Performance Thursday, November 6, 2014 | 8 PM

Orchestra of St. Luke's

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Shakespeare’s magic has inspired composers from the early Baroque to the present day. Purcell’s Suite from A Midsummer Night’s Dream evokes Shakespeare’s fairy kingdom, while Tchaikovsky’s lushly Romantic depiction of the sea brings the poet’s The Tempest to life. Nocturnal events are at the heart of works by Dallapiccola and Mendelssohn. Piccola musica notturna is an evocative portrayal of a summer night. Otherworldly events make Mendelssohn’s setting of Goethe’s Die erste Walpurgisnacht (The First Witches’ Night) a thrilling choral depiction of the night witches and demons.


  • Orchestra of St. Luke's
    Pablo Heras-Casado, Principal Conductor
  • Elizabeth DeShong, Mezzo-Soprano
  • Joseph Kaiser, Tenor
  • Luca Pisaroni, Bass-Baritone
  • Musica Sacra
    Kent Tritle, Music Director


  • PURCELL Suite from A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • TCHAIKOVSKY The Tempest
  • DALLAPICCOLA Piccola musica notturna
  • MENDELSSOHN Die erste Walpurgisnacht


Mendelssohn's Die erste Walpurgisnacht (Overture)
Chamber Orchestra of Europe | Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Conductor

At a Glance

HENRY PURCELL  Suite from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Purcell called his late theatrical work The Fairy Queen, but it was a typical “semi-opera” of the late 17th century, consisting of spoken play with actors (in this case a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream heavily adapted, apparently by Elkanah Settle) alternating with a series of musical sections with elaborate staging effects, totally unrelated to the plot of the play. Such a production guaranteed that audiences got their money’s worth.


After Tchaikovsky had started to make a name for himself with his fantasy-overture Romeo and Juliet (generally regarded as his first masterpiece) and first two symphonies, his friend, critic Vladimir Stasov, helped him map out a new piece, evidently turning once more to Shakespeare in the hope that lightning would strike twice. Again choosing to write a purely orchestral work as an “overture” that evoked particular characters and incidents from Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest may lack the narrative drive of the earlier score, which is heard far more often, but it contains the romantic heart of the story, which clearly attracted the composer most strongly.

LUIGI DALLAPICCOLA Piccola musica notturna

Slyly taking his title from Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik (both translate as “A little night music”), Dallapiccola composed a short, evocative night piece for a festival of music to be presented for young audiences in 1954.

Felix Mendelssohn   Die erste Walpurgisnacht, Op. 60

Although Mendelssohn is not generally regarded as a particularly dramatic composer (his only “operas” are short, lighthearted works written in his youth), his concert setting of Goethe’s pantheistic poem about pagan ritual in the dark forests of northern Europe betrays a real theatrical character. It played a large role in the development of secular cantatas for chorus, soloists, and orchestra in the Romantic era and beyond.

This performance is part of Orchestra of St. Luke's.