Schafer, rmurray (c) andre leduc
R. Murray Schafer ©André Leduc
NACO Home Delivery

Maureen Forrester Sings Schafer

The incomparable Canadian mezzo-soprano Maureen Forrester is our featured soloist in this concert archive of music by 3 powerful voices in American and Canadian composition: Alexina Louie, R. Murray Schafer, and the late Aaron Copland.  

Adieu, Robert Schumann (1978), by Murray Schafer, written for Maurreen Forrester and commissioned by the CBC, is a musical monodrama, with one character in an operatic concert setting, sometimes speaking over the music. The style is a throwback to the Romanticism of 18th century Europe, but continues today in music as varied as Schoenberg’s expressionist masterpiece Erwartung and a chart-topping Chinese R&B pop song (Monodrama). To learn more about Shafer, check out David New’s 2009 short film entitled “Listen” on the National Film Board of Canada website.

Maureen Forrester was undeniably one of the world’s greatest singers.  Her interpretations of Mahler and early mentorship by conductor Bruno Walter, have become the stuff of legend.  She had a long relationship with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and particularly with Mario Bernardi, collaborating in the Tchaikovsky opera The Queen of Spades (among others) and in the world premiere of Schafer’s Adieu, Robert Schumann, where she embodies the composer’s wife Clara Schumann, relieving the moments at the end of Robert’s life. The text, clearly interpreted by Forrester, is drawn from Clara’s own journals and letters. Schafer draws on Robert Schumann’s music, weaving painfully beautiful quotes from his lieder, beginning with Dein Angesicht and Heinrich Heine’s words, “Your face, so loveable and fair; I saw it recently in a dream. It is so mild and angelic, yet so pale and full of pain.”

NAC Award Composer Alexina Louie’s Infinite Sky With Birds was an NAC commission which the Orchestra premiered in Ottawa with guest conductor Carlos Kalmar and later toured across Canada with Pinchas Zukerman.  The composer described it to Toronto Star music critic John Terauds in 2006, “‘The actual inspiration came from a sight that always lifts my heart, the sight of a flock of birds taking off’, her description of Infinite Sky revolves around moods and visual impressions. ‘There's a cycle to it,’ she says. ‘An eternal cycle, birds wheeling in the air ... You hear the whole thing taking flight many times, until the final ascent from the very bottom of the orchestra to the top.’ "  

And finally, Appalachian Spring (1945 version) by Aaron Copland.  Originally a ballet by Martha Graham, it has entered the musical lexicon as iconically “American”, stitching the beautiful Shaker tune Simple Gifts into a rich musical quilt. This performance is from 2010, with then guest conductor Alexander Shelley in his second appearance with our Orchestra. 

We hope you enjoy this colourful and evocative Home Delivery. 

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