We are grateful to the The Rivard Report for highlighting our upcoming Mozart Festival concert!
When 200 singers from three long-established institutions join forces to perform a venerated musical masterpiece, the result is nothing short of transformative.
The 2017 San Antonio Mozart Festival is well underway and an immediate highlight will be the performance of Mozart’s largest choral work, the ‘Great’ Mass in C Minor, K. 427 at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts on February 22nd. Even more ambitious than his Requiem, it is essentially an opera, a towering double-choir work (eight simultaneous voice parts), and a symphony rolled into one. Like the Requiem, this, too, was unfinished at the time of the composer’s death in 1791. Legend has it that Mozart could not get himself to complete the work after the loss of his son whose birth had purportedly inspired one of the movements. Whether this is true, its pomp and splendor is bold and rigorously dramatic.
The ensembles performing this work include the San Antonio Choral Society, the Trinity University Chamber Singers, and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Choir. They will be joined by members of the San Antonio Symphony and soloists Angela Malek, Jacquelyn Matava, Kirby Traylor, and Chia-Wei Lee. Heather Yun, a singer with the SA Choral Society and board president, reflects on the diversity of the singers who “share the common goal of creating music greater than could be achieved on one's own.” Ironically, this momentous collaboration came out of a passing chat between the three conductors of these ensembles, Jennifer Seighman, Gary Seighman, Joseph Causby, and their desire to perform for the San Antonio public a work that is rarely done because of its many challenges and musical demands.
One of these challenges is the fact that the work is unfinished. Only three sections of the traditional Catholic Mass were completed by Mozart (the Kyrie, Gloria, and Sanctus movements). Large portions of the Credo are missing, as well as the entire Agnus Dei. Conductors face the task of choosing no fewer than eight versions which include several “completions” in which others have filled in the gaps by reworking in sections completed by Mozart or adapting melodies from his other works. This is much like how an archeologist would reconstruct an ancient structure based on known practices. The version performed for this festival is the 2005 completion by Harvard musicologist, Robert Levin, which is the most ambitious version as it adds approximately 40% to the length of the work.
A unique aspect to this concert is that all three conductors will be leading different movements of the work from the podium which is somewhat unorthodox from the practice of having a single conductor. As Jennifer Seighman points out, “Another twist to our performance, in which the work itself is already a product of fusing together different sources to make it ‘complete,’ will be for the audience to see and hear the subtle differences each of us brings out of the music.”
Andrew Small, a first violinist with the SA Symphony and Managing Director of the Monte Vista Strings and Jazz who is assembling the orchestra expresses, “I've been struck by the enthusiasm of all the participating musicians, many of them citing this as one of their favorite compositions.”
The soloists also have a reason to be eager. With the same grandeur and flair as an eighteenth-century opera, the solos are highly virtuosic and demanding. Among these are several arias, a duet, a trio, and a quartet. However, the writing for the two soprano soloists is especially poignant. Soloist Jacquelyn Matava is no stranger to the work which she previously performed at the Indiana University four years ago. She notes that “Mozart wrote one of the soprano solos for his wife, Costanza, and that the music frequently intertwines in dramatic fashion. Soloist Angela Malek describes the Et incarnatus est aria as “reaching from the depths to the heights of the soprano range.” Even Pope Francis once commented that this well-known aria “is matchless; it lifts you to God!”
The concert is one night only on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Tobin Center’s H-E-B Performance Hall. Tickets start at $19 and may be purchased through the Tobin’s website or by calling the box office at 210-223-8624.
ABOUT GARY SEIGHMAN
Gary Seighman is director of Choral Activities and associate professor of Music at Trinity University.