Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Bach's St. John Passion an Apt Prelude to Holy Week

Conductor Manfred Honeck Leads PSO in Performnce of Bach's St. John Passion

       Music director Manfred Honeck leads the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, guest vocalists and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh in a BNY Mellon Grand Classics program featuring the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra premiere of Bach’s St. John Passion oratorio on March 4 and 6 at Heinz Hall.
    Composed in Leipzig in 1724 for the Good Friday Vespers, the St. John Passion intensifies the narrative of the Passion of Christ told in the Gospel of John. Honeck welcomes guest vocalists Martin Lattke, tenor, as the Evangelist; Paul Armin Edelmann, bass, as Jesus; Sunhae Im, soprano; Andrey Nemzer, counter tenor; Thomas Cooley, tenor; Lucas Meachem, baritone; Alexander Elliott as Pilatus; Amelia D’Arcy as Ancilla; Jeffrey Klefstad as Petrus; Jonathan MacDonald as Servus; and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh in a semi-staged representation of this biblical composition. With stage director Sam Helfrich and lighting designer Eric Southern, the Pittsburgh Symphony will present this timeless masterpiece in a program guaranteed to elevate the audience’s senses and bring new meaning to the Lenten season.
    A pre-concert talk, open to all ticket holders and led by Assistant Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong, will occur on stage one hour before each concert. Program notes for the weekend are available online at and on the PSO mobile app the day of the concert.
    During the weekend, beginning one hour before concert time, student musicians will perform in the Grand Lobby of Heinz Hall. On Friday evening, a Youth Chamber Connection Quartet will perform and on Sunday, the Vincentian Academy Choir will sing. These performances are free to ticketholders.
    The performance begins at 8 p.m. on Friday and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets, ranging in price from $20 to $94, can be purchased by calling the Heinz Hall box office at 412-392-4900 or visiting
About the Artists
SAM HELFRICH is an opera and theater director based in New York. He has directed opera productions at Boston Lyric Opera, Portland Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Spoleto Festival/USA, Virginia Opera, Opera Boston, Pittsburgh Opera and Wolf Trap, among others. Recent opera highlights include Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at Virginia Opera, Lermontov’s Masquerade (accompanied by the Brooklyn String Orchestra), the world premiere of Enemies: A Love Story, by Ben Moore, at Palm Beach Opera; Embedded, by composer Patrick Soluri, at Fargo-Moorhead Opera; Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos at Virginia Opera; Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking at Eugene Opera; André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire at Virginia Opera; the American premiere of Philip Glass' Kepler at Spoleto Festival/USA; Adams' Nixon in China at Eugene Opera; a fully staged Messiah with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; the world premiere of Michael Dellaira's The Secret Agent at Center for Contemporary Opera in New York; the Armel Opera Festival in Hungary and Opera Avignon; The Turn of the Screw at Boston Lyric Opera; Philip Glass' Orphée at Pittsburgh Opera, Virginia Opera, Portland Opera and Glimmerglass Opera; and Anthony Davis’ Amistad at Spoleto Festival/USA.
     Recent theater credits include Arthur Miller’s After The Fall at NYU/Tisch Grad Acting, off-Broadway productions of Owned, a world premier play by Julian Sheppard, and Tape, by Stephen Belber, both of which played to wide audience and critical acclaim, and a double bill of plays by Shaw and De Musset at the Franklin Stage Company.
     Upcoming projects include Patrick Soluri’s Embedded at Ft. Worth Opera, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Greek at Boston Lyric Opera, Haydn’s Creation with the Pittsburgh Symphony and the world premiere of Dan Sonenberg’s The Summer King at Pittsburgh Opera.
     Helfrich is also an associate arts professor and head of dramaturgy in the graduate Department of Design for Stage and Film at NYU/Tisch School of the Arts.
     Hailed as one of the finest choruses in the country, the MENDELSSOHN CHOIR OF PITTSBURGH (MCP) is proud of its long artistic partnership with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and looks forward to another exciting season at Heinz Hall. Primarily a volunteer chorus, the Mendelssohn Choir is composed of more than 100 singers whose passion and commitment enables them to perform alongside the world’s greatest musicians. In addition to its performances with the PSO, the Mendelssohn Choir produces its own concerts in the community and operates the Junior Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, the region’s premier young adult chorus.
    The Mendelssohn Choir began its 2015-2016 season with an all-Duruflé concert on October 11 at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, and bid farewell to Betsy Burleigh, MCP’s much beloved music director. Burleigh is universally acknowledged for building upon the legacy left by Music Director Emeritus Robert Page, and taking MCP to new levels of excellence during her 10-year tenure with the Choir. Under her direction, MCP has earned high praise for its mastery of the great choral classics. The Mendelssohn Choir is engaged currently in the search for its next music director, who will be its seventh in its 108-year-old history. For the remainder of the season, Maria Sensi Sellner will be acting music director and will prepare the Choir for its forthcoming performances with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
     As the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s “chorus of choice,” the Mendelssohn Choir has performed with some of the world’s foremost conductors including Lorin Maazel, Mariss Jansons, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Michael Tilson Thomas, Claudio Abbado, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leonard Slatkin, Charles Dutoit, André Previn, Sir Neville Marriner, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Helmuth Rilling, Ingo Metzmacher, Richard Hickox, Zdenek Mácal and Manfred Honeck. Performances of the Choir with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra are heard locally over WQED-FM (89.3) and distributed nationally by PRI. Committed to fostering the choral art form, the Mendelssohn Choir has numerous recordings, commissions and premieres to its credit, including works by Ned Rorem, Nancy Galbraith and Derek Bermel. The Choir’s most recent recording released in fall 2011 is Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Children’s Festival Chorus of Pittsburgh with Manfred Honeck conducting.


Friday, March 4 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 6 at 2:30 p.m.

Tenor Martin Lattke (Evangelist)

Heinz Hall
MARTIN LATTKE, tenor (The Evangelist)
PAUL ARMIN EDELMANN, bass (Christus)
SUNHAE IM, soprano
ANDREY NEMZER, counter tenor
SAM HELFRICH, stage director
ERIC SOUTHERN, lighting designer
THE MENDELSSOHN CHOIR OF PITTSBURGH (Maria Sensi Sellner, acting music director)

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