Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra Presents Its Season Finale Beethoven 9 With A2SO And UMS Choral Union
Join the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra and the University of Michigan's University Musical Society Choral Union on April 27th at 8:00 PM in Ann Arbor's Hill Auditorium for a season finale performance of Beethoven's monumental Symphony No. 9. The A2SO will be joined by four critically-acclaimed vocal soloists for the Beethoven: Soprano Jacqueline Echols, Mezzo-Soprano Freda Herseth, Tenor Scott Piper, and Bass-Baritone Stephen West. The orchestra will also perform Shostakovich's playful and succinct Symphony No. 9. Guest conductor Timothy Muffitt joins the A2SO for this performance.
A pre-concert talk open to all ticket holders will begin at 7:00 PM. Topics to be discussed include the legacy and impact of Beethoven's final symphony and the struggles of Shostakovich with a Soviet regime. More information is available at a2so.com/beethoven9 or by calling (734) 994-4801. Tickets range in price from $20-$72, with discounts up to 50%-off full price tickets for students and teachers. This concert is sponsored by A. Michael and Remedios Montalbo Young.
Beethoven was almost completely deaf in 1820 while composing his ninth symphony. Starting as early as 1800, Beethoven wrote to his friends describing his symptoms and how they were affecting his work and social life. His steadily declining situation drove the composer into a deep depression: he even at one point had expressed a desire to commit suicide in a letter to his brother. It was his career as a performer-a career with a much higher income-that was hit the hardest. With performing out of the question, Beethoven continued to compose. When it came time for the premiere of his Symphony No. 9, he directed the performance by giving cues to another conductor while unable to hear neither the orchestra nor the thunderous applause that erupted at its completion.
The presence of hidden messages in the music of Dmitri Shostakovich has long been a topic of debate. Historically, Shostakovich was terrorized by Stalin's regime making the idea of the composer placing subtle sardonic images of his homeland and its leaders an intriguing one. In the case of the Symphony No. 9, the Soviet Union was, at the time of the composition, coming off of a victory in World War II. The numeric symbolism that had become associated with ninth symphonies-thanks to Beethoven's titanic composition-led the Soviet regime to pressure Shostakovich into writing a grand and glorious work. Instead, Shostakovich defied these expectations by composing a symphony with beautiful lyricism and poise. While it is a beautiful and substantive piece when viewed unattached to this history, one cannot help but hear the ironic undertones and humor in Shostakovich's unexpectedly reserved ninth symphony.
Lyric soprano Jacqueline Echols has been praised for her "dynamic range and vocal acrobatics" (Classical Voice) in theaters across the United States. Ms. Echols' 2018/19 season began with her return to the Kennedy Center in the title role of Verdi's La Traviata for a new production by Washington National Opera, directed by Francesca Zambello. Following her debut with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra for their 2017 season-opening gala concert, she returns to the orchestra for her first performances of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in April. A frequent performer of both standard and contemporary repertoire, Echols debuted the role of Helen in the world premiere performances of The Summer King at the Pittsburgh Opera in 2017 and reprised the role in her hometown of Detroit with Michigan Opera Theater in 2018. She has performed the role of Pip in Heggie's Moby Dick with the Los Angeles, Dallas, and Pittsburgh Operas, as well as the role of Sister Helen in the composer's Dead Man Walking with Washington National Opera. She made her debut with the Tanglewood Festival reprising the role of Woglinde in Das Rheingold, conducted by Andris Nelsons. Echols makes her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2019 as Mimi in Puccini's La bohème.
Mezzo-soprano Freda Herseth has sung critically-acclaimed leading roles in opera throughout Germany. She has performed with orchestras and chamber ensembles throughout Europe, Russia, and Israel, including the La Scala Opera Orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Muti; the Israel Sinfonietta; the Stuttgart State Theater Orchestra in the world premiere of William Bolcom's Songs of Innocence and of Experience; the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra; New York New Music Ensemble; the Haifa Symphony Orchestra; and The Folger Consort of Washington, D.C. Well known for her work in contemporary music, Herseth has premiered many works written especially for her. She has performed at the Vienna Festival, Warsaw Autumn Festival, Festival d'Automne at the Bastille Opera in Paris, Steirischer Herbst in Graz, and with the American Music Theater Festival of Philadelphia. Ms. Herseth has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a stipend from the Richard Wagner Society in Bayreuth.
Spinto tenor Scott Piper's rich, resonant voice and charismatic stage presence quickly established him as a sought after interpreter of opera's romantic leading men, in roles such as Cavaradossi in Tosca, Don José in Bizet's Carmen, Pinkerton in Puccini's Madama Butterfly, and Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana. Of his performance with Utah Opera, the Salt Lake Tribune wrote "His voice was rich and natural, with baritone heft in the lower range; his heart-tugging third-act aria, "E lucevan le stelle," was one of the evening's highlights." Recently transitioning into spinto repertoire, Mr. Piper has sung Calaf in Turandot for Pensacola Opera and Minnesota Opera, Manrico in Il trovatore with Utah Opera, Pollione in Norma in Wiesbaden, Luigi in Il tabarro and the title role of Otello with Opera Köln, Wiesbaden, Klagenfurt, and Dayton Opera.
In a long and distinguished career, bass-baritone Stephen West has appeared with many of the finest opera companies in the world, including the Metropolitan Opera; Teatro alla Scala; the Bayreuth, Salzburg and Santa Fe Festivals; Opéra National de Paris; Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin; Teatro Carlo Felice; Teatro Regio; the Lyric Opera of Chicago; New York City Opera; and the San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, and Dallas operas, among many others. He has performed with leading symphony orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic; the Boston, Atlanta, and Montreal Symphonies; and the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, and the Hollywood Bowl. He has also collaborated with many world-famous conductors, including Riccardo Muti, Sir Andrew Davis, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Sir Charles Mackerras, and Richard Bonynge. Over the course of many seasons with the Metropolitan Opera, West has sung the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, Fafner in Das Rheingold, and in Der Rosenkavalier with the company on tour in Japan. He made his New York City Opera debut singing the title role in Boito's Mefistofele, and also starred as the title role in Verdi's Attila, Leporello in Don Giovanni, and Sparafucile in Rigoletto with the company. At Lyric Opera of Chicago, West has sung Claggart and Flint in Billy Budd, Peter in Hänsel und Gretel, John Quincy Adams in the world premiere of Anthony Davis's Amistad, and Dr. Kolenáty in The Makropoulos Affair. West is also the recipient of many awards, including the 1995 New York City Opera Kolozsvar Award, a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, two National Awards from the Metropolitan Opera, and two prizes from the Seventh Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow.
Guest conductor Timothy Muffitt has conducted the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra since 1999 and has served as Music Director and Conductor of the Lansing Symphony since 2006. Muffitt's recent conducting engagements have included St. Louis Symphony and Tulsa Symphony and return engagements with the San Francisco Symphony and the Long Beach Symphony along with his debut at The Hollywood Bowl. Other engagements have taken Muffitt to the Houston, Phoenix, Edmonton, and Spokane Symphonies, Columbus Ohio's Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Virginia Symphony, the Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra in Chicago and the Harrisburg (PA) Symphony among others. Prominent performers and composers with whom Mr. Muffitt has worked include Yo-Yo Ma, Renée Fleming, Kiri Te Kanawa, André Watts, Alicia de Larrocha, Pinchas Zukerman, Van Cliburn, Lynn Harrell, Itzhak Perlman, and composers John Cage, Joseph Schwantner, Ellen Taffe Zwilich, John Harbison, Joan Tower and Bernard Rands. Mr. Muffitt also serves as Artistic Director of the Chautauqua (NY) Institution's Music School and Conductor of Chautauqua's Music School Festival Orchestra. He received his conducting training at the Eastman School of Music, studying with David Effron, where he earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree.