Hope & Joy

Sunday, May 7, 2023 • 7:00 p.m.
Benaroya Hall (200 University St)

Harmonia Orchestra & Chorus
Columbia Choirs
William White, conductor
Tess Altiveros, soprano
Sarah Mattox, mezzo-soprano
Brendan Tuohy, tenor
Michael Preacely, baritone

Program

Carlos Garcia (*1991)
Vast Array

Florence Price (1887–1953)
Song of Hope [West Coast premiere]

— intermission —

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (“Choral”)


About the Concert

Our season closes with Beethoven’s transcendental ninth symphony, a work that broke new ground in many respects, not the least of which is that, in it, Beethoven put his own music in dialogue with itself, recalling several passages of earlier movements as a prelude to the great “Ode to Joy” theme.

Before the “Ode to Joy” though, we’ll present the West Coast premiere of a piece by Florence Price, her Song of Hope for chorus, soloists and orchestra, only recently rediscovered in 2016 at her country home in Illinois. The concert opens with a reprise performance of a 2019 Harmonia commission, Carlos Garcia’s Vast Array.


Health & Safety

Harmonia musicians are all fully vaccinated and those performing without masks undergo testing prior to each performance. We ask that in-person audience members be fully vaccinated. Masking requirements for audience members will be made on a concert-by-concert basis and communicated within 48 hours of the performance. (These policies are subject to change throughout the season based on local health guidelines and mandates, as well as the policies of the venues at which we perform.)


About the Soloists

Tess Altiveros

Soprano Tess Altiveros, praised by the Los Angeles Times for her “particularly soulful” interpretations and by the Pioneer Press for a “captivating combination of skilled singing and magnetic acting,” is equally at home in repertoire from the 17th century to the 21st. Her recent portrayal of Female Soldier in Seattle Opera’s The Falling and the Rising was described as “a triumph” (Classical Voice North America) and “enthralling” (The Seattle Times). She has performed with Kentucky Opera, Pacific Symphony, Pacific MusicWorks, Inland Northwest Opera, Central City Opera, Boulder Philharmonic, Colorado Symphony, Juneau Lyric Opera and Eugene Opera. Recent virtual performances include Gianetta in L’Elisir d’Amore for Seattle Opera and the role of Rockstar in Resonance Work & Decameron Opera Coalition’s Tales from a Safe Distance (described by The Wall Street Journal as “ingenious”). Upcoming engagements include Le Nozze di Figaro (Intermountain Opera), Eugene Onegin (Skylark Opera Theatre), the world premiere of Romeo (Orpheus Project), and appearances with Evansville Philharmonic, Opera on the Lake, Symphony Tacoma, Great Bend Center for Music and a recital of new music with the Aria Institute in Paris.


Mezzo-soprano Sarah Mattox has sung principal roles with Seattle Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Amarillo Opera, Eugene Opera, Tacoma Opera and many others. Favorite roles include the title characters in Carmen and Cendrillon, Dorabella in Così fan Tutte, Ottavia in L’Incoronazione di Poppea and the Witch in Hansel and Gretel. She received special acclaim from The Seattle Times for her debut as Feodor in Seattle Opera’s Boris Godunov: “newcomer Sarah Elouise Mattox … raised eyebrows all over the Opera House with her believable, lifelike acting and her well-schooled voice.” In Cleveland, the Beacon Journal called her “a rich-toned mezzo-soprano who came to life as Dorabella.” Also at home on the concert stage, Ms. Mattox has made several appearances at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony. She has also been a soloist with the Northwest Sinfonietta, Cascade Festival of Music, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Helena Symphony, Bainbridge Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Walla Walla Symphony, Portland Chamber Orchestra, Eugene Concert Choir and Harmonia. As a composer, Ms. Mattox was won awards for her chamber opera Heart Mountain and her song cycle Rumpelstiltskin and the Falcon King.

Learn more: sarahmattox.com


Brendan Tuohy

Tenor Brendan Tuohy has been praised by The Cincinnati Post for his “big, bold tenor edged with silver,” and he continues to move audiences both in the U.S. and overseas. Recent appearances include Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore with Tacoma Opera, David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion with Eugene Opera, and the role of Rent-a-Cop in the world premiere of Evan Mack’s Yeltsin in Texas. In 2018 he returned to the Grant Park Music Festival to sing Haydn’s Theresienmesse, following a 2017 performance of Beethoven’s Ninth. Other engagements have included Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince with Opera Theater Oregon, Haydn’s The Seasons and Handel’s Messiah with Harmonia, Britten’s War Requiem at the University of Washington, and the iSing International Music Festival in Suzhou, China. He has performed on the opera stage at Eugene Opera, City Opera Bellevue, Vashon Opera and Berlin Opera Academy, and in concert with the Oregon Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Pacific MusicWorks and Symphony Tacoma. Mr. Tuohy completed his academic training at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music with a master’s degree in vocal performance. In 2008, he had the honor of singing and competing in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Semi-Finals in New York City.


Michael Preacely

Baritone Michael Preacely is a rising star on the operatic stage and is also known for a versatile singing ability and style that allow him to cross between genres from classical repertoire to pop, contemporary and Broadway. He has received critical acclaim for many of his performances, including Phantom in Phantom of the Opera, Scarpia in Tosca, Ford in Falstaff, Marcello in La bohème, the High Priest in Samson and Delilah, and Porgy and Jake in Porgy and Bess. Mr. Preacely has performed with many major and regional opera houses and orchestras in the United States and abroad. Recently, he completed a European tour of Porgy and Bess for which he received great reviews, toured Russia in a concert series with New York–based Opera Noire, debuted with Opera Memphis in the role of Marullo in Rigoletto, and Opéra de Montréal in the role of Jake in Porgy and Bess. He has performed with Cincinnati Opera, Opera Company Philadelphia, Kentucky Opera, Cleveland Opera, Lyric Opera Cleveland and Bohème Opera of New Jersey, and on the concert stage with some of the nation’s leading orchestras, including the Oakland East Bay Symphony, Memphis Symphony, Hamilton-Fairfield Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Pops and Cincinnati Pops


Program Notes

Carlos Garcia
Vast Array

Garcia was born October 20, 1991, and now lives in Everett. He composed this work during the summer of 2019 on commission from Harmonia, which premiered the work on October 5 of that year, under the direction of William White. The score calls for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes (one doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, strings and wordless chorus.

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Carlos Garcia began his musical training at age seven, when he started playing the piano and violin. Inspired by classic films, classical music, and Looney Toons, he decided his passion was music in film. This led to an undergraduate degree in music composition and violin performance from Western Washington University, as well as a masters degree in film scoring from Seattle Film Institute, where he studied with Emmy-winning composer Hummie Mann. After working as an assistant for TV composer Ron Jones (Family Guy, Star Trek: The Next Generation), he opened his own studio in Seattle. His film-scoring credits include the horror/adventure film They Reach.

Vast Array is a short fanfare-style work for orchestra and chorus that tries to capture no small concept: the creation of the universe,” says its composer. The biblical account of creation provided inspiration, with Genesis 2:1 supplying the title: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.”

“Although the work itself does not strictly follow the events of the six-day creation,” continues Garcia, “it encompasses each day within the three main sections of the piece. In the beginning (no pun intended), we hear the initial big bang, followed by an aftermath of chaotic energy. As the first theme unfolds, more colors and textures emerge as the underlying pulse maintains momentum.

“The second section is a more down-to-earth perspective on the creation process (days three, five and six) in which living creatures, plants and mankind — the pinnacle of God’s creation — are brought into existence. ‘Earthier’ tones dominate, set up by the strings and woodwinds, creating a more intimate — and even emotional — character. The familiar 9/8 rhythm from the opening ushers in the final section, a recapitulation of sorts, but also a last look at the now-completed creation after the sixth day. The fanfare ends with the same intensity as it began, but with more order and a sense of completeness and wonder. In a way, this represents the seventh day, the day of rest — but not yet for the musicians! A final swell on an E♭-major chord concludes the work with every voice and instrument, signifying the unity and harmony on the perfectly completed universe in all its wonder.

“You will no doubt hear influences by composers such as Gustav Holst, John Williams, and others known for their ability to write epic orchestral music of cosmic proportions. The work is also very much inspired by my love of creation and the beauty and design of the universe.”

— Jeff Eldridge

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125

Beethoven was baptized December 17, 1770, in Bonn, Germany, and died March 26, 1827, in Vienna, Austria. The first performance of this symphony took place on May 7, 1824, at Vienna’s Kärntnertor Theatre. In addition to SATB soloists and chorus, the score calls for for pairs of woodwinds (plus piccolo and contrabassoon), 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, percussion and strings.

“I carry my thoughts about with me for a long time … before writing them down,” wrote Ludwig van Beethoven around 1822. “Once I have grasped a theme I shall not forget it even years later. I change many things, discard others, and try again and again until I am satisfied; then, in my head [the work] rises, it grows, I hear and see the image in front of me from every angle … and only the labor of writing it down remains … . I turn my ideas into tones that resound, roar and rage, until at last they stand before me in the form of notes.”

The son of Johann van Beethoven, a tenor at the elector’s court and a competent teacher of violin and clavier, and Maria Magdalena, the widow of a valet, child prodigy Ludwig grew up amid destitution, discord and distress. His father was very demanding, became an alcoholic, and was dismissed from court service in 1789. Of Ludwig’s seven siblings, only two survived infancy. At age 11, the unhappy Ludwig was taken away from school to pursue musical studies exclusively. He learned to play the organ, piano, violin and viola, and began to compose. In 1784, he was appointed second organist in the electoral chapel in Bonn, where — for the next eight years — he was very active in the musical life of the city, his talents noticed by the musically discerning. He visited Vienna in 1787 and took some composition lessons from Mozart, but had to return home to manage household affairs when his mother died. He settled permanently in Vienna in 1792, when the elector fled Bonn as a revolutionary French army advanced.

In Vienna, Beethoven studied with Haydn (from whom he claimed to have learned nothing), Johann Albrechtsberger (whom Beethoven found overly strict) and Aloys Forster, a composer of string quartets, to whom he gave the most credit as a teacher. The young Beethoven survived financially by teaching and playing the piano at private music-meetings, where his dynamic, emotionally charged performances began to attract attention. He moved increasingly from a career as a virtuoso pianist toward one as a composer, writing piano concertos and sonatas, chamber works, and then symphonies. By 1800, his musical prestige considerable and his material fortunes blossoming, he became aware that his hearing was deteriorating: deafness soon threatened his musical life, as well as his social and personal life. He became increasingly morose, withdrawn and distrustful, contemplating suicide in 1802. He wrote that only art — and his belief that he had much of importance to express musically — withheld him from ending his wretched existence. He also wrote of his longing for a single day of joy: “O Providence — grant me some time a pure day of joy. For so long now the heartfelt echo of true joy has been strange to me. Oh when — oh when, oh Divine One — can I feel it again in the temple of nature and of mankind — Never? No — oh that would be too hard.”

Perhaps it was this unquenchable hope for joy that enabled Beethoven to survive his innumerable troubles, which included increasingly poor health (he suffered from asthma, lupus, eye disease, liver ailments, dropsy, fevers and pneumonia, in addition to his deafness), financial misfortune, political and social turbulence, and disappointment and tension in his personal life. Indeed, over the next quarter century he composed some of the most dramatic and passionate of all musical works, becoming a public figure in a way that no composer had before. When he died in Vienna in March of 1827, it is said that 10,000 people attended his funeral. Never beholden for his livelihood to the nobility, he helped to create a new musical age: that of the artist as hero who belongs to all humanity.

Beethoven’s final symphony, generally known as the “Choral Symphony,” is a work of monumental proportions. Its innovative musical syntax has influenced virtually every Western composer (particularly Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner, Bruckner and Mahler) since its premiere. Performances of the work have also marked epochal public occasions: in 1989, students played its finale through loudspeakers in Tiananmen Square to inspire courage, and Leonard Bernstein led a performance in Berlin to celebrate the razing of the Berlin Wall, substituting the word Freiheit (“freedom”) for Freude (“joy”) in the text of the finale.

Before he left Bonn in 1792, Beethoven seems to have been contemplating a musical setting of Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” (An die Freude), which, because of its expression of utopian ideals and its delirious praise of “joy,” had inspired the composer since his earliest years. In 1810, the outline of the chief melody appeared in the Op. 80 Choral Fantasy for piano, chorus and orchestra, in which a poem in praise of music forms the foundation of a brilliant choral finale.

Beethoven worked on the Ninth Symphony from 1822 to 1824, after he had become almost completely deaf and could hear his music only in his head. The melody to which he finally set portions of Schiller’s poem became one of the best-known and most dearly loved tunes of all time, a symbol of humanity’s desire for universal joy and fraternity.

The work is structured in the traditional four-movement design, but in size, scope, complexity and difficulty it goes far beyond all previous examples of the genre, stretching the symphonic framework nearly to the breaking point. It was first performed employing about 24 singers for each of the four choral parts. Some see in this symphony Beethoven’s continuing struggle to find his “day of joy,” and if he did not succeed in finding it for himself, he has undoubtedly led others to discover joy of their own. The work is, in any event, the magnificent culmination of his career as the symphonist whose works form the bridge between the Classical and Romantic musical periods. It shines as the prime example of Beethoven’s belief that music expresses — and is to be understood through — feelings.

The first two movements, with their persistent, powerful and percussive dotted rhythms, evince tension and conflict. The mystery and emptiness of the D-minor first movement’s opening chord seem to evoke desolation and despair, and the darkness is deepened by the descending minor melodic figures in the principal theme. But the mood lightens a little during the rest of the movement: its second theme is in the brighter B♭ major, and occasional melodic hints seem to anticipate the finale. A rapid, helter-skelter musical chase, which Beethoven spoke of in a sketch as “mere sport,” opens the second movement, also in D minor. This is followed by a gentler, major-key trio section, in which melodic foretastes of the finale again appear.

The contemplative third movement is also built on two contrasting themes, the first in B♭ and serenely song-like, the second in D and somewhat faster. The slow first theme is decorated with increasingly complex musical patternwork in its two variations and lengthy coda. Prior to each of the variations, the second, somewhat faster-moving theme appears, first in D and then in G, providing tonal contrast.

The gigantic choral finale begins with a furious orchestral expostulation, followed by a “rejection” of material from the first three movements, themes of which are quoted in turn. The “Freude” theme is then presented and given three variations before an even more dissonant outburst signals the entry of the voices. A solo baritone sings, “O friends, not these sounds! Rather, sing more pleasing songs, full of joy,” and soloist and chorus then join in the “Freude” theme. This is worked into a huge musical structure in which four soloists, chorus and orchestra combine in a virtual “symphony within a symphony,” with a grand “opening movement” in D, a brisk “Turkish march” in B♭ major and 6/8 time, a stately “slow movement” in G, and a “finale” that combines the “Freude” and “seid umschlungen” (“be embraced”) themes.

Many of the symphony’s early critics, especially in England, found the choral finale completely incomprehensible and incoherent, but the work nevertheless enjoyed a sensational reception. When the composer, who by this time was completely deaf, appeared to direct the premiere, he received five rounds of applause. Because Viennese concert etiquette prescribed three rounds only for royalty, Beethoven’s acclaim caused the police to attempt to curtail the overly enthusiastic outbursts. Although Beethoven presided from a conducting stand in front of the performers, the real direction of the performance was in the hands of the theater’s Kappellmeister, who had instructed the performers to pay no heed to Beethoven’s gestures, and of the orchestra’s concertmaster. It is said that, at the end of the performance, the applause was thunderous, and realizing that the composer could not hear the ovation, the singer Caroline Unger turned him to face the audience.

Following the concert, the exhausted composer fainted. He later made his way to the home of Anton Schindler, his friend and first biographer, and there, too drained to eat or drink, he fell asleep fully clothed and remained so until morning. The unkempt man with broad shoulders and a mass of unruly hair, who was poorly educated and illmannered, who clashed with himself and the world, did what his one-time hero, Napoleon, had tried but failed to do: Beethoven, through his musical talent and tenacity, conquered the world.

— Lorelette Knowles