Cantata Singers Perform Beethoven's 'Missa Solemni'

Cantata Singers Perform Beethoven's 'Missa Solemni'

Cantata Singers' continues its 54th season with Ludwig van Beethoven's choral masterpiece Missa solemnis. The performance will be held Friday, March 16 at 8pm at NEC's Jordan Hall.

Considered by Beethoven himself to be "the greatest work which I have composed," Missa solemnis stands apart as a challenging, and emotional masterwork of the choral canon. Beethoven began the work in 1819 as a congratulatory gift to one of his greatest patrons, the Archduke Rudolf, who had recently been elected as the Archbishop of Olmütz in Austria. Scheduled to be performed just one year later at his installation ceremony in March 1820, it ended up taking Beethoven over five years to compose, due to delays relating to his growing deafness and a very public custody battle over his nephew. The complete score was only published after his death in 1827, as Beethoven continually revised the manuscript for the rest of his life.

Envisioned as a testament to the all-powerful God, Missa solemnis is an expressive marathon through the setting of the Catholic mass. Beethoven's own inscription in the score, "To the heart-may it return to the heart!", summarizes the emotional gravity of this momentous work. The music deals intimately with an issue close to Beethoven's heart during this tumultuous period-his acceptance of his own mortality.

Extremely difficult, virtuosic passages are set for the soloists, chorus, and a large orchestra of strings, organ, flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, contrabassoon, horns, trumpets, trombones, and timpani. In Music Director David Hoose's program notes for Cantata Singers' last performance of the work in 2001, he wrote "The challenges of singing and playing the Missa solemnis are not to be covered, however, but climbed. With the ascent, the performers must come face-to-face with the composer's heart." Showcasing this outpouring of opulence are soloists Dana Varga, soprano, making her debut with Cantata Singers; Emily Marvosh, alto; Yegishe Manucharyan, tenor; and Mark Andrew Cleveland, bass.

Professor Lewis Lockwood, a musicologist of international distinction and renown, will give the pre-concert talk at 7pm. Dr. Lockwood is the Fanny Peabody Research Professor of Music, Emeritus at Harvard University and is currently the Distinguished Senior Scholar in the Department of Musicology and Ethnomusicology at Boston University. His scholarship on Renaissance music and Beethoven studies includes several award-winning books and more than a hundred articles and reviews. This depth of scholarship is matched by an impressive list of editorial and administrative accomplishments, including terms as the Editor of the Journal of the American Musicology Society (1964-1967), President of the American Musicological Society (1987-1988), and as the founding Editor of the journal Beethoven Forum (1992-2007). His book Music in Renaissance Ferrara (1984) received the Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society, and his Beethoven: the Music and the Life (2003) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the category "Biography". The Lewis Lockwood Award of the American Musicological Society is also named in his honor.

About Cantata Singers

A singular desire to bring to Boston's listeners music that isn't being heard anywhere else has inspired Cantata Singers' programming for 54 years.

In 1964, that music included the cantatas of J.S. Bach. Today, it may be hard for us to believe, but when Cantata Singers was founded in 1964, live performances of Bach cantatas were quite a rarity. In fact, Cantata Singers' early concerts featured the first Boston performances of many of the cantatas.

Bach's music, from the cantatas to the B-minor Mass to the Passions, remains an essential part of Cantata Singers' repertoire. However, the ensemble's repertoire has expanded to include music from the 17th century to today. Cantata Singers has commissioned 15 works for choir and orchestra-including one that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music-and has presented more than fifty Boston premieres of music both old and new.

Many of Boston's most talented musicians perform regularly with Cantata Singers. The chorus is made up of singers who have careers as musicians, educators, doctors, and architects. Many of these members appear as soloists with Cantata Singers, as well as with other highly respected organizations; some conduct other choruses and orchestras in the area. Although many of our musicians perform actively as solo singers, they choose to sing with Cantata Singers because of the reward they find in performing music of the choral canon at the highest possible level.

Cantata Singers has always focused on the music-be it by Bach, Verdi, Harbison, or Pärt-and its audiences do, too. Our audiences return year after year to hear fresh visions of iconic music, or an intriguing unfamiliar work that is-in fact-quite approachable. Each Cantata Singers concert is often surprising, sometimes challenging, always beautiful, and ultimately inspiring.

Date and Time: Friday, March 16, 2018 at 8pm
Location: Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory, 30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA

Pre-Concert Talk at 7pm with Lewis Lockwood, Professor of Music, Emeritus at Harvard University, free to all ticketholders, in Williams Hall

Tickets: $25-$75, can be purchased by calling 617-868-5885 or visiting

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