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A host of Heavenly Voices fill the air

November 13th, 2013

The Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra, directed and conducted by Woomyung Choe, presents Heavenly Voices with the combined choruses of the Newburgh Symphonic Chorale, Middletown Concert Chorale, West Point Chapel Choir and the Fox Hill Community Youth Choir on Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 7:30 pm, Aquinas Hall, Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh. The music is pure drama by Johannes Brahms: the melancholy Tragic Overture and the deeply stirring A German Requiem with soprano Kristine Biller Mattson and baritone Andrew Cummings.

Kristine Mattson

Kristine Mattson

Beginning the evening is the Tragic Overture in D minor, Opus 81, dramatic counterpart to the merry Academic Festival Overture (heard at GNSO’s September concert), also composed during that same 1880 summer. Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), a serious man not usually interested in musical storytelling, was more concerned with conveying and eliciting emotional impressions. It is often said that the difference between the two overtures is that one laughs while the other weeps. The tension between solemn restraint and unleashed power adds to the grandeur of this remarkable piece, which many rank among Brahms’ finest achievements.

Composed with exceptional vision and great mastery between 1865 and 1868, when Brahms was still a very young man, A German Requiem, Opus 45 influenced the entire world of music and confirmed his standing as a composer of international stature. Brahms used the Lutheran Bible rather than the customary Latin one, having compiled the text himself from both Old and New Testaments and from the Apocrypha. Not the conventional Requiem Mass, Brahms’ stated intention was to comfort the living, focusing on faith in the Resurrection rather than fear of the Day of Judgment. Brahms may have written the Requiem in memory of his mother, who died in 1865. It is equally possible that he had in mind his great friend and mentor, Robert Schumann, whose madness and tragic death had profoundly affected the young Brahms. Perhaps it was simply intended as a universal memorial.

Joining forces with GNSO to perform this noble masterwork are the Newburgh Symphonic Chorale, Middletown Concert Chorale, West Point Chapel Choir and the Fox Hill Community Youth Choir led by their respective choral directors Peter Sipple, Justin Glodich, Craig Williams and Peter Mommsen. Soprano Kristine Biller Mattson and baritone Andrew Cummings will lend their spectacular voices to this talented mix.

Mattson’s professional career continues to climb with each of her oratorio and operatic roles. With her “smoky depths and bell-like highs,” she is a woman to watch. Andrew Cummings, praised for his rich, flexible baritone and expressiveness, has appeared in operas from Carnegie Hall to Bogotá, Columbia, Mr. Cummings is also a frequent guest on the concert and recital stage.

The Shacklett Preview at 6:30 p.m. is a pre-concert introduction to the evening’s music by Gordon Shacklett. Ticket prices are $25 for reserved seating, $20 for general admission and $15 for seniors. Students are admitted free of charge. Tickets may be purchased at the door or reserved at (845) 913-7157 or newburghsymphony.org.

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