American Guild of Organists To Premiere Matthus Te Deum
As the final event of its 2008 national convention, the American Guild of Organists will feature the U.S. premiere of Siegfried Matthus's Te Deum at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 26, 2008 under the direction of Philip Brunelle. The 70-minute monument for six solo voices, mixed chorus, organ and orchestra, which has been described as "the strongest choral work since the Britten War Requiem," was commissioned for and first heard in connection with the reconsecration of the celebrated Frauenkirche in Dresden in 2005 conducted by Kurt Masur. It is made up of twelve segments in which the traditional Latin liturgical text is interlaced with various German-language texts having a direct connection to both historical events and the joys and sorrows of humankind throughout the ages.
Four trumpets set the scene for the ensemble of rejoicing soloists (1. Jubilate); the solo bass longs for this day (2. "Ersehnter Tag"); the solo organ is introduced with a reference to Bach's D minor Toccata (3. Die Orgel); a touching letter from Heinrich von Kleist is intoned by the alto solo, women's and children's chorus (4. Dresden); and then all hell breaks loose with a mélange of texts by Schiller, Rainer-Maria Rilke, Virgil, true-life reports of surviving witnesses, and the "Dies irae" (5. Inferno); a hauntingly quiet scene for the three women soloists (6. "Lacrimosa"); the innocent young bystanders in a children's chorus with orchestra (7. "Kinderreime"); a setting from the Book of Ezra for bass solo, men's chorus and orchestra (8. "So geschah, was Gott geboten"); and a gradual tapering to ultimate peace (9. "Musik, Vorhof himmlischer Lust", 10. "Schwerer als Hass ist die Liebe", 11. "Herr Gott, wir loben dich"), and finally 12. after a recapping of the great hymn of praise and exultation, an "Amen" for the entire ensemble.
It has often been observed that Verdi's Requiem could only have been conceived by a man of the theatre. The same may be claimed for Matthus's Te Deum, written by a composer with an output that includes a dozen operas, one of which, Cornet Christoph Rilke's Song of Love and Death, is actually quoted in the Te Deum's "Inferno" segment. In reporting on the Dresden premiere, the Berliner Morgenpost stated: "If there were such a thing as a national composer in Germany, Matthus could surely lay claim to this title."
Siegfried Matthus's Te Deum is published by Interklang-Verlag. Examination material is available on request in the U.S. and Canada from Music Associates of America.