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UMS Concert Program, February 2, 1985: International Presentations Of Music & Dance -- Prague Symphony Orchestra

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Season: 106th
Concert: Forty-ninth
Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Prague Symphony Orchestra
JIRI BELOHLAVEK Music Director and Conductor
The Festival Chorus
Donald Bryant, Music Director
Saturday Evening, February 2, 1985, at 8:30 Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
"The Spectre's Bride," Op. 69, Dramatic Legend
for Soloists, Chorus, and Orchestra.................. Antonin Dvorak
(1841-1904) (performed without intermission)
For the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak, the year 1884 marked the beginning of a period of great successes abroad. Twice that year Dvorak visited England and celebrated triumphs with his Stabat Mater. At the same time he became acquainted with the English music festivals, one of which, the Birmingham, commissioned the work we hear this evening.
The Spectre's Bride, a ballad from Karel Jaromi'r Erben's "Garland of Folk Poetry," fascinated Dvorak with its wealth of verbal imagery, the dynamic description, and the scope it gave for dramatization. The basically three-part scheme of the music corresponds to the three scenes in which the dramatic tale has its setting -the girl's room, the journey by night, and the graveyard. The bride's monologues, written for soprano, and her dialogues with her dead beloved (tenor) combine or contrast with the commentator and participating witness -the choir, with baritone solo.
Dvorak's lyrical gifts appear at their best in the expression of the girl's hopes and fears, in the opening dialogues of her beloved, and in the closing catharsis. In the extensive choral parts he effectively creates the appropriate mood and atmosphere, and to the orchestra he gives the important role of evoking the supernatural scenery of the flight by night and the terrifying graveyard sequences.
The composer began work on The Spectre's Bride on May 26th, 1884; it was completed in sketch by the middle of July, and in score by November 27th. Though intended for performance at the Birmingham Festival, the premiere took place in Plzen, on March 28th, 1885, with the English performance of the work in August 1885.
Prior to this evening's performance in Hill Auditorium, the Prague Symphony Orchestra and soloists Blahusiakova, Sylvester, and Kusnjcr, have presented the same work in Worcester, Massachusetts, with the Worcester Festival Chorus, in New York's Carnegie Hall with the Worcester Chorus and Hartt Singers, and in the Kennedy Center with the Choral Arts Society of Washington, D.C.
This concert is dedicated to the memory ofjindrich Rohan, the late Czech conductor who first brought the Prague Symphony Orchestra to Ann Arbor in 1972; with the Festival Chorus they performed Smetana's "Czech Song." Mr. Rohan later returned as guest conductor for two May Festival choral concerts: in 1974 for Dvorak's Requiem, and in 1977 for excerpts from Boito's " Mefistofele" and Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov." He died February 14, 1978, in Prague.
Forty-ninth Concert of the 106th Season 106th Annual Choral Union Series
Text -The Spectre's Bride
The clock had chimed eleven hours, and still the lamp was burning bright;
and still the lamp, amid the gloom, above the prayerstool shed its light.
There in the humble dwelling place, Mary the Virgin's picture hung,
Mary with Jesus in her arms, Mary the rose, the bud her Son.
Before the Holy Virgin Saint, kneeling in prayer was seen a maid,
kneeling in prayer with head bowed low: over her breast her arms were laid.
Teardrops were welling from her eyes, her bosom heaved, so sad her plight,
and when a tiny teardrop fell, it trickled down her bosom white.
Woeful am I! Where is my father Beneath the grass so green he stays!
Woeful am I! And my mother dear, oh where, where is she
She followed him, beside him lays.
I lost my dear sister when she was one year old; warfare cut short my brother's days.
My sweetheart made me sorrowful; for him I'd die so willingly.
He turned away to foreign lands, and he has not returned to me.
Bidding farewell, abroad he went, but first he wiped my teardrops away, then said,
"Flax, my beloved, you must sow; think of me fondly ev'ry day!
Then in the first year spin the yarn, then bleach the cloth the second year,
then embroider the wedding gowns; think of me ev'ry day anew!
When the sewing has all been done, make a garland entwined with rue."
Long past were sewn the wedding gowns, folded and in the chest have lain;
now my poor wreath is withering, while I await my love, my love in vain.
Still in the wide world he remains, sunk like a pebble in the sea.
Three years and still no tidings yet; God only knows where he may be.
Hail Virgin Mary, Thou Almighty Saint! Help, 1 implore thee, in my distress!
Bring my beloved back to me! From him alone springs happiness;
from distant lands bring back my love, or take my life so full of care.
My life with him bloomed like a flower; this misery I cannot bear.
Mary, Sweet Mother full of Grace, in my distress, pray, grant my prayer!
Chorus, Baritone, Tenor
The picture moved upon the wall; the maiden shrieked at such a sight.
The lamp that dimly burned nearby, spluttered and left her without light.
But was it just a gust of wind, or evil omen for that night But hark! --
Outside some footsteps rang, and on the window: bang, bang, bang.
Are you asleep, love, are you awake Ho! 1 have come, love, for your sake.
What are you doing, my sweet maid
Ho, I have come, dear, for your sake. What are you doing, my sweet maid
And do you still your lover know, or do you love another now
Oh darling, oh think of you; this hour for you, my love, I've prayed!
Stop praying! Quickly now, get up, for you must travel at my side.
Moonlight up on our road now gleams, I came tonight to fetch my bride.
For God's sake, what is that you say Where would we go, for it is late!
Fierce howls the wind, the night is wild. Soon dawn will break, oh let us wait!
Ho, day is night, and dark is light, and sleep shuts my eyes when 'tis day!
Ere crowing cocks announce the dawn, I am compelled to make you mine;
So come at once without delay, for you shall be my bride today!
Baritone and Chorus
This was the hour of deepest night, silvery moon was riding high.
The village slumbered, all was still, save for the wind that thundered by.
With bounds and leaps he led the way, behind him close she strove to stay.
The village dogs howled piteously, on scenting travellers were nigh.
Twas something strange that made them howl: there was a dead man passing by!
Fine night and clear: in times like this, rising from tombs the spectres rove,
and in a trice are close at hand: so are you not afraid, my dear
Why be afraid, for you arc here! God watches and I do not fear.
My darling, tell me, tell me now, how is your father Docs he thrive
And will your dear mother be glad to welcome me when I arrive
You must not ask so much, my dear; now follow quickly, soon you'll know.
Come quickly, for our time is short, and we have many miles to go!
But what is that in your hand, my sweetheart so fair!
These are my precious books of prayer.
Throw them away, lighten your step, our time is short!
Those prayers I dread, they're heavier far than lumps of lead!
Come quickly now, our time is short, follow me close for you are slow!
Baritone and Chorus
Seizing her books, he threw them far: they quickly covered ten miles more.
They went through regions mountainous, past cliffs and through deep forest dark;
Among the willows from the cliffs resounded savage bitches bark,
and screeching so that all could hear, an owl foretold disaster near.
I sense disaster, screeched an owl.
With bounds and leaps he led the way; behind him close she strove to stay.
And over briars and cruel rocks her slender white feet often trod.
On hawthorns and on jagged flints some signs were seen of drops of blood.
Fine night and clear; at such a time beside the living walk the dead,
and suddenly are close to you; sweet lass, arc you not filled with dread
Why be afraid, for you are here; the hand of God dispels all fear.
Pray tell me, dear one, what is the house like where you live
Say, is it little and clean and gay And does the church stand very near
You must not ask so much, my dear; you'll see what it is like today.
Come quickly, for our time is short; we've far to go ere break of day.
Upon your belt, dear, what do I sec
Darling, I brought my rosary.
That rosary of bladdernut just like a snake will you enwreathe.
Throw it away, we must make haste! Its coils will make it hard to breathe.
Baritone and Chorus
Seizing the beads these too he threw; another twenty miles they flew.
Their path led over lowland now, o'er stream and river, fen and field;
And over the ravine there shone some little lights that danced and reeled:
A double row of nine blue lights, as if they bore a coffin by;
While frogs, the streamlet's slimy pests, croaked out their solemn threnody.
Still leading, he went bounding past; her step began to weaken fast.
Like sharp-edged knives the catstail grass her weary legs then cut and slashed.
And thus the green and gracious ferns with blood of hers were tinged and splashed.
Fine night and clear: at such a time people arc hast'ning to their doom,
suddenly Death stands at your side. My sweet love, don't you fear the tomb
I'm not afraid, when with my love! I trust the Will of God above.
Please will you walk more slowly, dear, just give yourself a little rest.
My strength is failing, my legs give way, and I feel knives that stab my breast.
Just hurry on a little more, our goal at no great distance lies.
The feast's prepared, the guests are there and, as a bullet swift, time flies.
But round your neck what do I see, upon that tape, what can it be
O ho! That cursed cross of gold, how keen its points and edges are!
They stab us both, so it must go; then wings like eagles you will bear.
Baritone and Chorus
Then the cross he hurled away; soon thirty miles behind them lay.
There on a broad and open plain a lofty building they espied;
Its windows tall were narrow too, the turret had a bell inside.
Ho, my sweet lassie, here we are! So, is there naught this vista shows
Oh, God above that church perhaps That graveyard with the tombs in rows
No church is that, 'tis my castle fine; nor tombs, but fruit trees in a line.
Ho, my sweet lassie, look at me, leap o'er this wall so cheerfully.
Oh let me be, leave me alone! How wild and terrible you've grown,
how venomous your acrid breath, your heart is frozen like a stone!
Darling, pray don't have any fear; cheerful's my nature, always gay.
Plenty of flesh, but not with blood; all will be new and changed today.
What have you in your bundle, dear
There are the wedding shifts I've sewn.
Two are sufficient for us both, one for your bridegroom, one your own.
He tossed the bundle with a laugh, onto a grave beyond the wall.
Don't be afraid, dear, look at me; now leap into the ccmet'ry.
You always went in front of me; I followed on that evil way,
and all that time you guided me. Show me the way again, I say!
Baritone and Chorus
One leap and he had cleared the wall, for he no treachery had feared;
A giant leap of thirty feet, meanwhile the maiden disappeared.
Her clothing white was seen to gleam for just a moment as she ran;
her hiding place was close at hand. Thus she had tricked the evil man!
A little building stood nearby, a low door with a bolt and slot.
The door creaked as she pulled it to; she shut it fast, the bolt she shot.
The room was spare and windows lacked, through chinks the moon shone fitfully.
The room was solid as a cage, and on a plank a dead man lay.
Oh, what an uproar could be heard, from graveyard fiends of ev'ry kind.
Rattling and murmuring outside, this was the fearful song they whined:
A body soon will be entombed, and woe to you whose soul is doomed!
The door resounded: bang, bang, bang; the evil man impatient grew.
Rise up, rise up, O dead one, rise, get up, for thou must now this bolt undo.
The dead man opened both his eyes and rubbed them when he heard the shout;
He moved a little, raised his head, and turning slightly, looked about.
Sacred God! Oh help sustain me and put me not in Satan's power.
You dead one, don't attempt to rise; may God grant peace to you this hour!
The corpse obeyed and dropped his head. He closed his eyes and lay as dead.
Again the knocking bang, bang, bang, he knocked more fiercely than before.
Rise up, oh dead one, get up; unfasten thy door.
The clamor and the dreadful din disturbed and roused the corpse once more.
He moved a poker arm towards the fastened bolt upon the door.
Oh save me, save me, Jesus Christ! lie merciful and hear my plea!
You dead one, don't attempt to rise; may God grant grace to you and me!
Immediately the dead man sank and stretched his limbs upon the plank.
And yet a third time: bang, bang, bang; the din was more than she could stand.
Rise up dead one, ho, ho, ho! Hand out the live one, I command.
Oh woe betide the maiden now! Once more the dead man raised his head,
with his large dim eyes he stared straight at the maid, by then half dead.
Hail Virgin Mary, stand by me, with thy dear Son, pray, intercede!
For I was wicked, yes, I was wicked then, grant me forgiveness, oh forgive!
Mother bountiful, protect me from the powers of Hell, oh protect me from the devil!
I need thy help; by evil powers I am beset. O Virgin Mary, stand by me!
Baritone and Chorus
But hark! -a sound from close at hand, a village cock began to crow;
And all the cocks from far and near joined in, and made the chorus grow.
The dead man, having risen up, fell with a thud upon the ground.
The evil bridegroom and the fiends had fled, and all was still around.
When morning came all were amazed, stared as they made their way to Mass.
A yawning grave before them lay, inside the mortuary a lass.
And in the graveyard on each mound, fragments of wedding shifts were found.
Maiden, you followed good advice when you appealed to God for aid.
If you had acted diffrently, fearful the price you would have paid.
Your white and graceful form would be just like the wedding shifts we see!
About the Artists
The Prague Symphony Orchestra, one of four symphonic ensembles in the city once called the Conservatory of Europe, was founded in 1934 as the Symphony Orchestra FOK, the initials standing for Film-Opera-Koncert. In its early years the ensemble worked mostly in film recording, but in 1952 its name was changed to the Prague Symphony Orchestra, and it began giving public performances on a regular basis. Its distinguished musical directors have included Vaclav Smctacek, jindrich Rohan, Vaclav Neumann, and since 1977Jiri Belohlavck. The Orchestra has now completed more than forty successful international concert tours, playing throughout Western Europe, Scandi?navia, the Soviet Union, the Balkan countries, and the United States. Eminent guest conductors and soloists who have appeared with the Orchestra include Zubin Mehta, Aldo Ceccato, Claudio Abbado, David Oistrakh, Isaac Stern, Martha Argerich, and Hcnryk Szeryng. In addition to its public performances, the Orchestra cooperates with the Czechoslovak Radio, and records for Supraphon and Panton Records. The musicians have given two Ann Arbor performances, the first in 1972 under the late Jindrich Rohan, and again in 1982 during the Orchestra's most recent United States tour.
Born in Prague in 1946, Jiri Belohlavek studied violin, cello, and conducting at the Prague Conservatory and later completed three master courses under Sergiu Celibidache in Stockholm. In 1970 he was awarded first prize in the National Competition of Young Conductors, resulting in the position of Assistant Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic until 1972. He was then named conductor of the Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra, which he took on tour to the United States during his first season. Since 1977 he has been chief conductor and artistic director of the Prague Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Belohlavek has been an active guest conductor with the major Czechoslovakian orchestras and appears frequently abroad, working in Munich, Moscow, Dresden, Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Brussels, Warsaw, Paris, Frankfurt, Zagreb, Leipzig, and Toyko. He made his North American guest-conducting debut with the Toronto Symphony in 1982 and has since been engaged by the National Symphony in Ottawa, and by the symphony orchestras of St. Louis, Kansas City, Seattle, and Detroit. In addition, his reputation as a conductor of opera has grown swiftly since 1970. He conducts in Ann Arbor this evening for the first time.
Magdalena Blahusiakova has been a featured soloist with theJanacek Opera House in Brno since 1969. She is a frequent guest on operatic stages in Spain, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, the Soviet Union, in Germany and Poland, as well as in her native Czechoslovakia at the Prague National Theatre Opera House and Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava. Her repertoire embraces many of the great Italian operatic heroines including Aida, Violetta, Madame Butterfly, Manon Lescaut, Tosca, and Elizabeth in Don Carlos, Tatiana in Evgeny Oncgin, Lisa in Pique Dame, Elvira in Don Giovanni, and Pamina in The Magic Flute. Her Bride in The Bloody Wedding by the contemporary Hungarian composer Szokoly, and Judith in Bartok's Bluebeard scored great successes. She has also appeared in the title roles of Janacck'sjomrt and Kalya Kabanova. Miss Blahusiakova is a graduate of the Conservatory of Bratislava, with further studies at the College of Music and Drama in Bratislava, and later in Bulgaria under the noted vocal pedagogue Tatiana Cokova.
Michael Sylvester's vocal career was launched by his selection as soloist for the American premiere of Messiaen's La Transfiguration with the National Symphony under Antal Dorati. The following year Leonard Bernstein chose him as tenor soloist for Stravinsky's Mass with the the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center, and since then he has appeared with orchestras throughout the country. He was a resident artist with the Indianapolis Opera Company where he sang the leading tenor roles, and he has also sung with the Kentucky Opera, the Chautauqua Opera, Los Angeles Opera Theatre, and Western Opera. He is equally at home on the recital stage, having given numerous recitals especially in the New York and Philadelphia areas. He has sung in several Bach Cantatas under the baton of German Bach specialist Helmuth Rilling, and has performed in such diverse works as Handel's Messiah, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Mendelssohn's Elijah, and the Mozart and Verdi Requiems. Future engagements for Mr. Sylvester include Rodolfo in La Boheme with the New York City Opera Touring Company, Radames in Aida with Opera Omaha, a San Diego Opera debut as Bob Boles in Peter Crimes, and his first Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos with Glimmcrglass Opera in Cooperstown, New York.
A native of Noblesville, Indiana, Mr. Sylvester holds degrees from Westminster College and Indiana University where he studied with Margaret Harshaw. Before devoting his career to perform?ing, he taught on the university level for six years.
Ivan Kusnjer, soloist of the Prague National Theatre Opera Company, was born in Czechoslo?vakia in 1951. He is highly regarded as both an operatic and concert artist, drawing special attention in the operatic world for his performances of works by Donizetti, Gershwin, Pergolcsi, Smctana, and Verdi, among others. As a concert artist he has appeared in the major halls of Poland, East and West Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia, where many of his performances have been broadcast live.
Mr. Kusnjer studied at the Prague Academy of the Arts and later at the Academia Chigiana in Siena, Italy. While still a student at the Academy, he won the first of his many prizes and com?petitions: the Dvorak Song Competition in 1972. He won that competition again in 1974 and has also been a prizewinner in the Competition for Young Opera Singers in Bulgaria (1975) and the Geneva Song Competition (1978). While performing at the Brno Janacek Opera House in 1981, Maestro Zdcnck Kosler asked him to move to Prague where he is now soloist with the Prague National Theatre Opera Company.
Donald Bryant, Conductor
James Olesen, Assistant Conductor
Nancy Hodge, Accompanist
Beth Lipson, Manager
The Chorus wishes to thank Miloslav Jiran, Senior Associate Librarian at the Law Library, University of Michigan, and Ladislav Matejka, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan, for their invaluable assistance with the Czech pronunciation in preparation for tonight's concert.
First Sopranos Mary Ellen Auch Barbara Carron Traccy Conrad Carolyn L. Lcyh Doris L. Lucckc Lorctta I. Mcissncr Rebecca Morris Marian Muranyi Carole Lynch Pcnnington Alice M. Schneider Margaret Warrick Joanne West man Marilee Woodworth
Second Sopranos Kathleen Bergen Kathryn Berry Ann Kathryn Kuclbs Mary Loewen Barbara Nordman Sara Peth
Patricia Tompkins Barbara Hertz Wallgren Rachelle B. Warren Kathleen Young
First Altos Yvonne Allen Martha R. Ause Doris L. B.iuin Kathlyn M. Boycr Marion W. Brown Lael R. Cappacrt Lori Cheek EllenJ. Collarini Cheryl L. Cox Carolyn Ehrlich
Ann Eward Barbara Gamble Nancy Houk Gretchcn Jackson Grace Jones Nancy Karp Geraldinc Koupal McttaT. Lansdale, Jr. Yvonne M. Lis Frances Lyman Elisa C. Massimino Patricia Kaiser McCloud Marian A. Miner Lois P. Nelson Susan S. Seitz Leah M. Stein Geraldine C. Toft Jane M. Van Bolt Charlotte Wolfe Bobbie Wooding
Second Altos Anne Abbrecht Sandra Anderson Marjorie Baird Eleanor Beam Sally Carpenter Lois Guebert Mary E. Haab Dana Hull Maryjohantgen Elsie W. Lovelace Catherine Seasholes Margaret Sharcmet Carol Spencer Kathryn Stcbbins Alice Warsinski
First Tenors William Bronson Tim Dombrowski Joseph Kubis James Jeffries Paul Lowry Robert K. MacGregor Miguel Rodriguez
Second Tenors Carl W. Dahmer John W. Etsweilcr III Gary M. Gaticn Albert P. Girod.Jr. Donald L. Haworth Eric A. Markinson Robert Starring
First Basses Marion Beam Thomas Berry Thomas B. Cox Klair Kissel Lawrence L. Lohr Charles Lovelace John MacKrcll James C. Schneider Donald R. Williams
Second Basses Howard Bond John Dunkelberger Don Faber Robert Owens Raymond O. Schankin John T. Sepp Robert D. Strozier Terril O. Tompkins John Van Bolt
GAIL W. RECTOR, President JOHN W. REED, Vice President
DOUGLAS D. CRARY, Secretary ALLEN P. I3RITTON, Treasurer
?First term began January I, 19S5.
Uurton Memorial Tower, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1270
Phones: (313) 665-3717, 764-2538

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