Pro Arte Quartet. David Perry and Suzanne Beia, violin; Sally Chisholm, viola; and Parry Karp, cello.
with guest artist Jazimina Macneil, mezzo-soprano
String Quartet in E Major, Op. 54 No. 3 (1788)
The Cross of Snow for Contralto and String Quartet (2016)
World Premiere of Version for Voice and String Quartet
String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 16 (1874)
The Cross of the Snow
In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
A gentle face–the face of one long dead–
Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died, and soul more white
Never through martyrdom of fire was led
To its repose; nor can in books be read
The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast.
These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
And seasons, changeless since the day she died.
Take them, O Death! and bear away
Whatever thou canst call thine own!
Thine image, staped upon this clay,
Doth give thee that, but that alone!
Take them, O Grave! and let them lie
Folded upon thy narrow shelves,
As garments by the soul laid by,
And precious only to ourselves!
Take them, O great Eternity!
Our little life is but a gust
That bends the branches of thy tree,
And trails its blossoms in the dust!
Some Day, Some Day”
Some day, some day.
O troubled breast,
Shalt thou find rest.
I Love in thee
To grief give birth,
Six feet on earth
Can more than he;
There calm and free
Shalt thou find rest.
In life at last,
When life is passed
Shall all be gained;
And no more pained,
No more distressed,
Shalt thou find rest.
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Cross of Snow, for counter-tenor (or contralto) and viol consort, was commissioned by William John Wartmann in memory of his wife, Joyce Frances Wartmann (1924-2003). The piece is scored for two treble viols, tenor viol, and bass viol, the latter not to be confused with the orchestral contrabass. An alternate adaptation voice and string quartet has also been prepared.
A fortunate opportunity to meet the commissioner at his country home near Edgerton, Wisconsin offered a chance to discuss his ideas about text and intrumentation, ideas embodied in the final shape of the piece. Every detail of the Wartmann estate suggested a distinctive artistic stance. I was able to see and admire Mr. Wartmann’s achievements as painter and sculptor, as well as the paintings by Joyce Wartmann, who was also an accomplished singer.
The project, with so many elements unfamiliar to me, felt like a fortunate place to find myself. Mr. Wartmann’s preference for nineteenth-century poetry initially led me toward Hardy, Dickinson, and Whitman, but re-imagining my discussion with him led me instead to Longfellow’s “Cross of Snow,” largeness of address combined with intimate personal feeling, which led naturally to other poems by the same poet, as well as the rather plain spoken chorale settings which begin and end the piece.
About Jazimina MacNeil
Hailed as “fulminant” by the Berliner Morgenpost and “clearly a singer to watch” by the New York Times, Jazimina MacNeil’s recent and upcoming performances include Mahler’s Second Symphony at Carnegie Hall with the New York Youth Symphony, the roles of Anna in Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins at the Tanglewood Music Festival, Subdominant in Steven Stucky’s new opera The Classical Style with the Aspen Music Festival, Kate in Britten’s Owen Wingrave, Rinaldo in Handel’s Rinaldo, Siebel in Faust, Carolina in Hans Werner Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers, Idamente in Idomeneo, and Carmen in Peter Brook’s adaptation Le Tragedie de Carmen with the Curtis Opera Theater.
Other recent performances include concerts with the Apple Hill quartet, a solo recital with the Sideman Projekt in Berlin, a Verdi requiem with the Brattleboro Concert Choir, a Mozart requiem with the Albany Symphony, a solo recital at the Curt Sachs Saal in the Berlin Philharmonic, concerts at the Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony and the Steans Institute, concerts with the Marlboro Music Festival, Chicago Chamber Musicians, String Theory, and the winners recital of the Liederkranz Competition in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall. Jazimina received her bachelor’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music and her master’s degree from the Curtis Institute of Music.