Unfinished

Saturday, November 12, 2022 • 7:30 p.m.
First Free Methodist Church (3200 3rd Ave W)

Harmonia Orchestra & Chorus
William White, conductor
Allison Pohl, soprano
Sarah Mattox, mezzo-soprano
Carson Lott, tenor
Justin Birchell, baritone


Program

Franz Schubert (1797 –1828)
Symphony in B minor, D. 759 (“Unfinished”)

— intermission —

Wolfgang Amadè Mozart (1756 –1791)
Requiem in D minor, K. 626


About the Concert

The story of Mozart’s Requiem is well known: the composer, desperate for funds, was compelled to accept the commission from a mysterious Austrian nobleman who hoped to pass the piece off as his own. Alas, Mozart would not live to complete the work himself, a task that fell to his student Franz Xaver Süßmayr. (Ironically, Mozart’s widow hoped to pass off the completed Requiem as authentic Mozart.)

Many completions of Mozart’s Requiem now vie for supremacy, but Süßmayr’s has the advantage of having been made in collaboration with the dying Mozart himself. However, it was another composer who took upon the spiritual mantle of Mozart’s music, and that composer was Franz Schubert, who, tragically, would also leave a great work incomplete, the now-beloved Symphony in B minor.


Health & Safety

Harmonia musicians are all fully vaccinated and those performing without masks undergo testing prior to each performance. We ask that in-person audience members be fully vaccinated and request that they wear masks while in our performance spaces. (These policies are subject to change throughout the season based on local health guidelines and mandates, as well as the policies of the venues at which we perform.)


About the Soloists

Soprano Allison Pohl made her professional debut as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro at Boston Lyric Opera. Her work has drawn positive reviews for her “sparkling voice” (outerstage.com) and “exuberant” performances (Opera News). Of her performance in L’elisir d’amore at Virginia Opera, The Washington Post wrote: “Allison Pohl stood out with a ripe, flavorful soprano and ample character." Ms. Pohl made her Seattle Symphony debut as soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah in 2018. In 2022, she will return to Benaroya Hall to perform a set of songs by Richard Strauss with the Seattle Philharmonic, as well as making her Symphony Tacoma debut as soloist in Mozart’s Requiem. She has previously appeared with Tacoma Opera, Vashon Opera, Bremerton Symphony, Opera Providence, Canton Symphony, Opera in the Heights, New Rochelle Opera, Richmond County Orchestra, Shrewsbury Chorale, Camerata Philadelphia, Garden State Philharmonic, Bronx Opera, North Shore Music Festival, Buck Hill Skytop Music Festival, One World Symphony, Big Apple Baroque and New York City Opera’s education program. A 2016 Seattle Opera Career Grant recipient, she performed in the chamber ensemble of their world-premiere O+E, a modern adaptation of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. Ms. Pohl holds degrees from Boston University and SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music. She also performs with Soprello, a chamber duo with cellist Alistair MacRae.

Learn more: allisonpohl.com


Mezzo-soprano Sarah Mattox has sung principal roles with Seattle Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Amarillo Opera, Eugene Opera, Tacoma Opera and many others. Favorite roles include the title characters in Carmen and Cendrillon, Dorabella in Così fan Tutte, Ottavia in L’Incoronazione di Poppea and the Witch in Hansel and Gretel. She received special acclaim from The Seattle Times for her debut as Feodor in Seattle Opera’s Boris Godunov: “newcomer Sarah Elouise Mattox … raised eyebrows all over the Opera House with her believable, lifelike acting and her well-schooled voice.” In Cleveland, the Beacon Journal called her “a rich-toned mezzo-soprano who came to life as Dorabella.” Also at home on the concert stage, Ms. Mattox has made several appearances at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony. She has also been a soloist with the Northwest Sinfonietta, Cascade Festival of Music, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Helena Symphony, Bainbridge Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Walla Walla Symphony, Portland Chamber Orchestra, Eugene Concert Choir and Harmonia. As a composer, Ms. Mattox was won awards for her chamber opera Heart Mountain and her song cycle Rumpelstiltskin and the Falcon King.

Learn more: sarahmattox.com


Originally from Seattle, tenor Carson Lott has performed with Inland Northwest Opera, Harmonia, the Byrd Ensemble, the Oregon Bach Festival Berwick Chorus, the Musicking Conference, Pacific Artists Collective, a touring group of Boston Camerata members, Cabaletta Productions and Orpheus PDX. As a concert soloist, his repertoire includes Dichterliebe (Schumann), Winter Words (Britten), Let Us Garlands Bring (Finzi), Le Jaloux (Clérambault), Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Collegium Regale (Howells), and several Bach cantatas. Stage roles include the Rooster in Renard (Stravinsky), Paolino in Il matrimonio segreto (Cimarosa), Monaca Seconda and Voce in La beata Imelde (Perti), King Belshazzar in The Play of Daniel, Pastore I in L’Orfeo (Monteverdi), and Ferdinand in Carmen and the Bull (LaBarge). Earlier this year, he premiered the role of Arthur Owen in Free Men, a new operetta by Oregon composer Ashley Hastings. Mr. Lott holds music degrees from Seattle University and the University of Oregon, and can be heard singing regularly with the choirs of Epiphany Parish Seattle, where he works as a staff soloist.

Learn more: carsonlott.com


Baritone Justin Birchell is currently a DMA candidate in Choral Conducting at the University of Washington and holds a BA in Music Performance (2019) and an MM in Voice Performance (2021) from UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music, where hw as a winner of the UCLA Philharmonia All-Stars concerto competition, performing Ravel’s Don Quichotte à Dulcinée. As a conductor, he serves as music director of Wallingford United Methodist Church, artistic director of Vivat Musica! Polish Choir, and co-conductor of the UW Glee Club. He also a performing member of Choral Arts Northwest and the UW Chamber Singers. In addition, Mr. Birchell also remains active as a composer and arranger. His choral arrangement of the Grateful Dead’s “Attics of My Life” was premiered by the UW Glee Club in March 2022, his original song cycle Three Nocturnes: Words of the Night was premiered at UCLA in June 2018, and in June 2019 he sang the premiere of his own art song “Aurora Aubade.”

Learn more: justinbirchell.com


Program Notes

Wolfgang Amadè Mozart
Requiem in D minor, K. 626

Joannes Chrisostomus Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart was born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756, and died on December 5, 1791, in Vienna. He started calling himself “Wolfgango Amadeo” around 1770 and “Wolfgang Amadè” in 1777. He began composing this Requiem in late July or early August 1791 and continued working on it until mere days before his death. The first performance of the “Requiem aeternum” and “Kyrie” occurred at a funeral mass on December 10, 1791. The first performance of the entire work — in a version completed by Franz Xaver Süssmayr — likely took place in Vienna on January 2, 1793. In addition to chorus and SATB vocal soloists, the work requires 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, organ and strings.

His first biographer, Frantisek Xaver Němeček, wrote that “there was nothing special about [his] physique. … He was small and his countenance, except for his large intense eyes, gave no signs of his genius.” This slight, fair-haired figure with a smallpox-pitted complexion mastered every musical medium of his day and so might be considered the most “universal” composer in Western music history.

By age three, Mozart had already begun to display extraordinary musical gifts, and by age six he was a composer, violinist and virtuoso on the clavier who had performed before the Bavarian elector and the Austrian empress. Mozart’s father, Leopold, therefore decided that it might be advantageous to exhibit to a wider audience the prodigious talents of his son and daughter (Maria Anna, known as “Nannerl,” who was also a gifted keyboard player). Thus, in mid-1763, when Nannerl was 12 and Wolfgang seven, the family set out on a grand European musical tour. The children were to spend much of their childhood traveling by coach from court to court, as the young Mozart astonished his audiences with his incredible musical skills.

While Mozart was certainly blessed with musical genius, he was not favored with robust health, suffering from streptococcal respiratory infections, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, tonsillitis, sinusitis, smallpox, frostbite, bronchitis, dental abscesses, and possibly viral hepatitis. Just before his tenth birthday, while in The Hague, the child became dangerously ill, probably with typhoid fever. Thus his survival for not quite 36 years, as short as that time period seems, is rather miraculous!

Mozart spent most of the years 1774–1781 in his hometown of Salzburg, where he became increasingly discontented because of his inability to find a rewarding musical position. His relationship with his patron, the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, was stormy, and in 1781 he resigned his post and went to Vienna, where he hoped his musical fortunes would improve. He made his living during the following years by teaching, publishing his music, playing at patrons’ houses or in public, and composing on commission (particularly operas). He finally obtained a minor court post it 1787 that provided him with a reasonable salary, but did not put his astounding musical gifts to good use, requiring of him nothing beyond the writing of dances for court balls.

In August 1782, three and a half years after a young soprano, Aloysia Weber, refused Mozart’s marriage proposal, the 26-year-old composer married her younger sister, 20-year-old Constanze. During the eight years between June 1783 and July 1791, the couple had six children, but suffered the loss of four; Mozart was granted little time to know his two remaining sons, aged four months and seven years
when their father died.

Mozart spent his last years in Vienna under growing financial stress. By musicians’ standards, he earned a good income, but he incurred considerable debt, about which he became anxious. Late in November 1791, he became seriously ill and was bedridden for the last two weeks of his life. Death finally snatched him shortly after midnight on December 5, less than two months before his 36th birthday.

The official cause of his death was listed as “acute miliary fever” (“hitziges Friesel Fieber” or “prickly heat,” characterized by a fever and a millet-like rash), but the physicians who attended him never were quite certain. Many other contributors to his demise have been proposed over the years, such as trichinosis, influenza, mercury poisoning, chronic kidney disease or acute rheumatic fever. The circumstances surrounding his untimely death soon gave rise to a number of myths and legends involving poisoning. Gossip about Mozart’s involvement with various women during his last years also began to circulate. Did composer Antonio Salieri or a jealous husband of one of Mozart’s piano pupils commit murder? Scholars now generally agree that Mozart’s death was not the result of foul play, but we may never know exactly how and why he met his early end. His body was interred in a commoner’s grave at the St. Marx cemetery outside Vienna, as was customary at the time. Salieri, Franz Xaver Süssmayr (one of Mozart’s students), Baron Gottfried van Swieten (a patron and friend), and two other musicians are said to have been present at his burial.

About three months before his death, Mozart wrote to Lorenzo da Ponte, the librettist of his most popular Italian operas: “I know from what I suffer that the hour has come. I am at the point of death. I have come to the end without having had the enjoyment of my talent. Life was indeed so beautiful, my career began under such fortunate auspices; but one cannot change one’s own destiny. No one can measure his own days, one must resign oneself, it will be as Providence wills. And so I finish my death-song; I must not leave it incomplete.”

Mozart did, in fact, leave his last work, his Requiem (a setting of the Mass for the Dead in which the departed are remembered and commended to God’s care), unfinished, and the mysteries surrounding the composition and completion of the work remain unsolved. Scholars are quite sure that the work was commissioned in July of 1791 by Count Walsegg-Stuppach as a memorial to his recently deceased wife. Walsegg delivered his commission via an emissary in order to remain anonymous — probably because he intended to pass off the composition as his own. (According to legend, Mozart came to consider this mysterious emissary, whose identity was also concealed, as the herald of his own death, but Mozart’s cheerful letters from this period provide evidence to the contrary.) The watermarks on Mozart’s manuscript show that much of his work on the Requiem came after his return from Prague during September 1791, but it is clear that he was working on it when he was stricken with his final illness. Based on analyses of the 99 extant sheets of paper, the ink used and the handwriting in the score (along with stylistic considerations), scholars are quite certain that Mozart completed and scored the Introitus (Requiem Aeternam) and Kyrie movements and probably sketched the voice parts and continuo (organ and bass) lines of the six-section Sequentia and the two-section Offertorium.

Following her husband’s death, Constanze Mozart needed money and wanted the Requiem to be completed so that she could deliver a score and receive the remaining portion of the commission money. A Mozart protégé, Joseph Eybler, therefore finished some of the orchestration but soon abandoned the project. Constanze then gave the score and — supposedly — some related scraps of paper to the 25-year-old Süssmayr, who constructed the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei based on Mozart’s verbal instructions and notes. He then added the concluding Communio (Lux Aeterna and Cum Sanctis Tuis), by adapting the music of the Introitus and Kyrie to the text with which the Requiem Mass concludes, and finished the orchestration. This completed version of the work attributed to Süssmayr, which has gained and maintained general favor, is what you will hear this evening. Despite some unevenness in its quality, the Requiem has held its position as a masterpiece for over two centuries, having been performed to honor the memory of such notables as Joseph Haydn, Napoleon I, Fredéric Chopin and John F. Kennedy.

The often-imitative Introitus leads immediately into the Kyrie, which features a Baroque-style double fugue (a contrapuntal work based on two different themes, one to which Mozart sets the “Kyrie eleison” text, the other accompanying the text of “Christe eleison”) in contrast with the dramatic operatic opening outcries of the Dies Irae. A lone trombone, soon joined by the “wondrous trumpet sound” of the bass, opens the Tuba Mirum, its concluding solo quartet yielding to the majestic and solemn Rex Tremendae, which is marked by strongly dotted rhythms that lead to echoing pleas for salvation. The ensuing Recordare quartet displays the beautiful combination of the erudite German and sweetly melodic Italian musical elements that make Mozart’s style so memorable. The Confutatis is characterized by agitated strings and canonic writing for the lower voices that confound the condemned, alternating with the gently undulating string figurations that accompany the angelic upper voices’ pleas to be joined with the blessed.

After the tearfully hesitating Lacrimosa, of which only the opening eight measures were written by Mozart, comes the Offertorium, consisting of two sections: the largely contrapuntal Domine Jesu presents a jagged imitative passage that plunges the voices into the darkness of the abyss and then restores them to the holy light shone upon them by a brief solo quartet; the graceful, waltz-like, homophonic Hostias offers the solace of the light and life promised to the departed and to Abraham, as the affirming imitative counterpoint that closes the Domine Jesu returns at its conclusion.

The exuberant contrapuntal Hosanna that follows the brief but grand Sanctus reappears after the blessing of the solo quartet’s elegant Benedictus, after which the chordal Agnus Dei grants to the departed eternal rest. The Communio sheds everlasting light upon them in the Lux Aeterna and joins them with the eternal saints in the Cum Sanctis Tuis, bringing back the music of the Requiem’s two opening movements to conclude a work about which Beethoven is said to have commented, “If Mozart did not write the music, then the man who wrote it was a Mozart.”

— Lorelette Knowles