Zadok the Priest was composed by George Frideric Handel for the coronation of King George II in 1727. One of Handel's best-known works, Zadok the Priest has been sung prior to the anointing of the sovereign at the coronation of every British monarch since its composition and has become recognized as a British patriotic anthem. The text is derived from the biblical account of the anointing of Solomon by the priest Zadok (1 Kings 1:38-40). At the coronation on October 11, 1727, the choir of 47 was joined by an orchestra of 160, which reportedly drowned out the choir and resulted in a chaotic performance. Zadok the Priest’s opening is a tour de force. The long ritornello, based on rising violin arpeggios over richly spaced repeated chords for lower strings and woodwind, prepares the way for a resplendent climax at the entry of the voices in 7 parts together with the trumpets and drums. Handel specified no tempo and no dynamics except soft at the start and loud at the chorus entry; but the music implies a long, sustained crescendo that conveys an overwhelming sense of expectation and suspense. The middle section, "And all the people rejoic'd, and said" is a dance form in 3/4 time, with the choir singing chords and a dotted rhythm in the strings. The final section "God save the King", alternates declamatory statements with virtuosic runs and shouts of “forever, Alleluia, Amen”.
Johannes Brahms wrote the sublime motet, Lass dich nur nichts nicht dauren (Let nothing ever grieve you), in 1856 as part of a weekly composition exchange with a composer friend and violinist, Joseph Joachim. The two would share pieces with each other for critique. Perhaps this is why Brahms chose to write this motet in the form of canon, at the interval of the ninth – to show his technical prowess as a young composer. But the resulting music, with a text by Paul Flemming, is of such beauty that the form is secondary. It begins with a tender and compassionate introduction on the warm foundation tones of the organ. The chorus enters with music that is both expressive and slightly austere. The text asks the believer to be patient and trust in God’s plan. The closing section is one of the most beautiful settings of “Amen” in choral music, with long, intertwining melodies soaring and then falling to a peaceful conclusion.
Ola Gjeilo is one of the most frequently performed composers in the choral world today. An accomplished pianist, improvisations over his own published choral pieces have become a trademark of his collaborations. Of his Ubi caritas, Gjeilo writes, “The first time I sung in a choir was in high school; I went to a music high school in Norway and choir was obligatory. I loved it from the very first rehearsal, and the first piece we read through was Maurice Duruflé’s Ubi Caritas. It will always be one of my favorite choral works of all time; to me, it’s the perfect a cappella piece. So when I set the same text myself a few years later, it was inevitable that the Duruflé would influence it, and it did. While Duruflé used an existing, traditional chant in his piece, I used chant more as a general inspiration, while also echoing the form and dynamic range of his incomparable setting of the text. I later started improvising on the piano around choirs singing the piece in performance and recording, one of which Walton published a transcription of – a YouTube video collaboration with the Central Washington University Chamber Choir.” This is the version we perform today, featuring Jeff Lankov, FWC collaborative pianist.
Today’s concert features the world premiere of Taylor Scott Davis’ Jubilate Deo for choir and orchestra. Commissioned in recognition of the Fort Worth Chorale’s 60th anniversary year, and dedicated to the chorus’ long-tenured recently retired pianist, Alan Buratto, Jubilate Deo is a jubilant setting of Psalm 100. Dr. Kenaston-French and Davis settled on the text for the commission as the perfect expression of the history of Fort Worth Chorale/Schola Cantorum: celebrating music and singing, and recognizing the contributions of multiple generations through the 60 years. Davis captures the joyful spirit of the psalm with a grand fanfare opening, followed by a jaunty melody over a spirited, syncopated accompaniment. The middle section “O go your way into his gates with thanksgiving” is slower and melodic with varied orchestral color, before a return to the joyous themes of the previous section. Cascading Amens, shifting meters and exciting brass and percussion interjections build to the triumphant close.
The Requiem of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is one of the most famous musical compositions ever written. Its fame comes not only from the music itself, but also from the story of its composition. In 1791, the final year of his life, Mozart received a commission from an Austrian aristocrat to write a Requiem in memory of his wife. The commission was delivered by a messenger, who did not reveal its source to the composer. He offered a large sum of money, paying half upfront and promising the rest when the work was completed. Historians have suggested that the commissioner, Count von Walsegg (who was an amateur composer), wanted the commission to be a secret so he could later pass the work off as his own. In poor health, Mozart began work on the Requiem in the fall. A newspaper in Salzburg reported that he said as he was furiously working on the composition: “I fear that I am writing a Requiem for myself.” By November of that year, his health further declined, and, on December 5 at 1 a.m., he died with the work still unfinished.
After his death, Mozart’s wife, Constanze, wanted to get the Requiem secretly finished as quickly as possible, so that she might pass the work off as Mozart’s to get the remaining fee. She approached the composer Joseph Eybler to undertake this task, but he soon gave up. Constanze next asked Franz Xaver Süssmayr, one of her husband’s pupils. Süssmayr proceeded to carry out the instructions Mozart is said to have provided on his deathbed, singing his instructions to Constanze and colleagues including Süssmayr. Ever since, the musical world has been trying to establish exactly who wrote what. This endeavor has not been made easier by Süssmayr’s forgery of Mozart’s signature on the original score.
How much of the Requiem, as we know it from the Süssmayr version, is actually Mozart’s work? What we do have in Mozart’s handwriting is the Introitus, the vocal parts and bassline of the Kyrie, most of the Sequenz section (including the Dies irae, Tuba mirum, Rex tremendae, Recordare, Confutatis, and 8 measures of the Lacrimosa, as well as the Offertorium. Süssmayr claimed sole authorship of the remainder of the Lacrimosa, as well as the Sanctus, Benedictus, and the Agnus Dei. In the final section, the Communio’s Lux aeterna, Süssmayr recycled music from the opening Introitus and Kyrie movements, adapting them to a different text. Although Mozart probably never intended the first and last movements to be identical, Süssmayr’s decision has some merit, as it gives the work a well-rounded, unified musical design.