Friday, May 19, 2017

Manfred Honeck will Conduct Mahler's "Resurrextion" Symphony #2 Credit: Felix Broede

Music Director Manfred Honeck leads the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, guest vocalists and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh in Gustav Mahler’s groundbreaking Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection,” as part of the BNY Mellon Grand Classics at Heinz Hall on June 2-4.

Mahler’s Second Symphony is the work that brought him his initial fame and marked the start of his career as a composer, rather than as a conductor. The epic first movement conveys nothing less than the search for the meaning of life. The composer himself wrote:

“‘We are standing near the grave of a well-loved man. His whole life, his struggles, his sufferings and his accomplishments on earth pass before us. And now, in this solemn and deeply stirring moment, when the confusion and distractions of everyday life are lifted like a hood from our eyes, a voice of awe-inspiring solemnity chills our heart, a voice that, blinded by the mirage of everyday life, we usually ignore: ‘What next?’ it says. ‘What is life and what is death? Will we live on eternally? Is it all an empty dream or do our life and death have a meaning?’ And we must answer this question, if we are to go on living.’”

This colossal five-movement symphony is the first of Mahler’s symphonies to use voices and words in addition to the orchestra, and includes many of the dramatic sonic effects closely associated with him, such as an off-stage band. The finale in particular is full of the terror and glory of a last judgement and resurrection, depicted with a wall of sound produced by a full orchestra and chorus, and answering some of the questions posed by Mahler in the first movement.

Soprano Ying Fang, making her Pittsburgh Symphony debut, and mezzo-soprano Gerhild Romberger join the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh in this transformative musical experience.

The concert opens with Composer of the Year James MacMillan’s moving Miserere, a choral setting of Psalm 51 (“Have mercy upon me, O God.”), which will be performed by the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh.

A pre-concert talk, open to all ticketholders, with Assistant Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong will occur on stage one hour before each concert. Dorseyville Middle School will perform in the Grand Lobby of Heinz Hall one hour before concert start on Friday, June 2. Both pre-concert presentations are free and open to ticketholders.

The Pittsburgh Symphony recently acquired a 20-note set of Deagan Co. tower chimes from a church in Illinois. After many weeks of meticulously cleaning, their full sound will be employed during the performances of Mahler’s Resurrection. (Two of the chimes were used in the BNY Mellon Grand Classics weekend on March 31 & April 2.) Patrons can explore a display about these chimes in the Grand Tier this weekend.

Following the concerts on Saturday, June 3 and Sunday, June 4, a quartet featuring Jennifer Orchard, violin, Tatjana Mead Chamis, viola, Mikhail Istomin, cello, and Dimitri Papadimitriou, piano, will perform Mahler’s Piano Quartet on stage post-concert. The performance of this one-movement piece is free to ticketholders.

The Saturday, June 3 concert is offered in memory of Albert Filoni, the architect who helped remake Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, including the renovation of Heinz Hall. Filoni passed away in October 2016.

Program notes for the weekend are available online at pittsburghsymphony.org/Resurrection and on the PSO mobile app the day of the concert.

The concert begins at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3, and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 4. Tickets, ranging in price from $20 to $94, are available through the Heinz Hall Box Office in person, by phone at 412-392-4900 or online at pittsburghsymphony.org/Resurrection.

About the Artists

Soprano Ying Fang Credit: Courtesy Photo
Soprano YING FANG has been hailed by The New York Times for her “pure and moving soprano, phrasing with scrupulous respect for the line and traveling with assurance through the mercurial moods,” as well as “singing with a fresh, appealing soprano and acting with coquettish flair.”

The 2016-2017 season includes a return to the Metropolitan Opera as Ilia in Mozart’s Idomeneo, Elvira in Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri and Jano in Janáček’s Jenůfa. She will also portray Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro conducted by Corrado Rovaris in a Stephen Lawless production for Opera Philadephia and sings Bellezza in Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno with conductor Emmanuelle Haïm with Opéra de Lille. Fang appears this season with the New York Philharmonic in an all-Mozart program under Bernard Labadie, performs Handel’s Messiah with the Philadephia Orchestra conducted by Nathalie Stutzmann, ventures to Chicago for Telemann’s Der Tag des Gerichts with Music of the Baroque Orchestra conducted by Jane Glover, and joins St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble for a Schubertiade in New York.

Fang’s 2015-2016 season included performances at the Metropolitan Opera as Giannetta in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore and the Shepherd in Wagner’s Tannhäuserconducted by James Levine. She made her Verbier Festival and role debut singing Nannetta in Verdi’s Falstaff alongside Bryn Terfel and led by Jesús López Cobos, and returned to the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence for its production of Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno. On the concert stage, she debuted at the Ravinia Festival in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 under the baton of James Levine. She appeared in recital with Carnegie Hall as part of the Neighborhood Concert Series and at the Kennedy Center under the auspices of Vocal Arts DC, both with pianist Ken Noda.

Previous appearances for Fang include Barbarina in the season-opening new production of Le Nozze di Figaro conducted by James Levine at the Metropolitan Opera, where she also sang the Dew Fairy in Hänsel und Gretel conducted by Sir Andrew Davis; and Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro directed by Stephen Wadsworth at The Juilliard School, where she also performed the title role in Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide conducted by Jane Glover. She joined the Mediterranean Youth Symphony for a European tour of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 conducted by Carlo Rizzi, and was featured in the Metropolitan Opera and The Juilliard School’s joint concert of comic operas conducted by James Levine, in which she sang Konstanze, Teresa and Adina. Other notable recent appearances include Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare and Contessa di Folleville in Rossini’s Il Viaggio A Reims, both with the Wolf Trap Opera Company, the title role in Mozart’s Zaïde with the New World Symphony, and Bellezza in Handel’s oratorio Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno with Juilliard 415 under the baton of William Christie at Alice Tully Hall. She also appeared at Aspen Opera Theater Center where she was heard as Maria in Bernstein’s West Side Story and the role of Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflötewith the Aspen Opera Theater Center, of which the Aspen Times wrote: “Soprano Ying Fang sang Pamina with a creamy tone and marvelous specificity in each moment.”

Fang made her Metropolitan Opera debut in the 2013-2014 season singing the role of Madame Podtochina’s Daughter in Shostakovich’s opera The Nose. At The Juilliard School, she has been seen as Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Fanny in Rossini’s La Cambiale di Matrimonio and the Spirit of the Boy in Britten’s Curlew River. She made her Alice Tully Hall debut performing Handel’s motet Silete Venti with conductor Steven Fox leading the Juilliard 415, and appeared as the soprano soloist in Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap.

A native of Ningbo, China, Fang is the recipient of the Martin E. Segal Award, the Hildegard Behrens Foundation Award, the Rose Bampton Award of The Sullivan Foundation, The Opera Index Award, and the 1st Prize Award of the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition. In 2009, she become one of the youngest singers to win one of China’s most prestigious awards — the China Golden Bell Award for Music. She has been hailed as “the most gifted Chinese soprano of her generation” by Ningbo Daily.

Fang holds a master’s degree and an Artist Diploma in opera study from The Juilliard School and a bachelor’s degree from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. She was a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.

Gerhild Romberger Credit: Christine Schneider
GERHILD ROMBERGER was born and brought up in the Emsland. After studying music for schools at the Academy of Music in Detmold, she attended voice training classes with Heiner Eckels and graduated with concert-standard honors. She rounded off her studies with courses under the professors of lieder performance Mitsuko Shirai and Hartmut Höll. She now lives with her family in Detmold, where for a long time she has been an extremely popular professor of singing at the Academy of Music.

As alto, she has always concentrated on concert performances, her work focusing on lieder recitals on a wide variety of themes, as well as on contemporary music. Her extremely extensive repertoire encompasses all the major contralto and mezzo-soprano parts in the oratorio and concert literature from the Baroque via the Classical and Romantic periods all the way to the 20th century.

Significant career moments for Romberger in recent years were the concerts with Manfred Honeck, who invited her to perform in, among other works, Mahler’s symphonies, Beethoven’s Missa solemnis and the Grosse Messe by Walter Braunfels. In addition with the Berlin Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel, the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Herbert Blomstedt and the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester with Riccardo Chailly.  Furthermore she performed with the Vienna and Bamberg Symphony Orchestras (under Daniel Harding), at La Scala (under Franz Welser- Möst) and with the Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra (under Bernard Haitink).

In the 2016-2017 season, she will perform with the Radio Philharmonisch Orkest in Utrecht and Amsterdam with Szymanowski`s Stabat Mater under Markus Stenz, with the Vienna Philharmonic and the 2 Sinfonie of Karl Amadeus Hartmann (under Ingo Metzmacher) in Hamburg and Cologne and in Leipzig with the Gewandhausorchester and Beethoven’s 9 Sinfonie (under Andris Nelsons).

Besides that a great tour with the Budapest Festival Orchestra under Iván Fischer (Mahler: Lied von der Erde) will lead her to Zurich, Geneva, Paris, Cologne, Lugano und Budapest. In 2017, she can be heard with Mahler’s 2 Sinfonie at the new Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg (under Thomas Hengelbrock) and at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (under Manfred Honeck). After this, she will be at La Scala in Mailand with Beethovens Missa solemnis under Bernard Haitink.

Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh Credit:Timothy Cox Photography


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 community concerts and provides professional choral instruction to talented young people through the Junior Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh.

MCP is committed to offering a mix of traditional and innovative choral performances to maintain the vitality and relevance of the choral art. Under its new music director, Matthew Mehaffey — MCP’s seventh music director in its 109-year history, MCP looks forward to bringing Pittsburgh audiences more concert experiences such as “The Music of Downton Abbey” (October 2016) and the Pittsburgh premiere of Annelies, a choral work based on the Diary of Anne Frank, (February 2017).  Last summer, MCP partnered with composer/conductor Steven Hackman to perform “Defying Gravity,” a concert of Hackman’s arrangements and choral mash-ups at the Three Rivers Arts Festival. The concert was Hackman’s premiere performance at the Arts Festival and was MCP’s first appearance on the Festival’s mainstage after a 40-year hiatus. MCP and Hackman later performed the “Defying Gravity” concert at Oglebay, West Virginia.

For 26 years, MCP was privileged to call Robert Page (1927-2016) its music director. A legendary choral conductor, arranger and musician, Page transformed the choral field as well as the institutions he was a part of such as the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh. He will be remembered as a champion for symphonic choruses to have the respect that they deserve as performers. But most of all, he will be remembered by the Mendelssohn’s extended family of singers as someone who inspired and touched their lives through his music, his friendship, his mentorship and his larger-than-life personality. As individuals, and as an organization we are better for having known Page.

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.

For more information on the Mendelssohn and Junior Mendelssohn Choirs and upcoming performances go to themendelssohn.org.

Friday, June 2, at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 3 at 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, June 4 at 2:30 p.m.

Heinz Hall
BNY MELLON GRAND CLASSICS: Mahler’s Resurrection
MANFRED HONECK, conductor
YING FANG, soprano
GERHILD ROMBERGER, mezzo soprano
MENDELSSOHN CHOIR OF PITTSBURGH (Matthew Mehaffey, director)

James MacMillan                             Miserere
Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh

Gustav Mahler                                  Symphony No. 2 in C minor, "Resurrection"
I. Allegro maestoso

Intermission

II. Andante moderato
III. In ruhig fliessender Bewegung
IV. Urlicht (Primeval Light)
V. Scherzo
Ms. Fang
Ms. Romberger
Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh

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