Jeffrey Thomas will conduct the UC Davis University Chorus when it performs choral works from three of the biggest names in Baroque music at 7 p.m. Friday in Jackson Hall. Courtesy photo


University Chorus to sing Vivaldi, Bach and Handel

By From page A9 | November 29, 2011


What: UC Davis University Chorus sings Vivaldi, Bach and Handel

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts

Tickets: $12-$17 general, $8 students; (530) 754-2787; www.mondaviarts.org

The UC Davis University Chorus — joined by a small orchestra of strings, winds, harpsichord and organ — will present famous choral works from three of the biggest names in Baroque music at 7 p.m. Friday in the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall.

Conductor Jeffrey Thomas will lead performances of Antonio Vivaldi’s “Beatus Vir,” RV 597, as well as J.S. Bach’s “Magnificat” in D Major, BWV 243, and George Frideric Handel’s “Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day.”

The Vivaldi  is a setting of Psalm 111, thought to have been written between 1713 and 1719. The piece runs about 25 minutes, and is unusual among Vivaldi’s choral pieces in that it includes solo parts for solo tenor and bass.

Vivaldi wrote much of his music for the Pio Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned children in Venice where boys were taught a trade, but girls received music education, with many of them going on to musical careers. As a result, much of Vivaldi’s choral music was written with female voices in mind, leading some scholars to conclude that “Beatus Vir” probably was a commission from a patron outside Venice.

The Vivaldi is written for two choruses and orchestras, whose roles are often contrasted antiphonally, or in fugues.

Bach liked to revise and rework his music, and so there are two versions of the Bach “Magnificat” — an initial version in the key of E flat major, written around Christmastime in 1723, and a revised version in D major that dates from the summer of 1733.

The second version in D major is the one that is more commonly heard nowadays, and it will be this one that will be performed by the University Chorus.

The Bach “Magnificat” is music that Thomas is fond of.  He describe it as “an utterly charming work. The brevity of each of its movements lends itself perfectly to colorfully varied treatment, each one a morsel of ingenuity and perfection. The work has enchanted audiences for generations. It remains one of Bach’s most witty and colorful liturgical works.”

The Handel “Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day” is based on a text by the English poet John Dryden. Handel is said to have composed the music in just nine days (Sept. 15-24, 1739). St. Cecilia is the patroness of musicians and church music, and Dryden’s text refers to trumpets, violins, organ, etc. — and Handel followed that idea by writing passages that feature those instruments, and, of course, the vocal soloists and choir as well.

The final section of the Ode — in which a soloist sings “The trumpet shall be heard on high” — leads into a spectacular choral section in which the choir sings “The dead shall live, the living die, and Music shall untune the sky.”

This Ode contains some of Handel’s most famous choral music, outside the context of his universally familiar oratorio “Messiah,” which Thomas will be performing at the Mondavi Center with the American Bach Soloists on Dec. 18.

The soloists for this performance by the University Chorus will be Cecilia Leitner, soprano; Danielle Reutter-Harrah, mezzo-soprano; Eric Jurenas, countertenor; Brian Thorsett, tenor; and Robert Stafford, baritone.

Steven Bailey will be the organist, and the orchestra will feature numerous faculty artists as well as student musicians from UC Davis.

Tickets are $12-$17 general, $8 students, available by calling (530) 754-2787 or online at www.mondaviarts.org.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.

Jeff Hudson

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