MenHym Intro

Severance Hall
March 5 – Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

March 7 – Saturday at 8:00 p.m.
March 8 – Sunday at 3:00 p.m.


Contrast, Song & Symphony

This weekend’s concerts feature two contrasting works, written more than a century apart — created in different musical styles, both overall and within each.

The concert begins with Static and Ecstatic, a piece premiered in 1973.  It was created by Ernst Křenek, a German-born composer of Czech descent who lived much of his long life in America.  Křenek was among the “modern” composers whose music was denounced by Germany’s Nazi regime as unpatriotic and ugly.  Yet some of his works were popular, with one of his jazz-infused operas performed often.  Static and Ecstatic was written decades later, and in a more modern idiom, juxtaposing a series of ten short movements, whose basic impulses alternate between stasis and motion.  

After intermission comes a large-scale hybrid work by Felix Mendelssohn.  Premiered in 1840, the Hymn of Praise (or Lobgesang in German) was created to mark celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the invention of the printing press and moveable type by Johannes Gutenberg.   Mendelssohn called it a “symphony-cantata,” with the work divided into two halves, the first featuring three orchestral movements, and the last adding in chorus and vocal soloists for a series of sections embellished with liturgical texts.  For these, the composer chose passages that describe moments of enlightenment — literally the lightening of night to day, or ignorance to understanding.  These were intended to commemorate and celebrate the contribution of books and learning to humanity’s forward progression.  It is a big work, offering a relatively straightforward journey of awakening and uplift.

Eric Sellen