Mozart Requiem Comes to Walnut Creek This March

By: Feb. 01, 2018
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Mozart Requiem Comes to Walnut Creek This March California Symphony presents two performances of MOZART REQUIEM at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek on Saturday March 17th at 8pm and Sunday March 18th at 4pm. This is the third of three concert sets in the Symphony's 2017-18 season to offer patrons a Saturday evening option in Walnut Creek, catering to rising demand for professional grade performances within easy reach of discerning East Bay consumers of culture and the arts. Diablo Regional Arts Association is the presenting sponsor of the California Symphony's Saturday night concert series, with media support provided by BARTable.

For MOZART REQUIEM, Music Director Donato Cabrera splits conducting duties with long-time friend and former San Francisco Symphony colleague Ragnar Bohlin. Bohlin has been Chorus Director of the San Francisco Symphony since 2007, while Cabrera was Resident Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and the Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra from 2009 to 2016.

In the first half of the program, Swedish-born Bohlin conducts two pieces chosen by him, opening with Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. Written for string orchestra, Fantasia is one of the crown jewels of English orchestral music. Vaughan Williams wrote it in 1910, drawing his inspiration from a piece by sixteenth century Elizabethan era composer Thomas Tallis.

"The theme which the piece is based on is a hymn, and the overall atmosphere is spiritual and sometimes echoing the sounds of an organ."-Guest conductor Ragnar Bohlin on Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Bohlin and the orchestra are then joined on stage by the San Francisco Conservatory Chorus (which Bohlin teaches and directs) for contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt's Te Deum. Pärt's composition is an understated, contemplative treatment of a traditional text-We Praise Thee, O God-that for centuries has usually been delivered at the opposite end of the spectrum, with crashing of timpani and singers in full voice (-think Haydn, Mozart, Berlioz and Bruckner, for example). One of his personal favorites, Ragnar Bohlin says Pärt's Te Deum is "modern, but inspired by medieval music and chant, a mesmerizing piece for choir, strings, prepared piano and synthesizer."

After intermission, California Symphony Music Director Donato Cabrera takes to the podium to lead the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Chorus for Mozart's Requiem in D minor. Contrary to the story in the famous movie of 1984, rival composer Salieri had no hand in commissioning or helping with the work. Instead, a wealthy landowner ordered Mozart to create it, intending to pass off the work as his own. Before he could deliver on the arrangement, Mozart fell ill in 1791 and died-one month before his 36th birthday-leaving the piece substantially unfinished. Franz Xaver Süssmayr finished the Requiem based on the writings Mozart had left behind, and it is this version that will be performed by the California Symphony.

"For me, conducting Mozart's Requiem is like deciding to run your first marathon, or deciding to read War and Peace. It's an enormous undertaking, but incredibly rewarding."-Music Director Donato Cabrera

ABOUT RAGNAR BOHLIN

Swedish-born Bohlin teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has taught at the Royal Academy in Stockholm and at Indiana University. In 2006 Bohlin was awarded the prestigious Johannes Norrby Award for expanding the frontiers of Swedish choral music making. In June 2010 he made his Carnegie Hall debut conducting Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem.

Bohlin began his tenure as Chorus Director of the San Francisco Symphony in March 2007. In 2010 the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus garnered three Grammy Awards for their recording of Mahler's Symphony No. 8, including for Best Choral Performance under Bohlin's direction. With them, Bohlin has conducted works such as Handel's Messiah, Bach's B-minor Mass and Christmas Oratorio and Orff's Carmina Burana.

Bohlin studied with the renowned choir director Eric Ericson and studied piano with Peter Feuchtwanger in London on a British Council scholarship. He studied singing with the great Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda and has also appeared as an oratorio tenor. In 2014, Bohlin became the founding Artistic Director of the professional chamber choir Cappella SF.

SAN FRANCISCO CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC CHORUS

Founded in 1917, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) is an elite music school with an international reputation for producing musicians of the highest caliber. The oldest conservatory in the American West, the school has an enrollment of around 400 gifted young undergraduate and graduate musicians, plus around 200 pre-college level younger students.

The SFCM Chorus performs Pärt's Te Deum and the Mozart Requiem in D minor with the California Symphony on March 17 and 18, highlighting students as soloists, which gives them a platform from which to grow and advance their artistry.

Music Director Donato Cabrera says, "Collaborating with Ragnar and the SFCM Chorus is the beginning of what I hope to be a continued partnership between the two organizations. It gives the SFCM Chorus the chance to work with a professional-level orchestra and it gives the California Symphony the opportunity to work with incredibly gifted students. This sort of collaboration is really only possible in places like the Bay Area and we are lucky to have such a wonderful conservatory with which to work."

ABOUT THE SOLOISTS

Esther Tonea, soprano

Romanian-American soprano Esther Tonea has performed in concerts and recitals across the United States, Canada, and Europe. Upcoming performances include San Francisco Conservatory of Music's Concerto Competition Winners' Concert. Tonea is a two-time recipient of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Encouragement Award and the First Place Winner of the New York Lyric National Competition. Tonea holds bachelor's degrees in Vocal and Cello Performance from the University of Georgia and is earning her Master of Music in Voice at SFCM.

Kaitlin Bertschi, mezzo-soprano

Mezzo-soprano Kaitlin Bertschi is an emerging young artist who began her performance career with classical and contemporary opera, recital and musical theater. She has appeared on stages in Italy, Germany, Austria and the United States. Bertschi looks forward to upcoming performances including the role of Eduige in Handel's Rodelinda this spring at SFCM where she continues her graduate studies, as well as her Master's Recital.

Jimmy Kansau, tenor

Jimmy is Vocal Director for the San Francisco Boys Chorus and Choir Master for ISO. He has performed in over 45 operas, including 15 appearances at the San Francisco Opera. He is passionate about singing and education and works with The Venezuelan Music Project an El Sistema style-system for choir singing. He studied at SFCM and works in both classical and popular music.

Brandon Bell, baritone

Bell hails from Suffolk, Virginia. Most recently, Mr. Bell returned to Wolf Trap Opera to appear in the world premiere performances of Listen, Wilhelmina! and was also seen as Rev. John Hale in The Crucible with the University of Tennessee. This summer, he appears as a Studio Artist at Chautauqua Opera, performing and covering roles in their productions of Don Giovanni and Candide. Mr. Bell is currently a candidate for the Postgraduate Diploma in Vocal Performance at SFCM.

ABOUT DONATO CABRERA

Donato Cabrera is Music Director of the California Symphony and the Las Vegas Philharmonic, and served as the Resident Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and the Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra from 2009-2016 season.

Since Cabrera's appointment as Music Director of the California Symphony, the organization has been reinvigorated, with its expanded concerts, dramatically increased ticket sales, and innovative programming, the California Symphony and Cabrera are redefining what it means to be an orchestra in the 21st Century. Under Cabrera's leadership, The Las Vegas Philharmonic has also enjoyed a dramatic increase in ticket sales and an engagement with the community never before seen in Southern Nevada.

Over the last couple of seasons, Cabrera has made impressive debuts with the National Symphony's KC Jukebox at the Kennedy Center, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Louisville Orchestra, Hartford Symphony, New West Symphony, Sinfonica de Oaxaca, and the Orquestra Filarmonica de Boca del Rio. In 2016, he led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in performances with Grammy Award-winning singer Lila Downs. Cabrera co-founded the New York-based American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), and recently led performances of Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson's Drone Mass with ACME and Theatre of Voices at Duke Performances and the Big Ears Festival.

Awards and fellowships include a Herbert von Karajan Conducting Fellowship at the Salzburg Festival and conducting the Nashville Symphony in the League of American Orchestra's prestigious Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview. Donato Cabrera was recognized by the Consulate-General of Mexico in San Francisco as a Luminary of the Friends of Mexico Honorary Committee, for his contributions to promoting and developing the presence of the Mexican community in the Bay Area.

ABOUT CALIFORNIA SYMPHONY

The California Symphony, now in its fifth season under the leadership of Music Director Donato Cabrera, is a world-class, professional orchestra based in Walnut Creek, in the heart of the San Francisco East Bay since 1990. Our vibrant concert series is renowned for featuring classics alongside American repertoire and works by living composers. The Orchestra is comprised of musicians who have performed with the orchestras of the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, and others, and many of its musicians have been performing with the California Symphony for nearly all its existence.

Outside of the concert hall, the symphony actively supports music education for social change through its El Sistema-inspired Sound Minds program at Downer Elementary School in San Pablo, CA, which brings intensive music instruction and academic enrichment to Contra Costa County schoolchildren for free, in an area where 94% of students qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program. We also host the highly competitive Young American Composer-in-Residence program, which this season welcomes its first female composer, Katherine Balch. California Symphony has launched the careers of some of today's most-performed soloists and composers, including violinists Sarah Chang and Anne Akiko Meyers, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and composers such as Mason Bates, Christopher Theofanidis, and Kevin Puts. The Orchestra performs at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.

For more information, please visit californiasymphony.org.



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