Sometimes putting on a concert involves finding a piece that you want to do and building a program around it. Other concerts come together by finding a common theme and planning repertoire that the audience and musicians will both find interesting and enjoyable. Some even come together because of a combination of both approaches. When this happens, the results can be extraordinary. This week’s concert with Natasha Korsakova is one of those times.
When I started looking at this concert, I wanted to have the Chorale do what is does best… sing! So, as I started looking at repertoire, the idea of Psalms and music people turn to as a way to lift their voices in praise. Maybe a better word would be “joy.” Here is the definition of joy from www.dictionary.com “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.” What better reason is there to make music? So I started to look at music for chorus that was evocative of something “exceptionally good or satisfying.” The pieces that came to mind were an almost endless parade of music, so much that the question became not which should we do, but which ones could we save for later (more on that topic in another blog).
Then Natasha Korsakova came into the picture. I have known of her for several years but had not met her or had the opportunity to work with her. When I was offered some dates to have her join us for a concert I jumped at it. Then when the talk came around to the doing the Brahms “Violin Concerto” with her, the program and what we might say with it came together. It was the Brahms Concerto, an instrumental work that became the link to the choral sections of this program. Originally conceived by Brahms as a “symphonic” approach to writing a concerto, he eventually abandoned his sketches for a larger four-movement work but left us with an astonishing work that is both powerful and lyrical. The whole piece just seems to sing! And when Natasha played it with the orchestra last night, it was awesome! I can’t wait to do it again.
Then the Chorale came in and sang Mozart’s “Ave verum corpus” with a grace and beauty that took my breath away. A mere 46 measures long and around three minutes in duration, this brief motet is in my opinion one of the greatest achievements of Western culture. Of all the choral pieces on this program (and they are all great), this is the one that really made me stop and think about the beauty all around us that we sometimes overlook because we are too busy.
So, we’re doing two concerts this weekend that are full of music that is simply beautiful… sometimes spectacular, sometimes intense, but always beautiful. I’ll get to conduct and hear a concert that has some of my favorite movements from larger works as well as “stand alone” pieces. In the end I hope the music will give us all – performers and audience alike – a reason to look around and see the beauty right in front of us.