|I. Woe to Ariel||05:34|
|II. The Earth Mourneth||04:51|
|III. The Daughters of Zion are Haughty||02:20|
|IV. Fear, and the Pit, and the Snare||08:04|
|V. The Lord Shall Give Thee Rest||03:47|
|VI. Break Forth into Joy||04:37|
Starer’s six-movement dramatic cantata, Ariel: Visions of Isaiah, for soprano and baritone soloists, chorus, and symphony orchestra, comprises settings of selected verses from the Book of Isaiah. It was commissioned by the Interracial Fellowship Chorus of New York in 1959 and received its premiere by that chorus under the direction of Harold Aks at Town Hall in New York City in 1960. The composer provided the following commentary:
Ariel (lit., Lion of God) is generally understood to be a symbolic name for Jerusalem, but may be interpreted in a much wider sense....The opening movement, “Woe to Ariel,” includes some of Isaiah’s grimmest prophecies of destruction. In the second movement, “The Earth Mourneth,” the solo baritone, representing Isaiah, speaks words of consolation. The third movement, “The Daughters of Zion are Haughty,” describes the wantonness of the daughters of Zion, their mincing steps and tinkling ornaments. The work arrives at a dramatic climax in the fourth movement, “Fear, and the Pit, and the Snare.” After a brief lament by the solo soprano, different voices are heard from the chorus in their response to imminent destruction: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die,” or, “Who seeth us? Who knoweth us?” or “Whither shall we flee, how shall we escape?” The turning point comes with the solo baritone singing, “Be strong, fear not!” The fifth movement, “The Lord Shall Give Thee Rest,” is scored for large and small chorus, a cappella, and the orchestra returns in the joyous finale, “Break Forth into Joy.”
Despite the unifying element of the text, this is in some respects a musically eclectic work—ranging from symbolic wordplay to whispering choral passages, and from the more ebullient, almost bucolic dance-inflected chorus sections to poignant solo vocal lines that are sometimes dramatic and sometimes supple and lyrical. Starer expresses with experienced craft a wide gamut of emotions, including woe and fear as well as optimistic resolve and, at the end, triumph—all within a well-balanced and astutely paced framework. He generally avoids the rigidity of overly declamatory vocal lines, preferring a more flexible style. And the orchestra’s role goes beyond accompaniment to become a partner with the other forces, never obscuring the all-important vocal parameters.
I. Woe to Ariel
Isaiah 29: 1-4
Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! Add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices.
Yet I will distress Ariel, there shall be heaviness and sorrow; and it shall be unto me as Ariel.
I will camp against thee, I will lay siege against thee, and will raise forts against thee.
And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and their speech shall whisper out of the dust.
II. The Earth Mourneth
The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away.
Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.
Woe unto them that join house to house. Woe unto them that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth.
III. The Daughters of Zion are Haughty
The daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion.
Therefore the Lord will take away the tinkling ornaments about their feet, their cauls and chains and bracelets and mufflers,
Their rings and bonnets and headbands and jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, the mantles and wimples and crisping pins,
The bracelets and mufflers and bonnets and earrings, the tablets and jewels and headbands and linen, the hoods and veils.
Instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of beauty, burning.
IV. Fear, and the Pit, and the Snare
Fear, and the pit, and the snare are upon thee, inhabitant of the earth.
Look away from me; I will weep bitterly, labour not to comfort me, because of the spoling of the daughter of my people.
It is a day of trouble, and of perplexity, and of crying to the mountains.
Isaiah 22:13, 29:15, 20:6
Behold joy and gladness, eating flesh and drinking wine. Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die. Who seeth us? Who knoweth us? Whiter shall we flee? How shall we escape?
Say to them that are of a fearful heart: Be strong, fear not: the Lord will come and save you. The haughty are brought to naught. All that watch for inquity are consumed. The meek, and the poor among men shall also rejoice in the Lord.
O Lord, I will praise thee: though Thou was angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortdest me.
V. The Lord Shall Give Thee Rest
The Lord shall give thee rest from thy sorry, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve.
The Lord will wipe away tears from all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from all the earth.
VI. Break Forth into Joy
Break forth into joy, sing together; for the Lord hath comforted his people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem.
Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem.
Isaiah 52: 1,2
Awake, stand up: put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments: shake thyself from the dust.
The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Come ye, come and let us go up to the mountains of the Lord; He will teach us of his ways and we will walk in His paths.
Let us walk in the light of the Lord.
Performers: Camerata Singers & Orchestra; Abraham Kaplan, Conductor; Julian Patrick, Baritone; Roberta Peters, Soprano
This recording under license from New World Records/CRI.