American Symphony Orchestra Presents 'Music in the Bible' at Carnegie Hall, 11/2

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Examining the relationship between oratorios and religion in the early 19th century, the American Symphony Orchestra with Music Director and conductor Leon Botstein presents "Music and the Bible" on Tuesday, November 2 at 8:00 P.M. at Carnegie Hall. The evening focuses on Fanny Mendelssohn and Louis Spohr, interesting and important composers who have not received their proper due. Botstein will present a Conductor's Notes lecture one hour prior to the performance, free for ticket-holders at Carnegie Hall.

"Music and the Bible" captures an era when religious beliefs were used to balance the economic turmoil and epidemic disease that was rife during the early 19th century. The program features two composers who are relatively unknown to today's audiences: Mendelssohn, who was over-shadowed by her brother Felix; and Spohr, who was incredibly famous in his day but disappeared from the repertory in the last century.

Although she composed 466 pieces of music, Mendelssohn was unable to pursue a major career in music. (Her brother was supportive, however, publishing some of her works under his own name.) The oratorio Scenes from the Bible (Musik für die Toten der Cholera-Epidemie) is one of her most expansive works and is a prime example of the interplay between music and religion, topically and musically, during this period.

Spohr was once as famous as Mozart and Beethoven among his contemporaries, known for his violin concertos, symphonies, operas and chamber works. It wasn't until Friedrich Rochlitz, founding editor of the leading German music journal of the time, offered the composer the text of The Last Judgment (Die letzten Dinge), taken from the Book of Revelation, that Spohr delved into oratorios. He gained critical praise for Die letzten Dinge, and it became his most enduring masterpiece. In an 1830 review, Harmonicon called it "one of the greatest musical productions of the age." His distinct treatment of the oratorio-employing his highly individual chromatic harmonic idiom and command of orchestration-contributed to the expressive and dramatic nature of the work.

Communal singing and sacred oratorios were a vital part of Europe's religious resurgence in the 1800s. The two major works on this program are by Fanny Mendelssohn, Felix's sister (Scenes from the Bible, Musik für die Toten der Cholera-Epidemie); and Louis Spohr (The Last Judgment, Die letzten Dinge), whose contemporaries found him as masterful as Beethoven and Mozart.

For more information, visit www.americansymphony.org.

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