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10 reasons to attend TRIUMPH, our final concerts of the season

Our April concerts include three great works, one from each century from the 19th to now. Learn a bit more about why you shouldn’t miss these timely and compelling performances.

1. Beethoven’s "Eroica" Symphony may be the greatest symphony of all time. Come hear why!

2. "Eroica" is mind blowing--revolutionary--even for our time.

3. The emotional scope of "Eroica" carries us from innocence to struggle and mourning, then through joy and triumph. A musical expression of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.

 

4. "Eroica" is a response to events both public and private. Publicly, the French Revolution and the rise of the common man excited many. Privately, Beethoven had just gone through a suicidal depression brought on by the realization of the inevitability of his increasing deafness.

5. "Eroica"’s second movement, a Funeral March, was played by the Boston Symphony in response to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

6. Nielsen Flute Concerto, which is also on the program for the evening, is one of the greatest works for flute.

7. The flute concerto was written in 1926 as part of a series of concertos for each member of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet.

8. The flute concerto is written in neo-classical style, an intriguing and delightful mix of old and new

9. Our soloist, Christina Jennings is a leading flutist with “a distinctive voice, charisma and a pyrotechnic style that works magic on the ears.”

10. Also on the program is "Weltschmerz," a premiere by Turkish composer, conductor, and educator Egemen Kesikli. He is the winner of the 2016 CU Composition Competition and is currently a doctoral candidate and a Graduate Part-Time Instructor at the University of Colorado Boulder.

 

Don’t miss this exciting event!
Cynthia
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A Special Collaboration for Joseph Haydn Creation

Pro Musica Colorado is looking forward to the upcoming performances of Joseph Haydn Creation. For these concerts, Pro Musica is joined by soloists Amanda Balestrieri, Jeffrey Seppala, Steven Soph, and the new Colorado Masterworks Chorus.

The Creation is a marvelously collaborative work. Here are thoughts from some of our artists, Dr. Vicki Burrichter, Artistic Director of Colorado Masterworks Chorus, soprano Amanda Balestrieri, and bass-baritone Jeffrey Seppala. Their insights and personal connection will greatly inform our opening concerts. Enjoy!

 

Burrichter

Dr. Vicki BurrichterArtistic Director, Colorado Masterworks Chorus

What makes Colorado Masterworks Chorus special?

The mission of the Colorado Masterworks Chorus is to honor beloved masterworks as we strive to promote our emerging vocal artists through the selection of soloists directly from our ranks (for this production, the soloists have been chosen by Maestra Katsarelis). The professional level of the choral singers and the emphasis on giving young singers an opportunity to sing the great choral masterpieces and to perform solos with the chorus makes us unique in Colorado. We also perform with outstanding instrumental ensembles, as well as present our own concerts with orchestra. This year, the latter includes Handel's Israel in Egypt and finishes with Britten's War Requiem at Macky Auditorium on Memorial Day Weekend, both of which I will be conducting. Because of the dedication of the Board President/Executive Director/Founders, Michael and Peggy Madsen, this unique chorus has already been successful, in spite of its short history.

What will Colorado Masterworks Chorus bring to the stage for this performance?

CMC brings a level of excellence and quality of singers only possible when using professional singers and vocal performance students from universities like CU, UNC, CSU, and DU. The excitement generated by this kind of superior musicianship will bring Haydn's greatest choral work to ecstatic life! In addition, my long experience with the symphonic choral repertoire allows the chorus to match the period style of Maestra Katsarelis' vision for the piece.

What does this piece of music mean to you personally?

Haydn's The Creation is one of the finest pieces in the symphonic choral repertoire. I have done it several times in a 20th-century style (for example, with the Colorado Symphony), but to have the chance to do it in an early music period style is a thrill for me. And to work with young singers (along with some of our older, more experienced singers) is something I love. Getting them past the notes and rhythms to find something more transcendent is always a challenge, but very rewarding.

What are you looking forward to in this partnership with Pro Musica?

Cynthia and I met for the first time at a Starbucks in Denver to pass off scores, and we hit it off immediately. She is someone who is deeply dedicated to making the best music possible, no matter the style. And as someone who has a production company and has run several non-profits, I know what kind of vision and hard work it takes to start an organization like Pro Musica, and to keep it running for 10 years--congratulations are due to all involved! I'm looking forward to seeing our mutual hard work and the dedication and excellence of our ensembles come together for two spectacular performances of one of Western music's greatest masterpieces. From all of us at Colorado Masterworks Chorus, thank you for this opportunity, and we look forward to our time together!

 

Balestrieri

Amanda BalestrieriSoprano

What does this piece of music mean to you personally?

I have performed Haydn's The Creation many times. My first was while I was an undergraduate at Oxford University, where I sang the solos of the Angel Gabriel. Ever since then, I have been lucky enough to perform Eve's solos as well, which really rounds out the soprano solo role in that the music of Eve is more mellifluous than that of Gabriel and reminds me more of opera. It feels like a very grateful role after the angels have observed earth's creation, more human. I have usually performed this work in English but had one opportunity to sing it in German, which was really enjoyable for the language setting, since German was Haydn's native tongue. As a singer, I find it interesting to observe the differences the language makes when singing this beautiful music, and I enjoy the process of embracing the edition chosen for each performance and fashioning it into something beautiful and expressive to suit the music.

What can audiences expect from this performance?

This should be an energetic and beautiful performance, with fabulous strings and wind sound and an excellent choir. Maestra Katsarelis always imbues her performers with electricity and enthusiasm. This is one of my preferred orchestras to sing with because of the ensemble, and sitting right in front of the fabulous violins is a thrilling experience.

 

Seppala

Jeffrey SeppalaBass-Baritone

How do soloists interact with the orchestra and chorus?

There is a wonderful symbiotic relationship between the soloists, orchestra, and chorus. Within Haydn’s The Creation, the soloists often present the narrative followed by a joyous celebration of each creation day. The orchestra undergirds the story with color to describe the characters and plot elements.

What does this piece of music mean to you personally?

Haydn’s The Creation is a fantastic piece celebrating life and new beginnings. Each day of the creation is an opportunity to celebrate another element of creation that we so often take for granted. This piece reminds me of my first climb to the top of Long’s Peak. Since you must begin the ascent in the dark, you are able to witness the shift from dark to light, see the immense sky high above and the land below, and hear the birds chirping and the bubbling brooks coming from the mountain.

 

 

We are thrilled to share this beautiful masterpiece with you and hope you also make a joyful connection to it. Join us for Joseph Haydn Creationon October 28 in Denver and October 29 in Boulder.

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Pro Musica Colorado Familiar Faces: Introducing Long-Term Players

Ten seasons ago, Cynthia Katsarelis founded Pro Musica Colorado to provide high quality performances of classic to cutting edge repertoire for chamber orchestra that would contribute to the arts culture on the Front Range. Today, the ensemble continues to work toward this mission with Cynthia as its trailblazing conductor and musical director, exciting and inspiring audiences throughout the region.

The group of professional musicians brings their unique backgrounds and interests to the ensemble, starting with Cynthia.

Cynthia has conducted professional, conservatory and youth orchestras around the globe, including roles with the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops, Buffalo Philharmonic, Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, the Colorado Music Festival and the symphonies of Knoxville, Kansas City, Spokane, Flint, Georgetown and the Columbus Women’s Orchestra. She made her international debut leading the Bourgas Philharmonic in Bourgas, Bulgaria. Cynthia’s commitment to working with young musicians has taken her to Haiti every year since the fall of 2004, to conduct and teach at the Holy Trinity School of Music in Port-au-Prince.

When asked what makes Pro Musica Colorado so special, Cynthia replied:

“Three things make us who we are. First, it’s the personal and musical qualities of our musicians and soloists. Our musicians are of the highest quality with outstanding training, experience, and that je ne sais quoi quality where each musician fully engages with intellectual and emotional content of the music. This synergy contributes to intensely beautiful and inspirational performances.”

“The second area is our programming. Sometimes we go into imaginative areas, such as playing the Four Seasons of Antonio Vivaldi with Piazzolla’s tango version. Sometimes we juxtapose new music with old, which speaks to our time and adds perspective to the classics. Always, with our audience, we are exploring the very human content revealed in the music.”

“Finally, we perform in settings that are more intimate and accessible. Pro Musica Colorado plays like a string quartet on steroids, and our audiences are more “up close and personal” than is possible in large concert halls”

Every player has a similarly incredible backstory and commitment to the ensemble.

Barbara Hamilton, Stacey Lesartre and Carole Whitney have been with the ensemble since nearly the beginning. Read the Q&As below to learn a bit more about these principal players. 

 

Barbara Hamilton

How many years have you been involved with Pro Musica Colorado?

I’ve been involved since its inception in 2006.

What is your role with the chamber orchestra?

I am the principal viola.

What is your favorite music, composer or performance?

I think I have been reincarnated from the 1920's, so probably music of Bartok, Shostakovich, Korngold, Schulhoff, and Kapralova. I also love the music of J.S. Bach and fiddle music.

What are you looking forward to in Pro Musica Colorado’s 10th season?

The January Shostakovich Symphony No. 14 program, Love and Death, without a doubt. We perform January 20 in Boulder and January 21 in Denver. Don’t miss out on this special piece.

In your words, what makes Pro Musica Colorado so special?

That’s easy. First,the collaborative nature of rehearsals. Each of the incredible musicians brings their perspective and spin on the musical pieces. And second, Cynthia's generous musical spirit.

Is there a particular memory from the past ten years that stands out in your mind?

I particularly enjoyed the Shostakovich 8th quartet show we titled Dedication in 2016, as well as the Dumbarton Oaks by Stravinsky. It was wonderful to get to play the Golijov "Oceana."

Want to learn more about Barbara? Visit her Colorado Chamber Players page.

 

Stacy Lesartre

How many years have you performed with Pro Musica Colorado?

I’ve been with the orchestra since the beginning in 2007.

What is your role with the orchestra?

I am the concertmaster, also known as the lead violinist.

What is your favorite music, composer or performance?

I love all chamber orchestra repertoire and have a great affinity for everything by W.A. Mozart and J.S. Bach. And, I always look forward to premiering new music.

What are you looking forward to in Pro Musica Colorado’s 10th season?

I’m excited to play with the major league musicians in our orchestra and to help bring Cynthia's wonderful interpretations to our audiences. Also, I’m very much looking forward to Shostakovich Symphony No. 14 in January.

What do you think makes Pro Musica Colorado special?

There is a high level of artistic connection between all of the musicians that is fostered by Cynthia. There is a lively exchange of ideas in rehearsals which leads to peak performance after peak performance in concerts. Being a part of this is such a joy, and very rare. The artistry of all the musicians in the orchestra under Cynthia's direction makes this possible.

Is there a particular memory from the past ten years that stands out in your mind?

There are so many wonderful memories from which to choose! Our all Mendelssohn program, our recent all Mozart program, Christmas Oratorio and Mozart Requiem with St. Martin's Choir, Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat, Knoxville Summer 1915, Shostakovich Chamber Symphony, the list could go on. Voices of Light was an incredibly moving program with the composer Richard Einhorn in attendance at every rehearsal and performance.

Want to learn more about Stacy? Visit her LinkedIn page.

 

Carole Whitney

How many years have you been playing with Pro Musica Colorado?

I’ve been with them from the beginning. Cynthia and I met in a non-profit workshop Boulder County Arts Alliance (BCAA) was giving. I recently had left the East Coast where I was in an orchestra. She was just starting an orchestra. I told her about myself, and the rest is history.

What is your role with Pro Musica Colorado?

I’m the principal cellist. The principal position means I sit first in the section and take a more proactive role with the group and with the conductor. I act as a spokesperson for my section and work with the other string principals to make leadership decisions.

What is your favorite music, composer or performance?

Outside of Pro Musica Colorado, I love opera and Baroque music--especially Bach. I’m in a Bach ensemble and, for ten weeks each summer, the Santa Fe Opera orchestra. I love the art form.

What are you looking forward to in Pro Musica Colorado’s 10th season?

I’m looking forward to celebrating the ten years of history and working to make it grow with even more concerts.

What do you think makes Pro Musica Colorado special?

I enjoy the enthusiasm of the group and commitment of all of us-- the players and the conductor. And the collaborative spirit. Cynthia invites and embraces collaboration, so it is infused with the players and our work. It informs what we do with each performance.

Is there a particular memory from the past ten years that stands out in your mind?

We’ve given some great performances--each season brings new special memories.

Want to learn more about Carole? Visit her website.

Don’t miss a single Pro Musica Colorado performance this year. Explore the season or get your season pass now.

Season of Creation!

by Cynthia Katsarelis

In our tenth anniversary season, Pro Musica Colorado embarks on a musical journey that will take our audiences from the joy of creation, through reflections on love and death, finally to triumph. Please join us in finding wonder, inspiration, and hope in these masterful artistic creations!

We open our season with Haydn’s oratorio, Creation, depicting the creation of the world from the Biblical Book of Genesis, with responses culled from Milton’s Paradise Lost. The idea of creation invokes the imagination and brings a sense of wonder and joy.

Haydn’s masterpiece starts with the Big Bang, depicts chaos, and gradually forms into satisfying Enlightenment order and reason. His tone painting leads him to using astonishing harmonies and orchestral colors, even using the famous “Tristan” chord, long before Wagner. The music delights and has been called “some of the most lovable and life-affirming music ever composed.” Haydn’s depiction of the first sunrise is not to be missed! At the premiere, at “Let there be Light” followed by the resulting chord, the audience erupted into applause and it took nearly 5 minutes to recollect and go on with the performance. 

In the winter, we present a neglected masterpiece, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 14, which is essentially a song cycle-symphony. Written from his hospital bed, Shostakovich wrote “on the eternal themes of love and death,” setting poems by Lorca, Rilke, Apollinaire, and Kuchelbecker. While it may sound like a downer, Shostakovich explained to his audience “My symphony is an impassioned protest against death… “ He looked to death as an inspiration to make sure that he lived his life to its full. He felt that man “at the moment of death, that he has given all his life and energies to the noblest cause in the world – to fight for the liberation of humanity.” And for Shostakovich, some of the liberation comes from artistic creation. We will end with comforting music by J.S. Bach.

Our season finale features Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica,” or “Heroic.” Beethoven wrote this after resigning himself to the onset of deafness and in it he seemed to work out how he would live, the meaning of his life, as it were. Famously, he dedicated it to Napoleon when Beethoven saw him as a liberator of Europe. When Napoleon crowned himself emperor, Beethoven declared “so he’s a tyrant” and scratched out the dedication with such vigor that it ripped the page. In removing Napoleon, he made the work more universal and that invites us into the archetypal story. It’s hard not to think of Joseph Campbell and “The Hero’s Journey.” 

In creating this season, I thought about William Faulkner and his Banquet Speech upon winning the Nobel Prize. “It is his [the poet’s] privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.” In artistic creation and re-creation, I find inspiration and hope, wonder and joy, meaning and strength. 

I hope you can join us for our Season of Creation.

Cynthia Katsarelis

 

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Pro Musica Sets a Full Stage for Mozart's Requiem with Four Phenomenal Soloists

Amanda Balestrieri, Soprano

Leah Creek Biesterfeld, Mezzo-Soprano

David Farwig, Baritone

Joseph Gaines, Tenor

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Amanda BalestrieriAmanda Balestrieri, Soprano

Website

English soprano Amanda Balestrieri’s singing has been described in the press as ‘unusually versatile,’ ‘gorgeous,’ ‘resplendent,’ ‘thrilling,’ and ‘absolutely divine.’ She won two scholarships to Oxford University, received her MA in German and French, studied voice in London and Milan, performed in London and Germany, and appeared on the soundtrack for the film Amadeus.

“Soprano Amanda Balestrieri had a beautiful, tender tone, and was particularly memorable in her "echo" aria, where she blended magically with an "echo" soprano from the choir…”

- Kelly Dean Hansen, Boulder Daily Camera

Her varied career includes performances with symphony orchestras throughout the U.S., several with the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. under the batons of Leonard Slatkin and Christopher Hogwood. Recitals have taken her to the 92nd Street Y in New York, and the Washington, D.C. Phillips Collection and French and German Embassies, and her voice has been heard on NPR’s Performance Today and Colorado Public Radio’s Colorado Spotlight.

Critically acclaimed for her 'radiant intelligence' and the 'luminous warmth' of her voice, Ms. Balestrieri has appeared with the major period instrument ensembles throughout the U.S., including Opera Lafayette, New York Collegium, Concert Royal, St. Thomas Choir New York, the Smithsonian Chamber Players, the Folger Consort, the Washington Bach Consort, American Bach Soloists, and Santa Fe Pro Musica. In Colorado, she has been a featured soloist with the Colorado Symphony, Fort Collins Symphony, Cheyenne Symphony, Colorado Ballet, Boulder Bach Festival, Sphere Ensemble, Ars Nova Singers, Denver Eclectic Concerts, Denver Early Music Consort, and Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, and serves as Artistic Advisor for Seicento Baroque Ensemble. Ms. Balestrieri was nominated for a 'Wammie' as Best Classical Vocalist in Washington D.C. in 1999, and has recorded for the Dorian, Koch, and Virginia Arts labels.

 

Leah Creek Biesterfeld, Mezzo-Soprano

Leah Creek Biesterfeld holds a Master of Music in Voice from Indiana University and was a national winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions. She has performed opera roles with New York City Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Opera Colorado, Santa Fe Opera, Syracuse Opera, and Sarasota Opera.  Ms. Creek Biesterfeld has been a featured soloist at Carnegie Hall with Mid-America Productions as well appearing as a soloist with Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Colorado Springs Philharmonic, Boulder Philharmonic, and Philadelphia Chamber Chorus.  She is a member of both St. Martin’s Chamber Choir and the Colorado Bach Ensemble as well as a founding member of Anima Chamber Ensemble.  Ms. Creek Biesterfeld and her husband own and run Petite Musician, an early childhood music and movement program that offers Music Together classes in the greater Denver area.

 

David Farwig, Baritone

David Farwig has been hailed as a lyric baritone with a unique and beautiful sound, unsurpassed clarity, flexibility, and deep expressivity. Whether in oratorio or recital, he is at home bringing a full range of styles to the stage.  As a professional solo and choral artist, he has performed with numerous companies throughout the United States and Europe including the United States Air Force Singing Sergeants, the Carmel, Oregon and Victoria Bach Festivals, the Santa Fe Opera, the Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Choral Arts Seattle, the Santa Fe Symphony, Seraphic Fire, and True Concord Voices & Orchestra. 

"Baritone David Farwig has an intimate yet mature sound and his delivery…is devastating in its unrequited longing." 

- Concerto.net, from a review of Samuel Barber: An American Romantic

David was nominated for the Austin Critics Table Award for his solo work in Robert Kyr’s A Time for Life, and won the same award in 2011 and 2012 for his performances in Kyr’s stirring cantata Songs of the Soul and the critically acclaimed chamber version of Samuel Barber’s The Lovers, recorded with the Grammy winning professional ensemble, Conspirare, on the Harmonia Mundi record label.  His most recently acclaimed solo work can also be heard on Conspirare’s recording of Robert Kyr’s deeply moving cantatas, Songs of the Soul and Cloud of Unknowing, voted as one of NPR’s top new recordings of 2014. 

In 2014, David completed his Doctoral of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting from the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. He is currently based in Denver, Colorado where he is the Chancel Choir director at Park Hill United Methodist Church, and stays active locally as a guest vocalist, conductor and choral clinician.

 

Joseph Gaines, TenorJoseph Gaines, Tenor

Website

Recognized nationally and internationally as a highly energetic, vibrant, and extremely versatile singer and actor, tenor Joseph Gaines is known for beautifully sung and richly detailed interpretations of character roles, and has been described as "such an exuberant performer you couldn't help but smile" (The Minneapolis Star-Tribune).

"In an otherwise fast-paced second act, you had no reason to want to spend so much time with the glutton Irus on his way to his suicide: no reason, that is, apart from the fine singing of Joseph Gaines."

- The New York Times

A favorite of a number of opera companies large and small across the United States in recent years, Gaines has been a regular guest artist at Opera Philadelphia, Utah Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Central City Opera, Indianapolis Opera, and many others. An alumnus of the apprentice training programs at Sarasota Opera, Central City Opera, and Glimmerglass Opera, he joined the artist roster of The Metropolitan Opera for the first time in 2013, covering Caius in Verdi’s FALSTAFF, conducted by Maestro James Levine.

A voracious musician with a love of repertoire from many distinct styles and periods, he has been a featured soloist with some of the finest American orchestras, including The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Detroit Symphony, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and a number of chamber and baroque ensembles throughout the United States and abroad. While he is a favorite on the operatic stage for the character roles of Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Richard Strauss, and works by contemporary composers, he also possesses a very strong background in historically informed performance; Gaines is a noted interpreter of Monteverdi, Handel, and Scarlatti, and also especially the Evangelist roles of Bach.

His broader concert repertoire spans hundreds of years, from Hildegaard von Bingen forward through Mozart and Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Wolf, to Poulenc, Rorem, Stravinsky, Britten, Bernstein, and contemporary works by Robert Avalon, Theo Morrison, Jake Heggie, and many others. An avid recitalist, collaborator, and chamber musician, he has performed frequently with The Pittsburgh Song Collaborative, The Erie Chamber Orchestra, and Philadelphia’s Lyric Fest, with whom he presented the world premiere of two song cycles by composer Daron Hagen in recent years. His commercial recordings (from both Ars Lyrica Houston, and New York’s famed Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys) and live performances have been broadcast domestically and internationally by NPR and Public Radio International, most recently with solo excerpts from the St. Thomas Choir’s Messiah: The Mozart Orchestrations, heard nationwide on With Heart And Voice.

Don’t miss your chance to experience Mozart’s Requiem in full splendor April 8 in Denver and April 9 in Boulder. Purchase tickets today.

Looking for more? Read our past blog posts.

Soprano Amanda Balestrieri Reflects on Mozart's Requiem

Both beautiful and dramatic, Mozart’s Requiem, is one of the most-loved pieces of music today.

Pro Musica's performances of this masterpiece will feature St. Martin’s Chamber Choir alongside four solo artists. Featured singers are Amanda Balestrieri, Leah Biesterfield, Paul David Farwig and Joseph Gaines.

The solo artists provide a clear dialogue between the orchestra and the song, creating the tension and drama Mozart favored. Each musician, each voice, brings a new perspective to the classic and helps keep the music relevant generation after generation.

Soprano Amanda Balestrieri agreed Mozart has stayed relevant yet evolved for her over the years.

“Every musician has an evolution in their relationship to famous works like Mozart’s Requiem,” she said. “I have sung many different editions of this work, for me, it was fundamental to my development as a singer that I started as an instrumentalist and that my father was the Chairman of my local choral society. I never sang in choruses then, but I went to many concerts, and I would hear the soloists and be moved. Then as I began to sing as a young soprano, I began to imagine myself singing those roles, and eventually, I would be the one singing the soprano solos.”

Today, she appreciates Mozart’s expression of the divine, both religious and human, through music.

“The real versus the legend,” she explained. “All musicians understand this, the tendency to put the artistry and the artist on a pedestal while musicians are human beings like everyone else.”

Yet there is something legendary about Mozart. For Balestrieri, it all began across the pond.

“When I was a very young singer in London, I was in the Academy of St. Martin in the Field's chamber chorus, recording Mozart works, including the Requiem, for the Soundtrack of the movie Amadeus! We were in the EMI Studios on Abbey Road, and heading there for the first session was my first time walking over the famous zebra crossing from the photo on the Beatles' Abbey Road album cover.”

Working with Pro Musica Colorado and St. Martin’s Chamber Choir add another dimension to the piece.

“Since these are both highly skilled professional groups, the music is lifted onto a higher plane in performance,” Balestrieri explained. “To have the full sonorities of the professional voices in this choir, along with the full sonorities of the orchestral players, means we can hear how amazing Mozart's mind was, how well he knew the sounds and capabilities of the voices and instruments and how he made that into a beautiful whole to express the text.” 

Don’t miss your chance to experience Mozart’s Requiem in full splendor April 8 in Denver and April 9 in Boulder. Purchase tickets today.

Anyone who remembers the 1984 movie “Amadeus” knows the controversy surrounding what became Mozart’s final masterwork. Mozart managed to score only the first two sections of the Mass before he died in 1791 at age 35. We explored the full history in a previous blog post.

Have questions or want to share your experience with Mozart’s Requiem? Join the conversation by commenting below.

 

Mozart's Requiem: Musical Miracle and Mystery Story

by Cynthia Katsarelis 

Mozart’s Requiem is a musical miracle and a mystery story wrapped into one. He wrote much of it on his own death bed. He didn’t finish it, but was able to give some instructions to one of his students, Franz Süssmayr, on how to complete the work. Indeed, Constanze, Süssmayr, and other friends had sung the existing vocal parts with Mozart. 

The work was commissioned by Count von Walsegg-Stuppach to commemorate the death of his young wife earlier in 1791. There’s a lot of controversy about whether or not the Count was planning to have the worked performed as one of his own compositions. Regardless, fate intervened. When Mozart passed on December 5, 1791, his wife Constanze took possession of the manuscript. Hurting for money, she arranged to have it finished to receive the commission money, but she kept a copy of the manuscript to sell to publishers as well, which was not in keeping with the terms of the commission.

What did Mozart write? The manuscript is a bit of a mess with various hands contributing to the completion. Süssmayr and Constanze refer to scraps of music that we no longer have. We know that he wrote the vocal parts from the beginning to m. 8 of the Lacrimosa, and that he only orchestrated the Introit, but included lots of notes on the orchestration in the vocal parts. Mozart told Süssmayr that the final two movements, the Communio and Lux aeterna be set with the music from the Introit and Kyrie. That left Süssmayr with the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei to compose. 

While Süssmayr claims to have composed the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei, many find it unlikely. The music is more sublime than any Süssmayr ever composed. Further, the evidence of the music itself points to Mozart or some other master. Each of those movements has motives from earlier movements embedded into it, a level of cyclic mastery far beyond Süssmayr. 

The world owes a great debt to Süssmayr for taking on the task of completing the work. However, there are numerous issues with his portion of the work. There are a number of voice leading mistakes that Mozart would never have committed, and Süssmayr orchestrated the work too thickly.  Despite these problems, the work still has incredible emotional power and aesthetic beauty. 

Pro Musica Colorado, with St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, is performing from the edition completed by Franz Beyer in the late 20th Century. Beyer maintains what is clearly Mozart’s, fixes the voice leading, and alters the orchestration in a way that seems more “Mozartean.”