PACIFIC MOZART ENSEMBLE PRESENTS
POULENC'S MONUMENTAL A CAPELLA MASTERPIECE FIGURE HUMAINE
PLUS WORKS BY STEVE REICH, FRANK MARTIN, AND JOHN TAVENER
MARCH 18 AND 19, 2000
Berkeley, CA - Extraordinary a cappella works written for double chorus will
be performed by The Pacific Mozart Ensemble (PME), under the direction of
Richard Grant, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 18, 2000 at Trinity Episcopal
Church, 1668 Bush Street in San Francisco, and 5 p.m. Sunday, March 19, 2000
at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way in Berkeley.
Francis Poulenc's choral masterpiece Figure Humaine was composed
clandestinely during the German occupation of France during World War II and
smuggled to London for publication. Figure Humaine (or The Face of Man) is
regarded as the most monumental of Poulenc's choral works. The composer
created this setting of poems by Paul Eluard for unaccompanied choir because
he "wanted this act of faith to be performed without instrumental aid by the
sole means of the human voice," he said. Pacific Mozart Ensemble's
Director, Richard Grant, notes, "The last movement, 'Liberté,' is very
unusual in that the composer calls for the highest notes possible from the
chorus, sung at the loudest possible dynamic." It is also noteworthy that
the poem "Liberté" was smuggled to Algeria where it was printed. Thousands
of copies were loaded onto RAF bombers and dropped over occupied France.
"Liberté" became an anthem of the French Resistance.
Poulenc's work was given its world premiere in a memorable radio broadcast
in January 1945 by the BBC Choir. PME performed the West Coast premiere of
Figure Humaine in December of 1997 at Oakland City Hall and later at the
Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
Also on the program is The Mass for Two A Cappella Choirs, an early work by
Swiss composer Frank Martin, which uses chant-shaped melodies, overlapping
and sometimes jazzy rhythms, luscious harmonies, and extensive fugues to
create a mood of spirituality that is haunting, pleading, sad and yet sweet.
The Mass was written in 1922 but was not heard until 1962; the composer
considered the piece a form of worship and a "private matter" between God
and himself. In performance, the two choruses work together and against
each other to create rhythmic displacement, dynamic contrasts, and harmonic
interplay. Martin described his Mass as "music of an intimate nature." PME
first performed the Mass in cathedrals and churches throughout southern
France in June of 1995.
Other works on the program include Steve Reich's "Clapping Music," an
intricate piece of music for two contrapuntal clapping parts and no voices.
"Clapping Music" is an unusual and exciting piece by this master of
minimalism. Handclaps take the place of voices to yield remarkable rhythmic
combinations as the different parts interact.
John Tavener's "Uncreated Eros" will also be performed. Tavener's music was
performed at the funeral of Princess Diana of Wales. "Uncreated Eros" is a
short work that sets the (currently "politically incorrect") Biblical text
that describes the rib being removed from man to make woman.
The Pacific Mozart Ensemble chorus (PME) is a unique musical resource. Since
its founding nineteen years ago, the ensemble has grown to fill an important
role in the cultural life of the Bay Area, presenting courageous and
innovative programs of many works that have never before been performed in
concert settings. PME provides the opportunity for composers to collaborate
with a professional chorus in performances of new or experimental work, or
to have audiences enjoy live performances of works previously heard only on
PME is important not only for San Francisco cultural life, but also for
choral music in general. Year after year, PME brings its audiences programs
that are simply unavailable from any other source. Composers and conductors
rely on the group to present important works that are not included in the
standard concert repertoire.
PME also brings to Bay Area audiences new works that have been previously
available only to those who are able to attend fully mounted stage
productions. The ensemble has performed excerpts from John Adams' Nixon In
China and The Death Of Klinghoffer, Meredith Monk's Atlas and David Lang's
Modern Painters. PME presented the first concert performance of the Philip
Glass choral work, Vessels, from the film Koyanisqaatsi and music from
Jonathon Larson's Rent.
Twice, PME has brought the Dave Brubeck Quartet to San Francisco to
collaborate in performances of his oratorios. PME has often provided the
chorus for Berkeley Symphony concerts conducted by Kent Nagano. They have
undertaken numerous challenging projects together: the most significant of
which was the US premiere of excerpts from Olivier Messiaen's monumental
opera, St. Francois d'Asisse.
The ensemble has performed at many of Europe's noted cathedrals and concert
halls including Chartres, St. Louis en I'Isle in Paris, the Cloitre des
Jacobans in Toulouse, Six Fours in Toulon and the Dorchester Festival in
Pacific Mozart Ensemble's annual Jazz & Pop concerts are slated for June
10th in Alameda, June 16th in San Francisco, and June 18th in Oakland.
Tickets for Pacific Mozart Ensemble's March performances are priced at $19
general admission and $15 for students and seniors. For tickets and
information call (415) 705-0848.