THE CITY (Astra Quarter-Hour Concert # 1)

At the centre of this concert, the choral image of The City by the Connecticut composer Robert Carl, invokes a near-static condition that took on special significance in the protracted lockdown of Astra’s own city of Melbourne. The words sung…

THE CITY (Astra Quarter-Hour Concert # 1)

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At the centre of this concert, the choral image of The City by the Connecticut composer Robert Carl, invokes a near-static condition that took on special significance in the protracted lockdown of Astra’s own city of Melbourne.

The words sung in this piece are from the pre-modernist Chicago architect Louis Sullivan, contemporaneous with the Viennese composer Alma Mahler and her poet of the “Silent City”, Richard Dehmel.

A lineage connects Robert Carl with the German-American composer Stefan Wolpe, via Carl’s teacher, the Chicago composer Ralph Shapey, a prominent student of Wolpe.

Three works here represent the rich variety of worlds in Wolpe’s music. The Hebrew psalm, with its optimistic image of Jerusalem as a city of peace, followed from his years in Palestine after escaping from Nazi Germany. The setting of Bertolt Brecht’s ballad set in the city of Prague revisits Wolpe’s activism as a leftist theatre musician in Weimar Germany. The piece for solo trumpet bursts into the “speaking” Abstract Expressionist style that he developed among the painters of New York after moving there in 1938 – matched here by the performative brilliance of trumpeter Tristram Williams.

Stefan Wolpe, HEBREW CHORUS No.1 (1954), text: Psalm 122, eight-part choir
Stefan Wolpe, SOLO PIECE FOR TRUMPET (1966), I. Graceful, talking (C trumpet), II. Not too big, intimate (F alto trumpet)
Robert Carl, THE CITY (1983), words by Louis Sullivan 1918, six-part choir
Alma Mahler, THE SILENT CITY (1910), poem by Richard Dehmel 1907, eight-part choir arr. Clytus Gottwald (2009)
Stefan Wolpe, BALLAD OF THE WIDOWS OF OSEK (1943), poem by Bertolt Brecht 1934, arr. JMcC for choir & piano

The Astra Choir conducted by John McCaughey
with Tristram Williams (solo trumpet), Kim Bastin (piano

Astra Quarter-hour concerts – Spring-Summer Season 2020

A series of short aural-video programs for online listening and viewing, assembled from the Astra Concerts archive from the 1950s to the present, and introducing new studio works from composers in the period of COVID-19.

Drawing on these past and current elements, mini-concerts are created that never took place as such, from items separated in time and place. New ways open up for Astra’s characteristic program experiences, of encounters between different styles and eras in music, both choral and instrumental.

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