in light and shade that give an impression of landscapes. Debussy’s introductory note to his Nocturnes reveals the influence these paintings had on his own thinking, “The title Nocturnes is to be interpreted here in a … decorative sense … it is not meant to designate the usual form of the Nocturne, but rather all the various impressions and the special effects of light.”
In the first movement, “Nuages” (Clouds), warm and gently rocking chord-sequences for woodwinds and muted strings suggests, as referred to in the composer’s notes ‘the immutable aspect of the sky and the slow, solemn motion of the clouds, fading away in grey tones lightly tinged with white’. In a uniquely Debussy way, the music progresses while also appearing not to progress at all. In “Fetes (Festivals), the second movement, vibrating and dancing rhythms with sudden flashes of light suggest an imaginary passing procession – ‘a dazzling fantastic vision’, as Debussy described it – rather than a real one.
The first complete performance of all three Nocturnes was on October 27, 1901, where it was met with a cool reception and had the musical critics wondering just how to describe these unearthly compositions. One voice from the press suggested that the elusive way that the music defied analysis was “the despair of critics” and suggested that the achievement of the Nocturnes was in “not demanding of Music all that she can give but, instead, asking from her what she alone was capable of suggesting.” Because Debussy had a resistance to grand musical rhetoric, his quiet and original mastery of musical precedent upended and changed musical history.
Rhonda Burnham, M.M.Ed
Program and Education Manager
Bach Festival Society of Winter Park
Camille Saint-Saëns Morceau de Concert, Op. 94
Camille Saint-Saëns, born in 1835, was a musical prodigy who at the age of six performed all thirty-two of the Beethoven piano sonatas by memory. After studying at the Paris Conservatoire he had a conventional twenty-year career as the church organist at La Madeleine, the official church of the French Empire, after which he was a successful freelance pianist and composer in demand in Europe and the Americas. During his long life—86 years—he became accomplished in an incredible range of activities: organist, composer, astronomer, philosopher, mathematician, historian, author, traveler, and caricaturist. Although he held a single teaching post for five years at the Ecole de Musique Classique et Religieuse in Paris, during that brief stint one of his students was Gabriel Fauré, who went on to teach Maurice Ravel, both of whom revered Saint-Saëns as a genius. Saint-Saëns maintained an active pace with his musical activities, playing a solo piano recital to mark his 86th birthday, and he was rumored to have practiced the piano for two hours on the day he died in 1921!
Saint-Saëns wrote many pieces for solo instrument with orchestral accompaniment that are named Morceau de concert—translated as concert piece—and all are conceived as small-scale concertos. The four distinct sections, consolidated into a single movement, share thematic material. After a brief introduction by unison brass, the piece launches into a set of theme and variations that increase with rhythmic motion until there is an abrupt transition to a slow and lyrical adagio section, which peacefully ends with a cadence by the solo horn at the very bottom of its register. Suddenly the calm mood is shattered by a stately return of the full orchestra marked allegro non troppo. As the animated dialogue between the orchestra and soloist races to an energetic finish, a series of virtuosic scales, flourishes, and arpeggios showcase the soloist.
Rhonda Burnham, M. M.Ed
Program and Education Manager
Bach Festival Society of Winter Park
John V.Sinclair | Artistic Director and Conductor
John V. Sinclair, conductor
Dr. John V. Sinclair is celebrating his 25th season as Artistic Director and Conductor of the renowned Bach Festival Society of Winter Park. He serves as Chair of the Department of Music and is the John M. Tiedtke Professor of Music at Rollins College. He also conducts the Moravian Music Festivals and has conducted for The Berkshire Choral Festival.
Dr. Sinclair earned his undergraduate degree from William Jewell College and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. During the past twenty years, he has made over one thousand appearances as conductor, clinician, or lecturer throughout the U.S. and in many foreign countries.
Dr. Sinclair is also a conductor of the Candlelight Processional at EPCOT and has conducted recordings for Warner Brothers, Walt Disney Corporation, Moravian Music Foundation, and numerous Bach Festival events.
A master teacher, Dr. Sinclair has received many awards while at Rollins College, including the Hugh F. McKean Teaching Award, Lifetime Achievement Award, Distinguished Service Award, and the Arthur Vining Davis Fellowship. For two consecutive years he was named “Outstanding Music Educator of the Year” by United Arts of Central Florida, and Florida International Magazine selected him as one of its “Power Players in the Arts.” In 2013, his Alma Mater, William Jewell College, honored him with a prestigious Citation for Achievement.
Sherezade Panthaki | soprano
Soprano Sherezade Panthaki’s international success has been fueled by superbly honed musicianship; “shimmering sensitivity” (Cleveland Plain Dealer), “astonishing coloratura with radiant top notes” (Calgary Herald); a vocal color “combining brilliance with a dark, plumlike tone” (The Wall Street Journal), and passionately informed interpretations, “mining deep emotion from the subtle shaping of the lines” (The New York Times). An acknowledged star in the early-music field, Ms. Panthaki has developed strong collaborations with many of the world’s leading interpreters including Nicholas McGegan, Mark Morris, Matthew Halls, Nicholas Kraemer, Simon Carrington, the late John Scott, and Masaaki Suzuki, with whom she made her New York Philharmonic debut in a program of Bach and Mendelssohn.
Panthaki’s recent performance with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and conductor Nicholas McGegan was named one of the Top 10 Classical Music Events of 2015 and described as “a breathtaking combination of expressive ardor, tonal clarity, technical mastery and dramatic vividness” by The San Francisco Chronicle.
Ms. Panthaki’s 2016-17 season includes performances with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra; Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra; the Oregon Bach Festival; the Mark Morris Dance Group; Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra; The Kansas City, Colorado, Pasadena, and Milwaukee Symphonies; The American Classical Orchestra; New York Baroque Incorporated; The 4×4 Baroque Music Festival; and Opera Lafayette. She will also serve as Christoph Wolff Visiting Performer at the Harvard University Department of Music where she will give masterclasses and performances in collaboration with Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.
Highlights of her past seasons include Handel’s Messiah with Bach Collegium Japan, the National Symphony Orchestra, Boston Baroque, National Arts Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, Calgary Philharmonic, Nashville and San Antonio Symphonies; Handel’s Saul with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra in Toronto; Handel’s La Resurrezione at the Morgan Library; Bach cantatas and oratorios and works by Handel and Purcell with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra; the role of Belinda in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Handel’s L’allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato and the title role of Galatea in the Mark Morris Dance Group’s premiere performances of Handel’s Acis and Galatea; Mozart’s Requiem and Bach cantatas with Music of the Baroque; Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Haydn’s L’isola disabitata with the American Classical Orchestra; Brahms’ Requiem and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and St. John Passion with John Scott and the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys; Handel’s Solomon with the Radio Kamer Filharmonie (Holland); Handel at Carnegie Hall with William Christie and the Yale Philharmonia; Christmas Oratorio with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s; and Mozart’s Exsultate jubilate and Requiem with the Washington Bach Consort. Ms. Panthaki is an invited guest artist with the most accomplished early music ensembles in New York city, and has been featured as a guest soloist in multiple performances in Trinity Wall Street’s live-streamed “Bach at One Cantatas” series in New York City.
With her “fresh, youthful sound … with a welcome hint of steel” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), Ms. Panthaki’s repertoire extends well beyond the music of the Renaissance and Baroque. Recent engagements have included Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Houston Symphony, John Tavener’s The Last Discourse with Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise and Strauss lieder at the Bari International Music Festival, Britten’s War Requiem with the Louisville Choral Arts Society, as well as performances of Stravinsky’s Les Noces, Poulenc’s Stabat Mater and Gloria.
Born and raised in India, Ms. Panthaki began her musical education at an early age. Following intensive study and earning top distinction as a young pianist, she turned to singing and found a more personal and expressive means to connect with audiences. She holds an Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, where she was the winner of multiple awards including the prestigious Phyllis Curtin Career Entry Prize. She earned a Masters degree from the University of Illinois, and a Bachelors degree from West Virginia Wesleyan College. An active and passionate music educator, she is frequently called upon to present vocal masterclasses at Universities and Arts Schools across the United States. Ms. Panthaki has served as Vocal Coach for the Yale Baroque Opera Project, and currently teaches voice lessons to scholarship winners of the top undergraduate and graduate choral ensembles at Yale University.
Michael Dean | bass-baritone
American bass-baritone Michael Dean has appeared with leading opera houses and orchestras of the U.S. and Europe. The New York Times lauded his “strong appealing bass-baritone,” while the San Jose Mercury News considered him “the standout, his voice a penetrating wake-up call.” During the 16/17 Season Michael’s engagements will include Handel’s Messiah with the Richmond Symphony and Faure’s Requiem with the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park.
His 2015-16 season engagements included the Messiah with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and the Milwaukee Symphony and Beethoven’s Mass in C with the Naples Philharmonic.
During 2014-15 season his appearances included debuts with the Utah Symphony Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, the Boulder Bach Festival performing Bach’s Mass in B-minor, and a return to the Winter Park Bach Festival for performances and a new recording of Mozart’s Requiem.
Michael Dean made his New York Philharmonic debut in the world premiere of Aaron Jay Kernis’ Garden of Light, and returned the following season for a concert performance of Street Scene. His other recent appearances on the concert stage include Handel’s Messiah with the Pacific Symphony, Alabama Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, Nashville Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, and I Musici de Montréal; Mozart’s Requiem with the Louisiana Philharmonic, Modesto Symphony, and Quad City Symphony; Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time with the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park; Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the Richmond Symphony; and Haydn’s Creation and Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem with the Louisiana Philharmonic.
Mr. Dean has made frequent appearances at New York City Opera, where he has performed the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, Leporello in Don Giovanni, George in Of Mice and Men, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, and included Jason McFarlane in the “Live From Lincoln Center” broadcast of Lizzie Borden. Other recent operatic performances include Gregorio in Roméo et Juliette with Los Angeles Opera; the title role in Don Giovanni and Silva in Ernani at the Landestheater in Linz, Austria; Le Nozze di Figaro in Antwerp, Belgium; Of Mice and Men at Arizona Opera; and Colline in La Bohème in Strasbourg and Berlin. Dean has also received critical praise for his numerous recordings of baroque opera, including Agrippina, Ottone, Dido and Aeneas, Radamisto, Giustino, and Serse.
Michael Dean is currently the Music Department Chair and Associate Professor of Voice at The University of California-Los Angeles and a member of the voice faculty at the Chautauqua Music Festival.
Kathy Thomas | horn
Kathy Thomas has enjoyed an extensive professional career in Central Florida. Originally from Lombard, Illinois, Mrs. Thomas started her horn studies at age 9 with Sharon Corbin. While attending the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana she studied with Kent Laramee and Kazmierz Machala, and with John Fairfield at Northern Illinois University.
Mrs. Thomas played with the Wheaton Summer Symphony, the Champaign/Urbana Symphony, Symfonia Da Camera, the Danville Symphony, and the Hinsdale Symphony. Since moving to Florida in 1993, Mrs. Thomas has steadily worked for the Walt Disney World company, the Bach Festival Orchestra, the Brevard Symphony Orchestra, the West Coast Symphony, the Florida Orchestra, and the Villages Orchestra. She is a member of the Sovereign Brass Quintet. In 2012 Kathy was appointed to the position of adjunct professor of French Horn at Stetson University. Her solo credits include performing with the Stetson Chamber Orchestra. Mrs. Thomas manages a private teaching studio and has an extensive recording studio career, including Movie Songs and Broadway under the Warner Brothers label. Her freelance career provides a full schedule of touring acts, Broadway shows, and numerous other ensembles. Kathy is married to professional trombonist Jeffrey Thomas. Together they are raising six wonderful children and share a passion for butterfly gardening.