The Grammy-nominated early music ensemble Ars Lyrica announced its 2013-2014 season this week, a season highlighted by the Texas premiere of a seldom-heard Handel oratorio and the first performance since 1710 (!) of another oratorio by the Italian composer Alessandro Scarlatti. (Full schedule here.) Ars Lyrica celebrates two milestones with the new season, which marks 15 years since Matthew Dirst founded Ars Lyrica and 10 years since the group was incorporated as a 501(c)3. “It’s hard to believe it’s ten years—they’ve flown by,” Dirst says.
Also on next season’s schedule are a subscription series devoted to the music of French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier; a special concert of works commissioned by the legendary patron Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia; the organization’s annual New Year’s Eve concert; and two Bach wedding cantatas. As a bonus concert for season subscribers, Dirst will perform Bach’s Goldberg Variations on a replica of a harpsichord from Bach’s time.
“It’s a weird, Ouija-board experience to plan the season,” Dirst says. “I’ve been wanting to work with certain people for a while, and I’ve been waiting to perform certain pieces. Once I have those pillars in place, it was just a matter of coming up with a theme.” That theme, appropriately enough for a season that includes a piece that hasn’t been performed since the early eighteenth century, is “Discoveries.”
Both the Scarlatti and the Handel oratorios are large-scale works requiring soloists and a choir. Handel’s Susanna is based on an apocryphal Old Testament book. Dirst considers Scarlatti one of the great masters of Italian opera, and Ars Lyrica recorded a CD of his work for Naxos a few years ago. The composer has long been an “abiding fascination” of Dirst’s.
“This is the most beautiful music you’ve never heard,” he promises.