University Chorus, Symphony present choral works by Mozart, Brahms

By From page A7 | March 06, 2014


Kendall Gladen, seen here in the title role in "Carmen," will be appearing with UCD University Chorus and UCD Symphony on Sunday, March 9. Courtesy photo

The UC Davis University Chorus and Alumni Chorus,  plus the UCD Symphony Orchestra, will combine for a concert titled “Spiritual Ascension” on Sunday, March 9, at 7 p.m. in the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall.

The program’s first half — to be conducted by Jeffrey Thomas, leader of the University Chorus and Alumni Chorus — will feature three works. First up will be “Heilig” (H.778) by C.P.E. Bach (1714-88), one of the sons of J.S. Bach. C.P.E. Bach became a prominent composer in the mid-1700s, as the Baroque era faded and the early Classical style took hold.

“Heilig,” published in 1779, portrays heavenly and earthly voices joining in praise, and invokes the Venetian tradition of two choirs, with the singers on one side representing angels, and singers on the other side representing the people. Similarly, there are two orchestras, each composed of trumpets, timpani, oboes, strings and continuo.

Next will be Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Consecration of the House” Overture, dating from 1822. The piece was written for the opening of a new theater in Vienna; Beethoven decided to emulate the style of G.F. Handel, whose music Beethoven admired.

The piece includes trumpet fanfares, bassoon solos and a movement that emulates a fugue, in addition to sharp dynamic contrasts (soft and loud) that remind some listeners of the opera overtures of Gioachino Rossini, who was a rising musical figure during Beethoven’s later years.

Wrapping up the first half will be the Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53, of Johannes Brahms. Brahms wrote the piece in 1869 as a wedding gift for Robert and Clara Schumann’s daughter Julie. Many scholars believe Brahms had unrequited romantic feelings toward Julie, who was 20 years younger than Brahms; she married an Italian nobleman.

The Alto Rhapsody is often thought of as an autumnal piece; the text is taken from a poem by Goethe depicting a lonely traveler in a bleak winter setting and the piece ultimately concludes with a gentler depiction of hope and rest.

The featured soloist in this performance will be alto Kendall Gladen, a former Adler Fellow who has appeared with the San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Opera and other groups. Gladen was heard at the Mondavi Center in 2006 in a semi-staged performance of the opera “Carmen”; she also performed at Mondavi last year in a performance of the Elgar oratorio “The Dream of Gerontius” by the UCD University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra.

The program’s second half will feature a single work, the Mozart Requiem, which will be conducted by Christian Baldini, leader of the UCD Symphony Orchestra. (Jeffrey Thomas conducted a performance of the piece with the University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra in 2006.)

Mozart famously did not live to finish his setting of the Requiem; it was completed in 1792, the year after Mozart’s death, by his student Süssmayr. While various composers through the years have written other conclusions for the piece — in 2006, for instance, Thomas conducted a Requiem completed by contemporary American composer Robert Levin — Baldini decided to go with Süssmayr’s completion on the grounds that “Süssmayr had a direct contact with the genesis of this piece … and that he understood the liturgical climate of the time.”

Baldini also notes Mozart’s fascination with the music of J.S. Bach in the early 1780s, and his subsequent interest in the music of Handel in the late 1780s and early 1790s. Mozart arranged Handel’s “Messiah” in 1789. Baldini also notes that the Requiem (in the key of D Minor) finds Mozart returning to the key he picked for the opening of his overture to the opera “Don Giovanni.”

The soloists for this performance will be Jacqueline Piccolino, soprano; Gladen, alto; A.J. Glueckert, tenor; and Efraín Solís, bass.

Tickets are $12-$17 general, $8 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.

Jeff Hudson

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