Musica Viva offers Crimson Roses on December 3
by April Thibeault for Vocal Area Network
Posted November 20, 2023

Musica Viva: Crimson RosesHailed as "a treasured institution" by Front Row Center, Musica Viva NY highlights one of its most important missions: the commissioning of new works. On Sunday, December 3, 2023 at 5:00 PM at All Souls on the Upper East Side, 30+ singers and orchestra perform gorgeous music by three living American composers: Joseph Turrin, Gilda Lyons and Richard Einhorn. This performance is part of a journey that will culminate in an ambitious professional recording (Naxos, TBR 2024) of the pieces presented on this program. Making her Musica Viva NY debut is mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, just prior to her 2024 induction to OPERA America’s Opera Hall of Fame.

“Musica Viva NY is looking forward to giving fans a sneak peek of our forthcoming album, the first we’ve recorded during my tenure” says Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, conductor/artistic director of Musica Viva NY. “And, we couldn’t be more excited to welcome our special guest, the legendary singer Frederica von Stade. What a thrilling way to end the year!”

The program’s capstone is the 45-minute cantata by Joseph Turrin (born 1947), And Crimson Roses Once Again Be Fair (2018). Performing the solo part is Ms. von Stade, “one of America’s finest artists and singers” (The New York Times) who says she is “so looking forward to this chance to sing Joe’s beautiful song.” To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice, Musica Viva NY, the New Orchestra of Washington and the Washington Master Chorale co-commissioned this cantata based on powerful poetry of the Great War. It includes poems by Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Vera Brittain as well as other poets who fought, died or were bereaved during the conflict. In fourteen concise but abundantly rich movements, Turrin gives vivid snapshots of the war—reflecting its horror, beauty, profound sadness and hope. According to Oberon’s Grove, “Mr. Turrin's epic cantata shows his own excellence in writing music -- both moving and finely-crafted – for instruments and voices alike. And Crimson Roses Once Again Be Fair deserves a place of pride in the repertory of choral groups worldwide."

The program continues with Momotombo (2022), an a cappella work inspired by one of Nicaragua’s greatest volcanoes. Since early childhood, composer Gilda Lyons (born 1975) was read the rich, rhythmic poetry of Rubén Darío by her Nicaraguan mother who had a deep and layered connection to his work. His poem Momotombo embraces the eternal nature of the volcano. In her program notes, Lyons wrote: “I traced a line from Darío to the sources he references in his poem—Victor Hugo, from Les raisons du Momotombo--and E. G. Squier’s account of the old friars who went up the volcano and did not come back—and beyond—referencing Oviedo’s History of the Indies and a letter to court from Bartolomé de las Casas—all of which exist in the shadow of the eternal Momotombo.”

Closing the program is The Luminous Ground for SATB chorus, strings and piano, which was written for and premiered last year by Musica Viva NY. Inspired by the widely-known artist James Turrell and his groundbreaking light installations (recently on display at The Pace Gallery and The Guggenheim), composer Richard Einhorn (born 1952) seeks to turn the sculptures’ contemplative nature into a slow, gradually changing soundscape that always remains still and hushed. “According to the great Buddhist philosopher Nāgārjuna, The Luminous Ground is that stage in a person's progress towards enlightenment when ‘the pacifying light of wisdom dawns’ and ‘attachment and aversion have thoroughly ceased’,” explains Einhorn. “It is a nearly unimaginable state of serenity, but one that is evoked, for me, by the extraordinary light sculptures of James Turrell.”

About Frederica von Stade
Mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, affectionately known as “Flicka” to her fans, has enriched the world of classical music for four-and-a-half decades, appearing at the world’s great opera houses and concert halls. A noted bel canto specialist, she excelled as the heroines of Rossini’s La cenerentola and Il barbiere di Siviglia and Bellini’s La sonnambula, while also garnering acclaim for her interpretations of Mozart and French repertoire. Beginning with her debut in 1970, she appeared over 300 times at the Metropolitan Opera. Von Stade retired from full-time performing in 2010 but has continued to make special appearances in concert and opera. She has created roles in numerous new works, including Dead Man Walking (2000), Three Decembers (2008), A Coffin in Egypt (2014) and Sky on Swings (2018).

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 at 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, Jesse Montgomery and Trevor Weston among others. For more information, visit MusicaViva.org.


Sunday, December 3, 2023 at 5:00 PM (pre-concert talk at 4:00 PM)
All Souls, 1157 Lexington Avenue, New York City
Admission: $50; $30 for students. Tickets at MusicaViva.org.

April Thibeault handles public relations for Musica Viva NY.