La Jolla, Calif. (November 19, 2014) — In December 1989, Leonard Bernstein led an international orchestra in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on the ruins of the Berlin Wall, which had just been demolished. The La Jolla Symphony & Chorus (LJS&C) marks the 25th anniversary of that historic concert with a performance of Beethoven’s grandest symphony - one of the best-known works in classical music - in the second concert of its 60th anniversary season, The Nature of Things. The program opens with a different declaration of freedom: William Grant Still’s Afro-American Symphony, written in 1930, was the first significant symphony by an African-American composer. Nearly a century later, it remains a compelling piece of music. Music Director Steven Schick conducts the orchestra and chorus, joined by the San Diego State University Chamber Choir and soloists Natalie Mann (soprano), Peabody Southwell (mezzo-soprano), Enrique Toral (tenor), and Ron Banks (bass), in three performances of this celebratory concert on December 12-14th.
The premiere of William Grant Still’s Afro-American Symphony in October 1931 by the Rochester Philharmonic made it the first symphony by an African-American composer to be performed by a major American orchestra. The symphony’s success did not end there. Performances of the new work quickly followed by orchestras across the country and in Europe by the Berlin Philharmonic. The symphony is a European form, but Still based themes on the blues and other forms of popular African-American music: spirituals, jazz, and ragtime. A tenor banjo is included in the orchestra, its twang an important part of the jazzy, ragtime feel of this music. Still gave each of the four movements of the work a subtitle that suggests its emotional content and a specific aspect of the African-American experience: Longing, Sorrow, Humor, and Aspiration.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 was completed in 1824, only three years before his death. The unprecedented grandeur of the music, the first use of voices in a symphony, and in particular the setting of Schiller’s “An die Freude” (Ode to Joy), have made the Ninth Symphony one of the great statements of romantic faith in humankind. By the time Beethoven completed this work, he was almost totally deaf. He shared the stage with conductor Michael Umlauf for the premiere in Vienna; Beethoven provided the tempos for each section, turning the pages of his score and beating time for an orchestra he could not hear. He received five standing ovations at the conclusion of the performance.
The performances take place December 12, 13 and 14, 2014 in Mandeville Auditorium at UCSD. Concert times are 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. Individual tickets are $36 general, $34 senior, and $18 student. Parking is free on Saturday and Sunday; a parking fee is required on Friday. Steven Schick will give a pre-concert lecture one hour prior to concert times in the Auditorium. To purchase tickets or for more information, call the LJS&C office at (858) 534-4637.
The La Jolla Symphony & Chorus San Diego’s oldest and largest community orchestra and chorus, is a non-profit musical performing group dedicated to inspiring San Diego with the joy of music. Its 110-person orchestra and 130-person chorus perform groundbreaking orchestral and choral music along with traditional favorites from the classical repertoire. During the 60th season, maestro Steven Schick shares the podium with David Chase, LJS&C choral director, performing works by Beethoven, Berlioz, Bernstein, Ives, Mahler, Nielsen, Ung, and more.