ProMusica Chamber Orchestra offers a prime example of these idioms this weekend as they close out their 40th-anniversary season with a huge undertaking for a chamber orchestra – Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
It is a fitting finale to a season-long anniversary celebration and a two-year Beethoven cycle. It requires the orchestra to bulk up a bit by adding seven violinists (all of whom have played with ProMusica in past performances), four soloists and a choir, LancasterChorale.
This is the first time ProMusica has performed Beethoven’s Ninth. Hearing that performance in the Southern Theatre should prove to be a transcendent experience. With the Southern’s incredible acoustics and musical forces of this size, I expect the audience to be surrounded by glorious sound.
In a recent interview with The Columbus Dispatch, Music Director David Danzmayr said Beethoven wasn’t particularly adept at writing for voices. I, for one, would love to have been privy to what Beethoven – by then totally deaf – was hearing in his mind’s ear as he wrote the choral and solo parts.
The film Immortal Beloved attempted to portray what that premiere might have been like from the perspective of both the audience and Beethoven.
In a critique of the symphony, composer Hector Berlioz wrote that it was the most difficult of all of Beethoven’s symphonies and made great demands on not only the chorus and soloists, but also conductor, who must marshal those musical forces into a cohesive unit.
In contrast, the two performances open at the other end of the musical spectrum, offering both the chorus and the soloists the opportunity to shine on their own.
Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere mei, Deus, famously transcribed from memory by a young Mozart, offers a sublime open to the evening.
Transcription of Allegri’s piece, specifically forbidden by the Vatican, came with the threat of excommunication. Fortunately for Mozart, the Pope was notably impressed by the work of the 14-year-old composer and lifted the ban.
Miserere is followed by four favorites of some 600 songs written by Franz Schubert, allowing each soloist to step to center stage. The evening concludes with the Ninth Symphony, a glorious finale to both the performance and ProMusica’s 40th season.