130 Years of Love Songs

Prometheus Trio and guests offer a concert of love songs written between 1885 and today.

By - Jan 30th, 2015 12:25 pm
Prometheus Trio: pianist Stefanie Jacob, violinist Timothy Klabunde, cellist Scott Tisdel.

Prometheus Trio: pianist Stefanie Jacob, violinist Timothy Klabunde, cellist Scott Tisdel.

In a departure from their usual format, the Prometheus Trio concert on the evening of February 2nd and the morning of the 3rd will celebrate song. The trio, with guest violinist Margot Schwartz and three guest vocalists, will feature pensively romantic material.

A member of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Schwartz also plays chamber music in Milwaukee as a member of the Present Music Ensemble and the Arcus String Quartet. Within the region, she has also performed with the Peninsula Symphony and Civic Orchestra of Chicago.

Margot Schwartz

Guest violinist Margot Schwartz

The vocal guests are all members of the Wisconsin Conservatory faculty, but will be recognized for their participation in other venues around town. Soprano Jennifer Gettel, a Baroque vocal specialist for several local groups, has also sung with Present Music in very contemporary works. Mezzo-soprano Kathleen Sonnentag, a first place winner in the district Metropolitan Opera Auditions in 1995, has sung in operas around the United States and beyond. As a go-to Messiah soloist, she has appeared in more than 75 concerts. Tenor Nathan Wesselowski performs in musical theater as well as opera and sings frequently with the Milwaukee Opera Theatre.

The program will mix and match instruments and soloists to fit the works.

Although most of the works are post-19th century, each has a foot in that romantic era. Most are indebted to Johannes Brahms for structure and inspiration.

The concert’s central work, Brahms’ “Two Songs,” features a tender dialogue between matched voices – mezzo and cello in a pair of adult lullabies. The poetry is unsettled:

You longings that move my heart,
When will you rest, when will you sleep?

This tender, restless mood continues in a set of seven brief songs “Fountain of Youth” by a composer indebted to Brahms — Robert Kahn. A sample of the lyrics:

Distant fluting song, emerge and
stir a wide yearning,
with thoughts of the beloved,
ah! beguile the resented distance!
Let the woodland night lull me,
still every pain,
and a blissful satisfaction.

Nationalist composer Bohuslav Martinu adapts Czech folk songs with more playful observations in a 5 song set, “Primrose”:

Come in, ride in, my sweet darling,
Bring pleasure to my sad heart,
Come in, my handsome lad, to please my tender heart…
Father says I am still too young
That I am still a lassie.

Czech folk wisdom shines through the lyrics:
As the sieve will not hold water, so the young lad will not be true.

A young 21st century composer, Caroline Shaw, wowed Milwaukee when featured by Present Music. The program will reprise her piece, “Cantico delle Creature,” which featured Gettel and Schwartz in that 2013 concert. St. Francis of Assisi praises all of God’s creation in this contemporary adaptation of chant set to early Italian poetry. St. Francis blesses the sun, moon, stars, wind, water, fire, earth, sickness and death in childlike wonder:

Praised be You, my Lord, through brother Wind, and air and stormy and fair in all weather moods, by which You cherish all that you have made.

The concert also includes a set of folk songs arranged by Ludwig van Beethoven and an instrumental trio Trio in D minor, Op 27 “quasi una Balleta” by Czech composer Viteszlav Novak. A moody and romantic work incorporating Moravian melodies, Novak’s composition fits the evening well.

These songs may reflect on love, but hardly in a traditional Valentine’s day way. Expect a recital by an accomplished ensemble that is often tranquil, wistful, philosophical, occasionally cynical and romantic in a grander sense.

The Prometheus Trio will perform on twice – Monday, February 2nd at 7:30 pm and Tuesday, February 3rd in the morning at 11:00 at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music on 1584 N Prospect Avenue. For ticket and parking information see the WCM website or call (414) 276-5760.

The Trio’s final concert of the season is scheduled for April 20 and 21, 2015 at 7:30 pm. They will play a Franz Josef Haydn trio (to be announced), Daron Hagen‘s Piano Trio No. 3, Wayfaring Stranger and a trio arrangement of Brahms’ String Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 18.

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