May 11, 2016
Hindemith’s Finest Work for Chorus and Orchestra, Britten’s An American Overture in Season Finale

La Jolla, Calif. (May 11, 2016) — The La Jolla Symphony & Chorus (LJS&C) presents the final concert of its 61st season, Soundscape San Diego, in this imaginative pairing of works written in America by two European masters. Choral Director David Chase leads the orchestra, chorus, and soloists Janelle DeStefano and Darren Chase in Paul Hindemith’s When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d: a Requiem for those we love. The concert opens with Benjamin Britten’s An American Overture.

“This concert is very personal to me,” says Maestro Chase. “Robert Shaw, my earliest and lifelong inspiration, commissioned When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d. Performing this masterwork is a meaningful challenge in itself, and I’d always dreamed that my son Darren and I could do this work together. That day has come, and Darren and Janelle DeStefano make a perfect pair of soloists.”

Benjamin Britten sailed from England in April 1939 to make North America his new home. The pre-war environment in Europe was intensifying, making it increasingly difficult for Britten, a pacifist, both personally and as a composer. In 1941, publisher Ralph Hawkes asked Britten to write “a short overture” for Artur Rodzinski and the Cleveland Orchestra. Writing very quickly (it was completed in ten days), Britten composed what he titled An Occasional Overture. However, it was not performed at the time, and forgotten. The manuscript eventually found its way to the New York Public Library, where a cataloguer brought it to Britten’s attention in 1972. Britten renamed it An American Overture, but never heard this music performed. It was premiered in 1983, seven years after his death. The influence of Aaron Copland, a good friend of Britten’s, is clearly discerned in this piece. Following a slow-fast-slow structure, An American Overture features wide-open harmonies, folk-like melodies, and lean orchestration.

German composer Paul Hindemith, fleeing from the rise of the Nazis, emigrated to the U.S. in 1940, where he taught composition at Yale. Hindemith composed When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d in 1946, the same year he became a U.S. citizen. Famed choral director Robert Shaw commissioned the work, based on the poem of the same name by Walt Whitman, in memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The poem, an elegy, was written in the aftermath of the Lincoln assassination. As Lincoln’s funeral train made its grim journey westward from Washington D.C. to Springfield, Illinois, Whitman began to compose Lilacs, in which he would try to come to terms with this agonizing moment in the life of a nation. Hindemith set Whitman’s entire 228-line text, reorganizing it into eleven vocal movements, and added an orchestral Prelude. He also gave Lilacs a subtitle – a Requiem for those we love – making clear that the music remembered not just FDR but all those who had been lost in World War II. Written for orchestra, chorus and two soloists, the LJS&C performance features mezzo-soprano Janelle DeStefano and baritone Darren Chase, son of conductor David Chase. DeStefano has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Bach Collegium San Diego, among others. She is a voice professor at Santa Monica College (SMC) and serves as Artistic Director of the SMC Opera. Darren Chase is the winner of the 2013 American Prize in Art Song. He has recorded two albums and has performed with the Santa Fe Opera, American Bach Soloists, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and at the Aspen and Tanglewood Music Festivals, among others.

The performances take place June 4-5, 2016 in Mandeville Auditorium at UC San Diego. Concert times are 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $29 general, $27 senior, and $15 student. Parking is free. A pre-concert lecture given by David Chase is offered one hour prior to concert times. 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 61st season, maestro Steven Schick shares the podium with David Chase, LJS&C choral director, and guest conductor Rodrigo Ruiz, performing works by Barber, Bartok, Copland, Glass, Hindemith, Ligeti, several of the great Russian composers, and more.

The La Jolla Symphony & Chorus announced its 2016-2017 season in March. “Early Bird” discount subscriptions are now on sale at www.lajollasymphony.com.