Musica Viva NY presents "The Sorrow and the Beauty" on March 12
by April Thibeault for Vocal Area Network
Posted February 28, 2023

Musica Viva NYNew York City's leading chamber choir, Musica Viva NY, continues its 2022-23 concert series with "The Sorrow and the Beauty" on March 12, 2023 at 5:00 PM at All Souls Church on the Upper East Side. Known for its well-balanced, eclectic yet tranquil programming, Musica Viva NY presents six meditative works by some of today's top contemporary living composers including Arvo Pärt, David Lang, Caleb Burhans, Caroline Shaw and Eric Whitacre. The program includes contemplative and unpredictable reflections on spirituality (some straight-forward, others more complex) through a modern lens of new music.

"We are thrilled to be sharing a pure and dynamic expression of reverence and sacredness through live music," says Musica Viva NY's artistic director and conductor Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, a dynamic force in the field of classical music. "Suffering, especially when shared, can be quite beautiful. Our hope is for audience members to experience the complex contrast of solace and redemption."

The concert features two works by one of the most-performed living composers in the world, Arvo Pärt (b.1935). The Estonian's beautiful, minimalist music is unique, atmospheric and mesmerizing. He writes a range of music, from compelling instrumental pieces to profound sacred choral settings. The Beatitudes (1990) for mixed choir and organ is one of the first works in which the composer uses the English language. The composition is based on the text from Jesus's Sermon on the Mount in Matthew -- a passage of blessings (5:3-12), from which godly virtues are highlighted line by line. Spiegel im Spiegel (1975) for viola and piano was written just before Pärt left Estonia. The piece is in the tintinnabula style (Latin for "little bell"), a highly original musical language that Pärt created after he joined the Orthodox Church and studied Gregorian chant, the Notre Dame School and classic vocal polyphony. Pärt has said that his music is similar to light going through a prism: the music may have a slightly different meaning for each listener, thus creating a spectrum of musical experience, similar to the rainbow of light.

Described as a 21st century classic, the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Little Match Girl Passion (2007) by David Lang (b.1957) combines the Hans Christian Andersen story with form elements from Bach's St. Matthew Passion, creating an emotional and transformational journey. "What has always interested me," explains Lang, "is that Andersen tells this story as a kind of parable, drawing a religious and moral equivalency between the suffering of the poor girl and the suffering of Jesus. The girl suffers, is scorned by the crowd, dies and is transfigured. I started wondering what secrets could be unlocked from this story if one took its Christian nature to its conclusion and unfolded it, as Christian composers have traditionally done in musical settings of the Passion of Jesus."

The hyperactive New York City composer/singer/multi-instrumentalist Caleb Burhans (b.1980) seamlessly combines classical, ambient and post-rock styles, even in his choral writing. A child chorister himself, Burhans provides a sumptuous and expressive choral setting of Psalm 137 in Super Flumina Babylonis (2013). "The most beguiling of his creations, his music for voice--exemplified brilliantly by Super Flumina Babylonis--is positively spellbinding." (The Plain Dealer)

Limestone and Felt (2012), a piece for viola and cello by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw (b.1982), presents, for the composer, two kinds of surfaces-essentially hard and soft-suggesting reverberant and muted sound. Shaw writes: "In limestone & felt, the hocketing pizzicato and pealing motivic canons are part of a whimsical, mystical, generous world of sounds echoing and colliding in the imagined eaves of a gothic chapel." Rounding out the program is Cloudburst (1995) by Eric Whitacre (b.1970). Whitacre's music was hailed by the Los Angeles Times as being "of unearthly beauty and imagination." Cloudburst, for choir, piano and percussion, was inspired by a breathtaking desert cloudburst and poetry by Octavio Paz. According to The Arts Desk, "This is a contemporary choral classic and deserves its reputation."

About Musica Viva NY

Praised by The New York Times as an "excellent chorus", Musica Viva NY is a chamber choir of 30+ professionals and highly skilled volunteers. Since its founding in 1977, Musica Viva NY has been based in Manhattan's historic All Souls Church. Under the baton of Artistic Director Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, its mission is to bring world-class music to a widening community through its annual concert series, community engagement programs and an ambitious artistic vision. Musica Viva NY's imaginative programming offers joy, solace and renewal in a complex world. Presenting a broad repertoire of new compositions and classic masterworks, Musica Viva NY emphasizes artistic excellence and transformative interpretations to ennoble the human spirit. Musica Viva NY regularly commissions and premieres new American music and is committed to performing the work of living American composers, women composers and composers of color, including works that are socially conscious and address social, racial or environmental issues. Since 2014, Musica Viva NY has commissioned and performed works by Bora Yoon, Seymour Bernstein, Elena Ruehr, Joseph Turrin, Alexandra T Bryant, Gilda Lyons, Richard Einhorn, Steve Reich, Frank Ticheli, Morten Lauridsen, Florence Price, Frank Ferko, Lori Laitman, Trent Johnson, George Walker, Joel Thompson, Missy Mazzoli, Randall Thompson and Jesse Montgomery, among others. For more information, visit MusicaViva.org.

April Thibeault handles public relations for Musica Viva NY.