So, in 2006, Bravo! Vail, like just about every organization that is remotely connected to music of any form, celebrated Mozart’s 250th birthday.
As one part of the festivities, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra played Mozart’s 41st Symphony (“Jupiter”) and then his Requiem in a concert.
Even before I knew who Mozart was or had any concept of what a requiem mass might be, I knew the “tuba mirum” section of this piece. Pop sang it in the shower seemingly every day. (Tuba mirum spargens sonum. “The trumpet will send its wondrous sound.”) On that day back in 2006, when the bass sung the first few notes I had heard on a daily basis, I got chills and thought of my father back in San Francisco.
About seven weeks later, he dropped dead from a heart attack.
I only know that the “tuba mirum” was played at his memorial service after I delivered my eulogy. I don’t even remember speaking or the music. It’s all blacked out — I had to check the program from the service. I haven’t listened to Mozart’s Requiem since. I don’t even have it on my iPod, a conspicuous absence from a collection that has all the basics of classical music and a whole lot more.
This would not seem like a ringing endorsement to attend Saturday night’s Bravo! Vail concert of the The Philadelphia Orchestra presenting Verdi’s Requiem at 6 p.m. at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, but it is. We live on — although in the wake of a death of a loved one, it may not seem like it at the time — and works like a requiem are for the living.
And then, there’s Verdi’s Requiem, which is not your average sequence of religious rites. This work is a case of “You went to an orchestral concert, and an opera broke out.”
Simultaneous soars and chills
Just as Brahms’ Requiem (Ein deutsches Requiem) was revolutionary for being composed in German (and based on Luther’s texts) as opposed to the conventional Latin, Verdi’s work is equally so for taking the genre out of its traditional conservative framework.
It is operatic, another way of de-mystifying the rites of the church. Opera was the cinema or radio or television of its time, a way of communicating to the masses. Verdi’s Requiem also was scored for female — gasp — soloists, another large step for the genre. Its theatrical nature, as well as its inclusivity, made it taboo for performance in cathedrals and churches in its time. (This is a subtle reminder that, even in the staid world of classical music, everything was new at one time, and what is considered standard now was not always so.)
Verdi’s Requiem soars and chills simultaneously, providing a necessary emotional catharsis for those left behind in mourning. If one chooses to view the work not as a requiem, it remains an epic piece of music. Yes, the New York Philharmonic is coming next week, and many consider that the highlight of the season, but the undertaking of this piece on Saturday deserves equal if not bigger billing.
Along those lines, this is one of the biggest weekends of the Vail! Bravo schedule. Tonight at 6, also at the Ford Amphitheater, The Philadelphia Orchestra puts on a night of Mozart and Mahler. It’s the former’s 20th Piano Concerto, performed by Jan Lisiecki, and then the latter’s fourth Symphony. (Susanna Phillips is the soprano soloist in the fourth movement.)
We know that some in our world are afflicted with Mahler-phobia, including some of my loved ones. It happens to the best of families and people. We can cure this in our time, people. What makes Mahler special is that he combines the grandeur of the symphony with opera. As a fan of both, what’s not to like?
And, yes, I’m a total orchestra geek. I enjoy watching the orchestra change during intermission. However, check out what happens tonight on stage when The Philadelphia Orchestra goes from Mozart’s 20th Piano Concerto to Mahler’s Fourth Symphony. Forklifts might be involved.
Now that you have sufficient motivation to attend this weekend’s concerts, a peak back at The Philadelphia Orchestra’s concerts earlier this week.
We just finished celebrating the Fourth of July, the birth of our country, and it’s an interesting union. If one were to ask 100 people from different parts of the country, “What does it mean to be an American?,” one might get 100 different answers.
Just look at the past calendar year. We’ve had shootings that have shaken our core and brought out a diversity of opinions on what the roughly 25 words of the Second Amendment mean. We had a presidential election, which could objectively be called divisive. The country is debating immigration policy, how to confront terrorists abroad and at home, and so on. One cannot write in words what Americans think it is to be American.
Music, however, can sum it up as displayed in The Philadelphia Orchestra’s performance on Sunday of Copland’s “Suite from Appalachian Spring,” in 20-25 minutes, much less than it would take to do a master’s dissertation on the subject. That is the power of music.
Pairing the Copland with Sierra’s Sinfonia No. 4 was a fascinating touch — The Philadelphia Orchestra has done this before, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Is Sierra’s Sinfonia No. 4 a view of America through a different lens? It’s definitely worth pondering.
Wednesday brought Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, led by the orchestra’s maestro, Yannick Nezet-Seguin. If that didn’t get your heart pumping, then you don’t have a pulse. The performance drew a standing ovation, but no encore, which was right. Throwing something like an orchestrated version of Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” on top of the Rachmaninoff would be superfluous. Sometimes, it’s well enough to leave something alone.
That said, our encore leader in the clubhouse so far during the 2013 Bravo! Vail festival came on Sunday as Giancarlo Guerrero “led” the orchestra in Bizet’s “Farandole” from “Arlesienne Suite No. 2.” We give Guerrero major points for his ability to play the straight man during the performance.
Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or via firstname.lastname@example.org. He is the sports editor of the paper and also a huge classical music fan, and spends his summers going to Bravo! Vail, playing golf and yelling at the San Francisco Giants.