January 9, 2005
HSO Presents Rachmaninoff and Mozart in Concerts Jan 15 & 16
Carlos Miguel Prieto returns to lead the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra in a weekend featuring two unique and exciting concerts on January 15 and 16. The HSO presents the fourth concert of the Classical Series on Saturday, January 15 featuring the evocative and picturesque "Pictures at an Exhibition" by Moussorgsky. The next day, Sunday, January 16, the Mainly Mozart series continues in the VBC Concert Hall with a concert featuring Mozart's dramatic and enigmatic "Requiem" with chorus and soloists, including Huntsville's rising star, soprano Susanna Phillips.
Since his last Huntsville appearance in November, Prieto has conducted in the world famous Teatro Colon of Argentina, and in December, the Xalapa Symphony, under Prieto's baton, released a new recording of the music of the music of Silvestre Revueltas, the prominent 20th century Mexican composer.
Classical Concert III, Saturday, January 15, 7:30 p.m., VBC Concert Hall
Sponsored by Physicians 100
Guest Artist Sponsor of Yakov Kasman is Dr. and Mrs. Julian Davidson
The program begins with Toccata for Percussion Instruments by the important Mexican composer Carlos Chávez. Born in 1899 in Mexico City, Chávez was an important figure in Mexico's early 20th century artistic movement toward nationalism. He was largely self-taught as a composer, and cherished a lasting interest in indigenous Mexican music, thanks to his maternal grandfather, who was Indian. Many of his compositions draw upon the rhythmic energy and variety of pitched percussion instruments known in Aztec music even in Pre-Columbian times. These traditional effects play a central role in Chávez?s Toccata, scored for a variety of percussion soloists, including Indian drums, claves, and maracas. Though the title is one more associated with Bach harpsichord and organ works, Chávez moves beyond the ?toccata and fugue? to evoke the intensity and drama of an Aztec ceremony.
Yakov Kasman, a favorite of Huntsville audiences, returns for a performance of Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto. This dignified and lyrical concerto has emerged as a favorite with classical music audiences due in part to the popularity of the film "Shine." While essentially favorable, critical comments at the premiere in 1909 decried the work?s length and suggested the Rachmaninoff should shorten it.Their concern seems misplaced; the concerto is little longer than those of Tchaikovsky, and, in fact, is substantially shorter than either of the Brahms concerti. Rachmaninoff did undertake some minor revisions, resulting in little abbreviation of the score. Perhaps he believed, as Mozart once remarked about his own music, that it had exactly as many notes as were required.
To end the program, Prieto will lead the orchestra in the monumental Pictures at an Exhibition, orignially composed for piano by Modest Mussorgsky, and arranged for orchestra by the brilliant colorist Maurice Ravel. Pictures at an Exhibition was written in 1874 as a memorial to the composer?s late friend, the artist Victor Hartman. Mussorgsky?s original piano score remained little played due to its vast technical difficulties. The opinion arose that the piece might be better served by distributing its complexities over more than a single pair of hands. However, no effort attracted a following until, in 1922, conductor Serge Koussevitsky asked the French composer Maurice Ravel to take on the job. The result was a richly colored orchestration, more elegant and restrained than Mussorgsky?s electrifying score. So thoroughly did Ravel?s Pictures capture the public imagination that some listeners, on first confronting the piano version, reject it as somehow less than ?the real thing.? The suite portrays ten of Hartmann's pictures, interspersed with stately promenades dipicting a visitor strolling through the gallery. The finale, Great Gate of Kiev brings the suite to a triumphant conclusion with one of classical music's most recognized and beloved themes.
Yakov Kasman, piano
Since his trimphant American debut as the silver medalist at the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1997, Yakov Kasman has performed more than two hundred concerts in the United States, Russia, and Asia, and appeared as soloist with more than forty orchestras. Many of Kasman?s fourteen compact disc recordings with the Calliope and Harmonia Mundi labels have received awards and critical acclaim. After several years as artist-in-residence at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Kasman recently accepted an appointment to the faculty of Univeristy of Alabama in Birmingham.
Mainly Mozart II: Sunday, January 16, 2005, 3:00 p.m., VBC Concert Hall
Series sponsor is RNR Ventures. Concert Sponsor is Avocent.
Guest Artist sponsor of Susanna Phillips is REALTORS of Note.
The Bassoon Concerto is an early work of Mozart's, with jovial, dance-like themes and simple lyricism, well-suited to the instrument?s intrinsically buoyant character. Of 18th century composers, only Mozart wrote a showpiece for this instrument. Written in 1774, this was not only Mozart's first concerto for a wind instrument, but also his first concerto for any instrument other than the piano. Piano concertos came first because Mozart played the piano and needed compositions to showcase his skill. His only reason for writing a bassoon concerto was that he had a commission from an amateur bassoonist for this and several other works, none of which earned him a penny, a fact belied by the Bassoon concerto's jolly character.
The centerpiece of this concert is Mozart's Requiem, performed by chamber orchestra, four soloists and chorus. Commissioned under dramatic circumstances, Mozart's Requiem is one of the most personal, impassioned and profound of Mozart?s works. The Requiem is the object of many misconceptions. To clear up these erroneous beliefs, let it be stated unequivocally that Salieri had nothing whatsoever to do with the commissioning of the work, nor did he help Mozart to write it, and, contrary to the play and film Amadeus, there never was a ghostly stranger at the door with an anonymous commission. Mozart knew perfectly well who had requested and paid in advance for the Requiem. The only unusual part of the affair was that Mozart was neither to make copies of the score nor to reveal his involvement in it, and that the first performance was reserved for the man who commissioned the piece, one Count Walsegg-Stuppach. The Count, it seems, pretended to some compositional ability, and liked to pass off the work of others as his own. Any further mystery about the transaction is purely the creation of overly imaginative historians. The Requiem was begun late in 1791, in the last few months of Mozart's life, when he was already deeply entrenched in two new operas. Most of his failing strength went into the operas, both of which were completed and staged. By the time of his death, the work was incomplete, to be finished by a composition student of Mozart's and delivered to the commissioner.
?Sneak Preview,? HSO?s final rehearsal at 11:00 a.m. on concert day, is open to the public for a nominal charge of $5.00. Season passes are also available at $25.00 for a single, and $50.00 for a family of three. Children 5 and under are free. Sponsor is Publix Super Markets Charities.
Susanna Phillips, soprano
Alabama native Susanna Phillips regularly draws capacity audiences for her performances in Huntsville and New York City. In March 2005, Miss Phillips will join the renowned Lyric Opera Center for American Artists at the Chicago Lyric Opera. Miss Phillips made her HSO debut in March 2004 in the critically successfuly performace of Carmina Burana. She collaborated last fall with HSO Music Director Carlos Prieto in an acclaimed performance of Mozart's Coronation Mass during Prieto's successful Haydn-Mozart series in Mexico City.
Miss Phillips was soprano soloist for New York POPS at Carnegie Hall on Friday, April 23, 2004. While in Huntsville, she studied at Ars Nova School of the Arts with Ginger Beazley. She received the Master of Music degree in May, 2004 from The Juilliard School in New York, where she was a student of Cynthia Hoffmann. She has worked in Europe and the United States in master classes with artists such as Marilyn Horne, Leontyne Price, Thomas Hampson, Barbara Bonney, Elly Ameling, Jose Van Dam, Grace Bumbry and Warren Jones.
Hunter Thomas, bassoon
Hunter Thomas was appointed Principal Bassoon of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra in 1996, and has performed with the HSO in various positions since 1971. He grew up in Huntsville, played with the Huntsville Youth Orchestra, and in 1973 was the first winner of HSO's Young Artist Competition's instrumental division. From 1980-1984 he served as Principal Bassoon of the National Orchestra of Colombia, South America. Mr. Thomas performs regularly with orchestras throughout the region, including the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, the Alabama Symphony, the Gadsden Symphony, the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Thomas also serves as HSO's Orchestra Personnel Manager and Librarian.
Penny Tullock, contralto
Penny Downs Tullock of Chattanooga is a soloist with Choral Arts of Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Bach Choir as well as a frequent guest artist and recitalist in the Chattanooga area. Ms. Tullock is a featured soloist on ?Days of Blue and Gray?, a CD of Civil War era music, and ?Dave Brubeck in Chattanooga,? both recorded with Choral Arts. Primarily an oratorio artist, Ms. Tullock has performed Bach?s St. John Passion, Saint Seans? Christmas Oratorio, and Vaughan Williams? Mass in G Minor as well as numerous cantatas and chamber works. Guest appearances include Handel?s He has recorded with Telarc, NPR, Eclectra, Halcyon and Onda.
Michael McMurray, bass
Mr. McMurray has always sought ways to combine his art with his concern for humanitarian and environmental issues. His visit to the Chernobyl nuclear complex inspired his composition Chant for Chernobyl, which had it its December 2002 premiere in St. Petersburg, Russia, and is scheduled for release on the Naxos label. On the first anniversary of September 11, Mr. McMurray was soloist in Mozart's Requiem, broadcast on 500 stations.
Huntsville Community Chorus, Billy Orton, chorusmaster
Highlighting the performance is a chorus consisting of voices by the Huntsville Community Chorus, Huntsville's oldest performing organization, founded in 1946. The ensemble has been prepared by Billy Orton, HCC's Music Director and Conductor since 2002. Orton also serves as Minister of Music and Worship at First Baptist Church in Huntsville where he directs a music program of over 25 choirs, instrumental groups, and ensembles, including three adult and youth choirs of the church and the First Baptist Church Orchestra.
Advance ticket purchase for HSO concerts is recommended. Tickets may be purchased by phone at 539-4818, in person at the HSO Offices and online at www.hso.org. Tickets may also be purchased the night of the concert at the Concert Hall beginning at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday, and 2:15 p.m. on Sunday. For Saturday?s concert, single ticket prices range from $24 to $54, with student and group rates available, and there is a $5.00 student rush beginning at 7:20 p.m. For Sunday?s concert, ticket prices are $25 for adults and $15 for students.
Pre-Concert Conversations with Carlos are thirty-minute informal talks that provide insights into the program, beginning at 6:45 for Classical Series Concerts. There is no Pre-Concert Conversation on Sunday for the Mainly Mozart Concert.
?Sneak Preview,? HSO?s final rehearsal at 11:00 a.m. on concert day for Classical Series concerts only, is open to the public for a nominal charge of $5.00. Children 5 and under are free. Sponsor is Publix Super Markets Charities.
The Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, North Alabama?s premiere performing arts organization, traces its beginnings back to the winter of 1954-55 and the presence of Wernher von Braun and his German rocket teams, whose arrival in Huntsville sparked an era of sensational growth. While the professional lives of these new residents were dedicated to visions of space exploration, they brought with them a lifelong passion for classical music. Many of the Germans played in the first orchestra. Their energy and influence set the tone for the vibrant cultural life enjoyed today by the residents of the Tennessee Valley. HSO provides high quality classical music performances and education to the entire region. More information is available at 539-4818 and this website.