University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Berlioz: Requiem; JoAnn Falletta interview

03/18/2018 1:00 pm
03/18/2018 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Although it takes its text from the Latin language Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead, Hector Berlioz' Grande Messe des Morts, Op. 5 (1837) is really a secular composition better suited for the concert hall not the church. Berlioz had been commissioned to write a Requiem Mass in remembrance of a French army general who had been assassinated in 1835, but the premiere performance was put off for two years due to political squabbling. In the end it was played at a memorial service for a different French general who had more recently fallen in battle. The Berlioz Requiem was received with great enthusiasm. It now stands alongside Verdi's Requiem of 1874 as one of the monumental sacred works of nineteenth century Romanticism.

I have broadcast the Berlioz Requiem once before on Sunday, May 30, 1993. America's greatest musician of the twentieth century, Leonard Bernstein gave it a superb interpretation. He conducted the Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus of Radio France. Originally recorded in Paris in 1975, it was reissued in compact disc format by Sony Classical as part of a multi-volume rerelease of Bernstein's recorded output. JoAnn Falletta remembers Bernstein from master classes he gave at Juilliard back when she was a student there. Now a well-established conductor, she recorded the Berlioz Requiem with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, with the additional voices of the Choral Society of Washington, DC. Tenor Robert McPherson was the vocal soloist. The recording was made live-in-performance at the Chrysler Hall in Norfolk, VA as part of the Virginia Arts Festival held in May, 2017.

Ms. Falletta celebrates twenty five years as conductor of the VSO and has also been the conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic since 1999. She has recorded with the Buffalo Philharmonic for the Naxos label. On Sunday, January 17, 2010, I broadcast the Naxos recording of Shining Brow, Daron Hagen's opera about the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, with Falletta conducting. Falletta's Berlioz Requiem was released late last year on CD through Hampton Roads Classics. Her recording benefits from superb twenty-first century sonics. Keep listening after my broadcast of the Requiem for my exclusive prerecorded interview with JoAnn Falletta about her career in music and her recording of the Berlioz Grande Messe.