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Columbia musical groups rise to the occasion

Kyle Engler, mezzo-soprano, soloist
Kyle Engler, mezzo-soprano, soloist (Submitted photo /)

The stage at Jim Rouse Theatre will be temporarily extended for a performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2 on Saturday, May 21 at 7:30 p.m., because this joint concert by the Columbia Orchestra and Columbia Pro Cantare means there will be around 150 musicians and singers on that stage. There also will be more than 700 people out there in the audience, because this ambitious program is sold out.

"I have been wanting to do this piece for years. It was the right time, with the planets in alignment," said Jason Love, music director of the Columbia Orchestra. "It's amazing how inspirational this piece is."

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This marks the first time either organization has performed Mahler's so-called"Resurrection" Symphony; and it is the first time that the Columbia Orchestra and Columbia Pro Cantare have performed together since a Columbia Festival of the Arts-sponsored concert in Rouse Theatre in 1998 that included the fourth movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.

The orchestral and choral requirements of the "Resurrection" Symphony make it a challenging piece that understandably is not performed all that often by anybody.

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Columbia Pro Cantare
Columbia Pro Cantare (Submitted photo /)

"It's a great opportunity to perform Mahler," observed Columbia Pro Cantare music director Frances Motyca Dawson. "Mahler demands a long, sustained, hushed and very soft balance. There is an ethereal quality. It demands the utmost musicianship."

Featured soloists for the upcoming performance are mezzo-soprano Kyle Engler and soprano Marlissa Hudson.

Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony had its debut performance in Berlin in 1895, with Mahler himself conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. It is a superb example of the late Romanticism for which this Austrian composer is known.

As for the spiritual qualities of this symphony, the text for its concluding choral section is derived from an 18th-century poem titled "Resurrection" by Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock. By incorporating such an inspirational poem in the finale of a lengthy symphony, Mahler knew that he would be courting comparison with Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.

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The German text that will be sung by Columbia Pro Cantare includes such overtly resurrection-themed lines as: "What was created/ Must perish,/ What perished, rise again! ... Die shall I in order to live./ Rise again, yes, rise again."

Jason Love noted that Mahler is often assumed to be obsessed with death, but that "his obsession is not with death, but with life. He is grasping for life and frustrated by the brevity of life."

Although the upcoming program is dominated by Mahler's 90-minute-long "Resurrection" Symphony, it opens with an appearance by two winners of the Columbia Orchestra's 2016 Young Artist Competition.

Marlissa Hudson, soprano, guest artists
Marlissa Hudson, soprano, guest artists (Submitted photo /)

Cellist Sean Kim, the Junior String Division winner, performs a selection from Franz Joseph Haydn's Cello Concerto No. 1 in C; and flute player Andrew Zhang, the Senior Wind Division winner, plays a selection from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Flute Concerto No. 2 in D.

Columbia Orchestra and Columbia Pro Cantare perform on Saturday, May 21 at 7:30 p.m. in Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake, 5460 Trumpeter Road in Columbia. This concert is sold out. For info, call 410-465-8777 or go to www.columbiaorchestra.org

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