Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia Performs Three New Choral Commissions by Clearfield, Higdon and Primosch on Their Latest CD – METAMORPHOSIS




December 8, 2011
Janelle McCoy, Executive Director
Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia

Edward McNally, Above The Fold PR

Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia Performs Three New Choral Commissions

by Clearfield, Higdon and Primosch on Their Latest CD – METAMORPHOSIS

(Philadelphia) Three original works by contemporary American composers Andrea Clearfield, Jennifer Higdon and James Primosch, all based in Philadelphia, are featured on the new CD recording of performances by Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. All three works were commissioned by Mendelssohn Club and premiered in concert with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia over the past five years. Titled METAMORPHOSIS, the CD is being released on the Innova label and will be available for sale at Mendelssohn Club concerts beginning December 10, 2011 and online in March, 2012.

Under the dynamic leadership of artistic director Alan Harler, Mendelssohn Club has demonstrated a major commitment to new music, commissioning nearly fifty choral works over the past twenty-four years. METAMORPHOSIS is the first recording of all original commissions in the 138-year history of the chorus. On the DeaMetamorphosisth of the Righteous by Jennifer Higdon was recorded live in concert on March 29, 2009; Andrea Clearfield’s The Golem Psalm was recorded in concert on May 7, 2006; and Fire-Memory/River-Memory by James Primosch was recorded live November 3, 2007. It is a happy coincidence that all three composers are based in Philadelphia, but the wide range of talents represented on METAMORPHOSIS also reflects the very high caliber of musical composition and performance in this city.

The three works chosen for the new CD confront and reflect on such fundamental themes as the power of redemption over evil, the numbing indignity of modern warfare, the timeless quality of collective memory and our potential for compassion and forgiveness. Jennifer Higdon’s work was commissioned to be performed on a program with the Verdi Requiem, and the composer chose a sermon by poet and clergyman John Donne to match the Requiem in weight and mood. The Golem Psalms, by Andrea Clearfield, recounts the famous legend of the Golem of Prague, a Frankenstein-like creature from Jewish folklore (libretto by Ellen Frankel). A seven-note motif set to the phrase “form and life and change and death” spins endlessly through the work like a wheel. The two concluding tracks by Primosch are based on two thematically related poems by Denise Levertov. Fire-Memory exposes the anonymous brutality and senselessness of war while River-Memory conveys, in a very spiritual sense, the circle of life moving inexorably forward.

Performed in seven sections, The Golem Psalms forms the centerpiece of the METAMORPHOSIS  CD and features the voice of baritone Sanford Sylvan. Music critic David Patrick Stearns, writing in The Philadelphia Inquirer, believes “What makes the work a Clearfield triumph is the evolution of strengths in this composer-her way of elucidating text meaning in deeply vivid ways. In The Golem Psalms (she does so) within well-weighted, singable phrases that reflect mastery with large choral and instrumental force.”

The recording of METAMORPHOSIS is made possible in part by the Premiere Recording Program, a joint initiative of the Presser Foundation and the Philadelphia Music Project, a program of the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by the University of the Arts; and the Alan Harler New Ventures Fund.

One of America’s oldest choruses, Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia performs choral music to create a shared transcendent experience among its singers and audiences. Through the excellence of its adventurous performances, Mendelssohn Club advances the development of choral music as an art form. For information about Mendelssohn Club’s concerts and programs, or to order tickets for the 2011-2012 season, visit You can also find Mendelssohn Club on Facebook at and on Twitter:

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Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia
PO Box 59522
Philadelphia, PA 19102



Higdon, Jennifer

Donne, John, lyricist

1. On the Death of the Righteous

Clearfield, Andrea

Traditional Jewish folklore, Frankel, Ellen, lyricist

2. The Golem Psalms – The Creation of the Golem

3. The Golem Psalms – Abracadabra
The Golem Psalms – The Dangers of the Name
The Golem Psalms – The Fountain of Voices
The Golem Psalms – Amok
The Golem Psalms –  Sounds of Clay/Alas Poor Joseph

8. The Golem Psalms – The Uncreation of the Golem

Primosch, James

Levertov, Denise, lyricist

9. Fire-River/River-Memory – What Were They Like?

10. Fire-River/River-Memory –  Of Rivers

Composer(s): Higdon, Jennifer; Clearfield, Andrea; Primosch, James

Lyricist(s): Donne, John; Jewish Traditional, Frankel, Ellen; Levertov, Denise

Conductor(s): Harler, Alan

Ensemble(s): Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia

Choir(s) Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia

Artist(s): Sylvan, Sanford, baritone

Label: Innova

Genre: Choral – Secular

Period: Contemporary

Physical Release: 2012

Recorded by: Joe Hannigan at Weston Sound

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