Press Room

Trinity Wall Street announces panelists for Stravinsky Festival

The three-day festival of Igor Stravinsky’s complete sacred works presented by Trinity Wall Street from April 26 to April 28 will include two fascinating pre-concert panel discussions on Saturday, April 27. The scholar panel, to be held at 3 p.m., will be moderated by Richard Wilson, who is a professor at Vassar College and composer-in-residence with the American Symphony Orchestra; the panel will also feature Vincent Giroud, Andrew Kuster and Trinity Wall Street music director Julian Wachner. The composer panel, to be held at 7 p.m., will be moderated by Wilson and will include Wachner, along with Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Wuorinen and Pulitzer nominee Fred Lerdahl. Trinity’s Stravinsky festival will present 16 of the iconic composer’s contributions to the genre of modern sacred music – from the celebrated Symphony of Psalms of 1930 to his final masterpiece, Requiem Canticles, of 1966 – performed by the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, NOVUS NY and musical guests, and conducted by Wachner. Along with the April 27 pre-concert events, the April 26 concert will be preceded by a lecture led by critic and scholar Matthew Guerrieri, who recently appeared on The Colbert Report to discuss his book The First Four Notes. Admission to the April 26 and 28 concerts will be free of charge, while the concert on April 27 will serve as a benefit for Trinity’s mentoring and music education initiatives. All three performances and all of the lectures and discussions will be webcast live and on-demand at
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) is popularly known for the succès de scandale of The Rite of Spring, which famously caused riots at its Paris premiere a century ago in 1913 due to its pagan themes and percussive style. Yet this iconic ballet score represents only one of Stravinsky’s many facets as a composer. Rather than commemorating the centenary with a rendition of The Rite itself, Trinity mines a rich, yet often neglected, vein of Stravinsky’s output: the sacred music. It was after experiencing a spiritual crisis in his early forties that Stravinsky rejoined the Russian Orthodox Church of his upbringing and began composing religious music. Many of the resulting works were written in the 12-tone serial style that he had come to embrace, and, to this day, they present challenges to all but the finest exponents of contemporary music.
Trinity Wall Street, blessed with first-rate musical forces, is in the rare and happy position of being able to program this important body of work in its entirety. As a recent New York Times feature observed, music director Julian Wachner has taken the church’s program to new heights,” rendering music at Trinityone of the city’s treasures.” Over the festival’s three days, all of Stravinsky’s sacred compositions will be heard, accompanied by informative pre-concert lectures and panel discussions. Trinity’s ensembles will be joined by an impressive roster of vocal soloists, including star baritone Sanford Sylvan, who reprises the role in Abraham and Isaac in which his “impressive and gripping” performance at the Los Angeles Philharmonic “revealed what it is that gives Stravinsky his enduring power over us,” according to a Los Angeles Times review.
For the first festival program on Friday, April 26, Trinity presents four of Stravinsky’s late 12-tone works, three of which derive from biblical texts. Abraham and Isaac (1962-63), his ballad for baritone and chamber orchestra, is sung in Hebrew, and Stravinsky dedicated it to the people of Israel.  His musical drama The Flood (1962) also draws inspiration from the Old Testament, although it was originally written for American television. Threni (1957–58), his first and longest wholly serial composition, takes its Latin text from the Book of Lamentations, and Introitus (1965), a setting for male choir and chamber ensemble of the opening of the Catholic Requiem Mass, was written as an elegy to the composer’s Anglo-Catholic friend (and leading poet of the 20th century): T.S. Eliot.
Eliot is just one of the prominent musical, literary and political figures Stravinsky would commemorate in music; the festival’s second program, on Saturday, April 27, offers two more. Scored for baritone and clarinets, Elegy for J.F.K. (1964) was composed after the president’s assassination and features a text that Stravinsky requested from W.H. Auden. Another poet with whom he had hoped to collaborate was Dylan Thomas, but when the Welshman’s death prevented this, Stravinsky instead composed In Memoriam Dylan Thomas (1954). Framed by a trombone dirge, a tenor soloist sings Thomas’s refrain, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” in the composer’s first exercise in total pitch serialization. Equally sepulchral is Stravinsky’s final work, the Requiem Canticles (1966), a partial setting of the Latin Requiem Mass; it would be performed at his own funeral, five years after its composition. A Sermon, a Narrative, and a Prayer (1960-61) – a cantata set to English verses from the King James translation of the New Testament and from the contemporaneous English poet Thomas Dekker – opens the program, and the day’s event closes with Canticum sacrum (1955), Stravinsky’s tribute to the city of Venice. Although Canticum sacrum’s second movement marks Stravinsky’s first time composing a movement based on a tone row, the piece as a whole is stylistically varied, encompassing both experimental and neoclassical writing. Stravinsky’s arrangement of the Canonic Variations on “Vom Himmel hoch” (1956) is based on J.S. Bach’s set of five canonical variations for organ on Martin Luther’s Christmas hymn of the same name. Stravinsky’s choral-orchestral version adds additional contrapuntal lines to the iconic works by Bach.
One of the most important works from Stravinsky’s neoclassical period, the Symphony of Psalms (1930; two piano reduction version), forms the centerpiece of Trinity’s third and final festival program on Sunday, April 28. Named the “best composition of the 20th century” by Time magazine, the three-movement choral symphony is the first of Stravinsky’s sacred pieces, written immediately after Oedipus Rex and Apollo, two works with a pagan subject matter. His Mass (1944-48) for chorus and winds shares its austere, neoclassical aesthetic with the Symphony of Psalms. In both works, he specified that children’s voices should be employed, so the Trinity Youth Chorus will participate in the upcoming performance. The program opens with two of Stravinsky’s compositions in English: Anthem (“The dove descending breaks the air”) (1962), a serial setting for a cappella chorus of a poem by T.S. Eliot, and Cantata (1951-52). Scored for soprano, tenor, female choir, and chamber ensemble, this work takes its text from such English ballads and carols as “A Lyke-Wake Dirge,” which depicts the soul’s journey through purgatory.
Panelist Bios
Richard Wilson is the composer of more than 100 works, including three symphonies and five string quartets. His opera Aethelred the Unready was recently staged at Symphony Space. He is Mary Conover Mellon Professor of Music at Vassar College and composer-in-residence with the American Symphony Orchestra.
Charles Wuorinen began composing at age five. At 16, he won the first of numerous awards that now include a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur “Genius” award.  His catalog includes more than 260 compositions.  His opera based on Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain will receive its premiere in January 2014 at Madrid’s Teatro Real. A special concert at the Guggenheim Museum will mark Wuorinen’s 75th birthday on June 9, 2013.
Fred Lerdahl, the Fritz Reiner Professor of Musical Composition at Columbia University, has had his music performed by major chamber ensembles and orchestras across the country and around the world. Three of his works composed since 2000 – Time after Time for chamber ensemble, his Third String Quartet, and Arches for cello and chamber orchestra – have each been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.
Vincent Giroud, formerly curator of modern books and manuscripts at the Beinecke Library at Yale University, is currently professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Franche-Comté at Besançon, France. He has published extensively in the area of European and American modernism. His most recent book is French Opera: A Short History (2010), and he has just completed a biography of the Russian-born American composer (and friend of Stravinsky) Nicolas Nabokov.
Andrew Kuster was honored for his writing about Stravinsky’s 12-tone works with the Julius Herford Prize for Distinguished Doctoral Research in 2001 from the American Choral Directors Association. As a scholar and conductor, he specializes in the works of Stravinsky, Messiaen, Amy Beach, Kurt Weill and Heinrich Schütz.
Further details of the Stravinsky festival follow, and more information is available at
Trinity Wall Street
One of the oldest, largest and most vibrant of all Episcopal parishes, Trinity Wall Street is located in the heart of Manhattan’s financial district, where it has created a dynamic home for great music. Serving as director of Trinity’s Music and the Arts Program – as well as principal conductor of the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, period-instrument Trinity Baroque Orchestra, and contemporary-music ensemble-in-residence NOVUS NY – Julian Wachner also oversees all liturgical, professional and community music and arts programming at Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel. The music at Trinity ranges from large-scale oratorios to chamber music, from intimate a cappella singing to jazz improvisation. All concerts at Trinity Wall Street are professionally filmed and broadcast live at
Trinity Wall Street presents Stravinsky Festival: The Complete Sacred Works
April 26-28 at Trinity Church, New York, NY
Choir of Trinity Wall Street
Trinity Youth Chorus (April 28 only)
Julian Wachner, conductor
Friday, April 26
7 p.m.: pre-concert lecture given by Matthew Guerrieri
8 p.m.: concert (free admission)
The Flood
Abraham and Isaac
Saturday, April 27
3 p.m.: panel discussion, moderated by Richard Wilson, with Vincent Giroud, Andrew Kuster and Julian Wachner
7 p.m.: panel discussion, moderated by Richard Wilson, with Charles Wuorinen, Fred Lerdahl and Julian Wachner
8 p.m.: concert (benefit for music education)
A Sermon, a Narrative and a Prayer
Elegy for J.F.K.
In Memoriam Dylan Thomas
Requiem Canticles
Canticum sacrum
Bach (arr. Stravinsky):
Canonic Variations on “Vom Himmel hoch”
Sunday, April 28
3 p.m.: concert (free admission)
Pater Noster
Ave Maria
Symphony of Psalms (two piano reduction)
Follow Trinity Wall Street on Facebook
Follow Trinity Wall Street on Twitter
© 21C Media Group, April 2013



Return to Press Room