The Gloria by Francis Poulenc (1899 -1963) was commissioned by the Koussevitsky Music Foundation and first performed in 1961 by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Charles Munch. It was dedicated to the memory of Nathalie and Serge Koussevitsky, a former Music Director of the BSO. To many, the work seemed irreverent – this ancient sacred text from the Mass being treated frivolously with wit and humour. But what they failed to catch was Poulenc’s interpretation of liturgical joy as a swirl of musical colour and dancing rhythms.
“If men take great pains to compose beautiful music for profane songs, they should devote at least as much thought to sacred song, nay, even more than to more worldly matters.” - Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, 156
Program Notes by Rick Phillips for Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s Festival of Carols concert
This all-Brahms programme deals with the theme of fate or destiny, a theme that fascinated Brahms through most of his career, ranging from desolation and isolation to resignation and acceptance. The German Requiem is the most consoling and optimistic. The Alto Rhapsody portrays a disgruntled social outcast, but resolves into a sublime prayer. In Nänie (Song of Lamentation), the gods calmly lament the passing of life and beauty. But in Gesang der Parzen (Song of the Fates), there is no way out – no resolution, no prayer – probably the most desolate piece Brahms ever composed.