Choruses by Arnold Schönberg, Leoš Janáček, Béla Bartók, Antonín Dvořák and J. Suk
A. Schönberg – De profundis, Friede auf Erden, 3 Volksliedsätze
A. Dvořák, arr. L. Janáček – 6 Moravian Duets
L. Janáček – Autumn Song
B. Bartók – 4 Slovak Folk Songs
J. Suk – 3 Songs
Choir Master: Erwin Ortner
Arnold Schoenberg Chor
This concert presents choral works by both Janáček and his Czech and international contemporaries. The Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg (1874–1951) shared Janáček’s expressive musical voice as well as his determination and enthusiasm for revolutionary and inventive thinking. From Schönberg’s work we will hear the late-Romantic chorus Friede auf Erden, op. 13, contrasted with two of the composer’s last works: Three Folksongs, op. 49, based on folk melodies from the 15th and 16th century, and the spellbinding dodecaphonic rendering of the psalm De profundis, op. 50 (1950). Janáček and Béla Bartók (1881–1945) are linked by their lifelong love of folk music. The musical form of Four Slovak Folk Songs Accompanied by Piano (1916–17) is surprisingly close to Janáček’s arrangement of folk music. Czech and Slovak folk poetry are also presented in Three Songs for Mixed Choir, op. 19 by Josef Suk (1874–1935), who continued in the Dvořák tradition presented in the Moravian Duets. Six of Dvořák’s duets were arranged by Leoš Janáček for mixed choir and piano in 1877 and 1884. Also dating from this period is Janáček’s shorter piece composed for the 20th anniversary of the Brno Beseda mixed choir: Autumn Song to text by Jaroslav Vrchlický from 1880.
The Arnold Schönberg Chor, established in 1972 by conductor Erwin Ortner, is one of the most versatile and productive professional choirs in Austria. The ensemble’s repertoire ranges from Renaissance to Baroque music, to the present day and an emphasis on contemporary music. The choir particularly specializes in a cappella music, though it often participates in the production of large-scale orchestral-vocal compositions. The ensemble also regularly appears in opera productions. In 2007 their performance in Janáček’s opera From the House of the Dead under the baton of Pierre Boulez was hailed as a great success. The choir regularly participates in international music festivals (Wiener Festwochen, Salzburger Festspiele etc.) and has worked with the world’s foremost conductors (including Claudio Abbado, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Marc Minkowski). The performing style of the ensemble has been significantly influenced by their long-term collaboration with the conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Under his direction the choir won a Grammy in 2002 for their recording of Bach‘s Matthew’s Passion. Under the artistic guidance of Erwin Ortner the group was chosen as choir of the year at the Classical Music Awards (1994) and was awarded the German Critics’ Award and the French Diapason d’Or (1996) for their recording of Schubert’s choral works.
The conductor and choirmaster Erwin Ortner is the founder and artistic director of the Arnold Schoenberg Chor. From 1983 to 1995 he was the conductor of the ORF Austrian Radio Choir. His close, long-term collaboration with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Concentus Musicus Wien is evidenced by their numerous recordings and awards. In his joint projects with the highly acclaimed pianist Mauriz Pollin, Erwin Ortner has performed in New York, Paris, Tokyo, Rome and Salzburg. He is regularly invited to work with European orchestras, opera houses, as well as renowned concert organisers: RSO-Wien, Camerata Salzburg, Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, Theater an der Wien, Salzburger Festspiele, Mozartwoche Salzburg, Musikverein Wien, Wiener Konzerthaus etc. From 1980 to 2016 he was professor of choral conducting at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. He is regularly invited to teach at prestigious courses on choral and orchestral conducting.