Ukiah Symphony presents "The Sublime"
Mozart and Haydn conclude Symphony season
Cellist David Michael Goldblatt featured
by Roberta Werdinger
The Ukiah Symphony Orchestra concludes its 2016-17 season on the weekend of May 20th and 21st at the Mendocino College Center Theatre with the theme of The Sublime. The concert will feature solo cellist David Michael Goldblatt who will be playing Joseph Haydn's Concerto in D Major, followed by a performance of Mozart's well loved Requiem, featuring the Mendocino College Masterworks Chorale.
Anyone who has aspired to "the sublime" knows how frustrating it can be to translate that vision into an actualized work. David Michael Goldblatt, who has performed with the San Francisco Symphony since 1978, knows that process very well. He credits his musical training and teachers with providing him with the necessary technique that provided a springboard from which something more ineffable could be heard. Goldblatt explains how Orlando Cole, his most influential teacher when he studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, imparted two great lessons: "One, you must play the correct notes, in the correct rhythm and tempo; two, it must be musical." The latter part, Goldblatt adds, is subjective: "Mr. Cole never insisted that I play it 'his' way, just that I play it musically." This left both a strict standard and a degree of interpretation that has guided Goldblatt in his musical undertakings ever since.
Perhaps this standard of training has enabled Goldblatt an unusual flexibility in his career. He performs in a wide variety of genres and settings--in a symphony orchestra and smaller chamber ensembles, playing Baroque music, opera, and rock 'n roll. Goldblatt welcomes the variety and the challenge, stating, "Different settings inspire me. Jumping from one group to the other is challenging and keeps my playing fresh and my outlook positive." He has learned how to adjust his approach to match the circumstances, noting, "A successful member of the orchestra must be willing to sacrifice individuality to blend with the group," while "Solo work is all about being an individual while the accompanying group follows." This does not, however, mean that Goldblatt as a soloist has a license to do whatever he wants. "I must remain submissive to the requirements of ensemble playing while remaining aware that I am a soloist."
Goldblatt will be playing the technically demanding Concerto in D Major by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), known as "the father of the symphony." After an early life that included much deprivation at the hand of the choirmasters who trained him, Haydn wrote prolifically, composing symphonies with sweeping, ambitious themes (such as The Creation and The Seasons), as well as intimate solo and chamber music, operas, and church masses. He wrote when he was poor--quickly, under deadline, for money--and when he was well off and his reputation well established, able to take his time and spend as much as a year on a composition--a serious approach that a student of his, Ludwig van Beethoven, would emulate. Haydn became infirm and unable to muster the energy to finish his compositions when he was in his 70s--a difficult condition, for the ideas that fueled his music never stopped coming. His biographer quotes him as saying: "I must have something to dousually musical ideas are pursuing me, I cannot escape them... My imagination plays on me as if I were a clavier." He then smiled, and said, "I am really just a living clavier."
A fellow Austrian and friend to Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) may have left us with some of the most uplifting music in the human record, but the everyday details of his life were as challenging as that of any harried entrepreneur. The 35-year-old composer and concertmaster was already deeply involved in the writing of two operas and running a fever when, under financial pressure, he agreed to write the Requiem. It was commissioned by Count Franz von Walsegg-Stuppach, who swore Mozart to secrecy so that he could pass off the composition as his own--a scenario dramatized (and partly fictionalized) in the well-known 1984 movie Amadeus. Mozart was able to finish the two operas but the Requiem was left unfinished when the fever claimed his life in December of 1791. It was left to a student of Mozart's, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, to finish the piece, although other versions have also been composed in the ensuing years.
A Requiem is a service conducted in the Roman Catholic Church for the dead. The word "requiem" derives from the Latin word for "rest." That human wish for the loved one to lie in peace; the sense of awe that is often present at death; and a closeness to the rites of the Church are all enacted in this piece. Chants from the Requiem Mass in the original Latin are interwoven with forceful passages featuring violin, tuba, and trombone. Finally the voices and instruments die down to a triumphal whisper for the last movement, Lux aeterna, "eternal light."
Doing the honors in this journey from sorrow to the sublime are soloists Rachel Walters Steiner, soprano, of Santa Rosa; Mendocino College faculty member Marilyn Simpson, alto; San Francisco Opera member Pedro Rodelas, tenor; and Bill O'Neill, bass, also with the San Francisco Opera.
Symphony conductor Les Pfutzenreuter comments, "Mozart's Requiem is truly my favorite choral/orchestral work." It was one of the first works he conducted back in 1988 when he was beginning his career in Ukiah; he assembled an orchestra of local musicians including Margie Rice and Paula Mulligan, who are still playing with the Symphony. In fact, Pfutzenreuter says it's the music he'd like played at his funeral, commenting that "If it was good enough for Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, and Rossini"--all of whom had the Requiem played at their funeral--"then it's good enough for me." Hopefully, that won't be for a long time.
The Sublime will be held at the Mendocino College Theatre on Saturday, May 20 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 21 at 3 p.m. Parking is free and a handicapped ramp and seating are available. Tickets are $25 adults, $20 seniors 65 and up, and free for youth under 18 and students with ASB cards. Tickets may be purchased at the Mendocino Book Company, 102 S. School Street in Ukiah; Mail Center, Etc., 207-A N. Cloverdale Blvd. in Cloverdale; and online at www.ukiahsymphony.org.
The Sublime is sponsored by Pacific Redwood Medical Group and Ukiah Valley Medical Center. For more information, call the Ukiah Symphony at 707 462-0236.
Ticket policy: all tickets are non-refundable.
Mendocino College Center Theatre (View)
1000 Hensley Creek Rd
Ukiah, CA 95482
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