Release (2002/11/03)

Sunday, November 3, 2002 at 3pm
Carnegie Hall
A Program of Psalms

Steven Sloane, conductor
Judith Bettina, soprano
Amy Burton, soprano
Margaret Lattimore, mezzo-soprano
Richard Clement, tenor
John Hancock, baritone
New York Virtuoso Singers, Harold Rosenbaum, artistic director

DAVID LANG: how to pray (World Premiere, ACO Commission)
MILTON BABBITT: From the Psalter (World Premiere, ACO Commission)
JON MAGNUSSEN: Psalm (excerpts) New York Premiere
CHARLES IVES: The Sixty-Seventh Psalm
SHULAMIT RAN: Supplications (for Chorus and Orchestra) (World Premiere, ACO Commission)
JOHN HARBISON: Four Psalms (New York Premiere)

Tickets are $15, $34, & $45. Call CarnegieCharge: 212-247-7800

Pre-concert discussion, moderated by ACO Artistic Director Robert Beaser, is free to all ticket holders and begins at 1:45 pm.

Premieres, Praise & Prayer
Open ACO Season November 3

World premieres by Milton Babbitt, David Lang, and Shulamit Ran
John Harbison’s Four Psalms receives New York Premiere

Commencing his tenure as American Composers Orchestra’s Music Director, conductor Steven Sloane leads the orchestra into its second quarter-century on Sunday, November 3, 2002 at 3pm in Carnegie Hall, with “A Program of Psalms.” The concert opens with three ACO-commissioned world premieres-by David Lang, Shulamit Ran, and Milton Babbitt-along with selections from Jon Magnussen’s Psalm and two a cappella psalm settings by Charles Ives. The concert features the New York premiere of John Harbison’s Four Psalms-a work originally commissioned to mark the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel-combining psalm settings with contemporary texts.

The concert explores the breadth of emotional, religious, and musical aspects of some of the most universal spiritual material-Psalms. Acknowledging the emotional climate in the United States just over a year after the tragedies of September 11, 2001, and the violence and uncertainty felt throughout the world today, “A Program of Psalms” explores music by both Jewish-and non Jewish-American composers representing a vibrant musical offering. The artists joining ACO for the performance are sopranos Amy Burton and Judith Bettina, mezzo-soprano Margaret Lattimore, tenor Richard Clement, baritone John Hancock, and the New York Virtuoso Singers, Harold Rosenbaum, Artistic Director.

Essay: Thoughts on a Psalm-Enchanted Evening: Sacred Music in a Secular World
by David Wright

About the Commissions & World Premieres

David Langs’ work, how to pray, is a setting of the prayer that comes before psalms, which musically, becomes a song without words. Says Lang, “psalms are so central to religious experience because they are a comprehensive catalogue of examples of how to talk to the Almighty, not by a prophet or a priest but in the voice of a single person, a person out in the world, with problems and concerns faced by real people in all times.” Lang is the co-founder and co-artistic director of New York’s innovative “Bang on a Can” music festival. His music has been performed by the San Francisco Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Santa Fe Opera, and Kronos Quartet. Lang has studied with Jacob Druckman, Hans Werner Henze, and Martin Bresnick.

Shulamit Ran’s Supplications (for Chorus and Orchestra) contains settings of fragments from the well-known Psalm 23 (“The Lord Is My Shepherd”) in both Hebrew and English. In Supplications, it is the composer’s intent “to create a narrative, which may be likened to a one-way conversation with God which, ultimately, is also a journey of self-revelation.” Ms. Ran is a native of Tel Aviv, now living in Chicago. She is the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize (for her Symphony, 1991) as well as fellowships and commissions from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and Ford Foundations, and served as Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony in the early 1990s. Ms. Ran has studied composition with Norman Dello Joio and Ralph Shapey among others, and is currently professor of composition at the University of Chicago.

Milton Babbitt’s work, From the Psalter, is a setting of Psalm 13, conjoined with two stanzas each from Psalm 40 and Psalm 41, as realized in verse by Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586). Babbitt is one of the most significant musical thinkers and creators of the last 50 years. His music, research, and writings have touched nearly every facet of concert music and influenced generations of composers, from serialism to electronics, to his embrace of jazz. Babbitt’s numerous recognitions include a MacArthur Fellowship and Pulitzer Prize Citation for lifetime achievement. The composer has envisioned From the Psalter as an accompanied recitative, dedicated to soprano soloist Judith Bettina.

Settings by Jon Magnussen and Charles Ives

Jon Magnussen’s Psalm will be heard in its New York premiere. A recent setting of Psalm 61 and Psalm 113, Magnussen’s Psalmwas commissioned by the José Limón Dance Foundation, based on a video reconstruction of the late choreographer’s dance dating from 1967. The work features a small orchestra without violins, chorus, and baritone soloist John Hancock. Jon Magnussen is a graduate of the Juilliard School and is currently Artist-in-Residence at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey.

Charles Ives’s settings of Psalm 100 and The Sixty Seventh Psalm are interspersed on the first half of the program. Both are products of the years Ives spent as organist and choir director, and are revelatory not only in their subject matter, but in their musical adventurousness as well, featuring some of the earliest examples of Ives’s pungent bitonalism.

About John Harbison’s Four Psalms

Composer John HarbisonWhen John Harbison was approached by the Israeli consulate to write a new work to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, he initially declined, figuring a Jewish composer should undertake the project. Eager to learn more about the Middle East, and intrigued by its history, he soon reconsidered. Recognizing the sense of responsibility he felt towards his subject, Harbison made an extended research trip to Israel. Originally, Harbison thought he might set music to the works of contemporary Israeli poets. Soon, though he turned to psalms, realizing that, “they summed up the themes I wanted to touch on: ‘the mission of Israel’ through history, disenfranchisement of Jews with no homeland, and a ‘utopian vision’ of brotherhood.” Through the course of his research, Harbison kept notes of conversations he had around the country, and his plans changed yet again: Drawing on more than 30 conversations with people around the country-Jewish and Palestinian both-he decided to intersperse these contemporary voices with psalms. “Visionary, contentious, humorous, virulent, fragile,” these voices represent both a current commentary and contrast to the “ancient and enduring voice of our collective past,” according to the composer. These contemporary voices make the work “a much more complicated experience.” Creating controversy with such hot-button topics as politics, terrorism, violence, and racism, Harbison’s Four Psalms may be more relevant today than when it was commissioned.

Related Essay: Four Psalms & Many Critics: John Harbison Talks About the Work
by Mic Holwin

About the Artists

Soprano Judith Bettina, hailed for her proficiency in a wide range of musical styles, has had works written for her by Mel Powell, Tobias Picker, Chester Biscardi, and David Rakowski and performed with groups ranging from the Bach Chamber Soloists to Speculum Musicae and the Monadnock Music Festival. [find out more…]

A lyric soprano known for her electric stage presence, musical intelligence, and crystalline sound, Amy Burton enjoys an active career in opera and concert stages, including New York City Opera, where she is a favorite. [find out more…]

Mezzo-soprano Margaret Lattimore has become a leading interpreter of John Harbison’s music, including performances as Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby, and the premiere of Due Libri. Ms. Lattimore is in demand by opera companies, orchestras, and recital presenters world-wide. [find out more…]

Recognized as one of the world’s leading young American lyric tenors, Richard Clement is hailed for the tonal beauty, innate musicality, and sense of style in his operatic, concert, and recital performances. Mr. Clement is winner of a 1994 Richard Tucker Music Foundation Jacobson Study Grant. [find out more…]

A native New Yorker, baritone John Hancock has created the role Lord Henry in Lowell Liebermann’s The Picture of Dorian Gray; he took on three roles in the one-act trilogy Central Park; and played Abelard in Stephen Paulus’ Heloise and Abelard. [find out more…]

New York Virtuoso Singers, under Artistic Director Harold Rosenbaum, is a professional choral ensemble dedicated to presenting both seldom-heard works by past and contemporary masters, as well as commissioning, performing, and recordings works by today’s composers. [find out more…]

About Steven Sloane, Music Director

Steven Sloane is one of the most adventurous and innovative conductors to have emerged in recent years. Through his work with orchestras, festivals, choruses, and opera companies across Europe and in America, Mr. Sloane has won acclaim for his compelling programming, theatrical flair, and impressive technique. His passion for unusual repertoire, interest in eclectic juxtapositions of music of divergent eras and styles, commitment to contemporary works, and willingness to challenge convention, have established Mr. Sloane as a bold champion of the future of concert music. [find out more…]

About ACO

Founded in 1977, American Composers Orchestra is the only orchestra in the world dedicated to the creation, performance, preservation, and promulgation of music by American composers. Through its concerts at Carnegie Hall, recordings, radio broadcasts, educational programs, Whitaker New Music Readings, and commissions, ACO identifies today’s brightest emerging composers, champions prominent established composers as well as those lesser-known, and increases regional, national, and international awareness of the infinite variety of American orchestral music, reflecting geographic, stylistic, and temporal diversity. [find out more…]

Tickets & Information

“A Program of Psalms” is November 3, 2002 at 3pm in Carnegie Hall. Tickets are $15, $34, and $45 and may be purchased through CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800, by visiting Carnegie Hall’s website at, or at the Carnegie Hall box office on 57th Street at 7th Ave. The concert is preceded by a discussion (free to ticket-holders) with the living composers featured on the program, moderated by ACO’s Artistic Director Robert Beaser, at 1:45 p.m.

Major support of American Composers Orchestra is from Alliance Capital Management L.P., Amphion Foundation, ASCAP, The Bay Foundation, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Bodman Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, BMI Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Citigroup Foundation, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, Edward T. Cone Foundation, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Eleanor Naylor Dana Charitable Trust, Jean and Louis Dreyfus Foundation, Fidelity Foundation, The Estate of Francis Goelet, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Greenwall Foundation, Henfield Foundation, Geoffrey Hughes Foundation, Christian Humann Foundation, Jephson Educational Trust, The Jerome Foundation, Koussevitzky Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, JPMorganChase, National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, The New York Times Co. Foundation, the Virgil Thomson Foundation, Oakleigh L. Thorne Foundation, and The Helen F. Whitaker Fund. ACO programs are also made possible with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.