Young People's Symphony Orchestra Opens 76th Season in Walnut Creek with the Oakland Symphony Chorus and the Music of Brahms and Theophanidis
Berkeley, CA The 76th season of the Young People's Symphony Orchestra (YPSO) kicks off with the fall concert at the Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church, which will feature music director/conductor David Ramadanoff and YPSO's 95 young musicians in performances of Johannes Brahms' A German Requiem with the Oakland Symphony Chorus directed by Lynne Morrow and American composer Christopher Theophanidis' Rainbow Body.
The major work on the program will be Johannes Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), which will feature the 120 members of the Oakland Symphony Chorus directed by Lynne Morrow and featuring two Bay Area singers, soprano Heidi Moss and baritone Zachary Gordin.
Prompted by his mother's death, Johannes Brahms began work on his Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem) in 1865 and the work premiered in Leipzig in 1869. Written for orchestra and chorus in seven movements, the piece takes approximately 65 minutes to perform, and is the longest piece Brahms ever wrote. Its earnestness and musical craftsmanship made it a success and it marked a turning point in Brahms' career that led to his mature style.
Brahms broke with tradition in the character of his requiem. He composed a work very different than the traditional Roman Catholic Requiem Mass, which begins with prayers for the dead ("Grant them eternal rest, O Lord.") Instead, Brahms focuses on the living, beginning with the text "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted" from the Beatitudes. Brahms assembled the text himself from Martin Luther's German Bible and it contains no Christian dogma or any mention of Jesus. "The first and last movements make it very clear that the focus is on the living and comforting those left behind. There's nothing like it before or after," says Ramadanoff.
Brahms remarked he could have called the piece a "human Requiem" and what critic Michael Steinberg calls his "sympathetic humanism" is evident throughout the work. "We are looking at this masterwork through the lens of the youthful, passionate Brahms who wrote it. His altruistic, community-focused view of Life and Death fits perfectly with our own focus on our community," says Morrow.
Morrow says she and OSC are looking forward to the collaboration with YPSO in the performance. "This joint project with a thriving youth music ensemble speaks directly to our mission," she says.
The other work on the program is American composer Christopher Theophanidis' Rainbow Body, a 13-minute orchestral work that Robert Spano and the Houston Symphony debuted in 2000. According to Theophanidis, Rainbow Body was the coming together of two ideas: one, his fascination with medieval composer Hildegard von Bingen's music (the principal melody of Rainbow Body is loosely based on one of her chants, "Ave Maria, O Auctix Vite"), and two, the Tibetan Buddhist idea of "Rainbow Body," which is that when an enlightened being dies physically, his or her body is absorbed directly back into the universe as energy, as light. "This seemed to me to be the metaphor for Hildegard's music as much as anything," he says.
Ramadanoff found out about the piece from Barry Jekowsky, the former conductor of Walnut Creek's California Symphony, who had worked with Theofanidis in 1994-1996, when the composer was the California Symphony's Young American Composer-in-Residence. "I listened to it and liked it immediately. The spiritual side of this piece goes well with the Brahms. They're both very expressive," says Ramadanoff.
Rainbow Body also continues Ramadanoff's habit of programming new works just as he's done in the last few years as YPSO has played the music of John Adams and Jennifer Hidgon along with new works of YPSO's 2009 alumni Dylan Mattingly and Gabriella Smith. "It's good for the kids to become acquainted with new works and living composers. It gives new life in a way to composers who have passed on. It makes it part of a continuumthat works they often play were written by a living person," he says. Listen to audio samples of Rainbow Body on Theofinidis' website here: http://www.theofanidismusic.com/programnotes_Rainbow_Body.html.
Lynne Morrow currently serves as the Music Director of two renowned choruses in the San Francisco/East Bay Area. Under her guidance, the Oakland Symphony Chorus has expanded its scope to include contemporary, international, premiers and rarely performed works along with traditional classical repertoire. For her direction of the Pacific Mozart Ensemble, she received a Grammy nomination in 2005 for their recording of Leonard Bernstein's Mass with Kent Nagano in Berlin. Morrow also heads the Opera and Music Theatre programs at Sonoma State University.
Celebrating his 24th season as Music Director/Conductor, David Ramadanoff conducts YPSO musicians who range in age from 12 to 21 and hail from 26 Bay Area cities in five counties. In addition to YPSO, Ramadanoff is also the Music Director of the Master Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra and the Vallejo Symphony. Ramadanoff formerly served as the Associate Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and Principal Conductor of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music's orchestra.
Heidi Moss, soprano, has performed with area companies such as West Edge Opera, Festival Opera, Fremont Symphony, Oakland East Bay Symphony, West Bay Opera, and the San Francisco Lyric Opera. She was one of three finalists (and the only vocalist) in the 2008 KDFC Classical Star Search, which resulted in a concert with renowned pianist Lang Lang. Moss was stricken with a severe version of Bells Palsy in 2007, which left the right side of her face permanently partially paralyzed. She continues to sing despite her disability. Her disability has inspired her to learn more about vocal physiology and pedagogy.
Baritone Zachary Gordin is quickly gaining recognition as a dynamic and engaging interpreter of the bel canto works of Donizetti and Verdi, the 18th century coloratura bass repertoire, as well as works of contemporary composers. Praised by San Francisco Classical Voice for his "heroic performance" as Escamillo in San Francisco Lyric Opera's Carmen, Gordin brings a robust stage presence and masterful singing to the operatic stage. In high demand at the Oakland East Bay Symphony, Mr. Gordin has sung Faure's Requiem, Verdi's Otello, Kurt Weill's Street Scene, "A Night at the Opera," and Orff's Carmina Burana, which he has also sung with the Oakland Symphony Chorus.
For 54 years the Oakland Symphony Chorus has been recognized as one of the East Bay's finest choirs and a premier resource for continuing education in the choral arts. In addition to presenting its own concerts and workshops, the OSC collaborates with many fine performing arts groups including the Oakland East Bay Symphony, Berkeley Symphony, and Festival Opera.
Founded in Berkeley in 1936, YPSO is the oldest youth orchestra in California and the second oldest in the nation. Violinist and conductor Jessica Marcelli founded YSPO at the suggestion of Clarabelle Bell, an amateur harpist and Berkeley resident, who got the idea after hearing a youth orchestra on a trip to Portland, Oregon.
Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church (View)
1801 Lacassie Avenue
Walnut Creek, CA 94596