Beethoven to Brighten Buckley with Joy and Fantasy
By Nancy Yun Tang '14, A&L Managing Editor
As a self-proclaimed Beethoven fan, it’s been a dream of mine to listen to “The Ode to Joy” live. My dream is about to come true this Saturday: the Amherst College Choral Society and the Amherst Symphony Orchestra will present Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Choral Fantasy in Buckley Recital Hall this Saturday. The concert also marks the start for the Symphony Orchestra’s spring performances and serves the College’s annual choral-orchestra collaborating tradition.

Mallorie Chernin (Senior Lecturer in Music, Director of the Choral Music Program), Nathan Olson ’10 (Graduate Associate in Music — Choral) and Hana Kommel ’10 (Graduate Associate in Music — Orchestra) share their insights with The Student:

Why did the Choral Society and the Symphony Orchestra choose to cooperate on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and his Choral Fantasy?

Mallorie Chernin: The Choral Society and Orchestra have collaborated for years. It’s an opportunity for our students to perform a masterwork they would not be able to do without the other organization. Choral and orchestral works include some of the greatest pieces ever written, including the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven. I have always wanted to perform the Choral Fantasy, as well, and this is the concert!

Hana Kommel: Since the Choral Society and Symphony Orchestra concert occurs only once a year, we try to choose pieces with depth and historical significance like the Ninth Symphony. Performing this sort of repertoire engages students and allows them to feel rewarded for their hard work in preparing these concerts.

What’s special about the choice of The Choral Fantasy alongside the Ninth Symphony?

Nathan Olson: The Choral Fantasy actually foreshadows the symphony in its text, which celebrates the unification of mankind through “Art” (much like the message of universal brotherhood in the Ode to Joy), as well as in its music — both works feature an exuberant finale with choir, soloists and orchestra all united in harmony, and even the musical themes themselves are strikingly similar. It should be interesting for the audience to listen for the resemblances and differences between the two works.

M.C.: I’ve always loved the Choral Fantasy, a sweet, 20-minute piece of music that shows all sides of Beethoven, albeit earlier Beethoven rather than the Ninth Symphony. The “Chorfantasie” was composed in 1808; the Ninth in 1824, three years before Beethoven’s death. One can hear aspects of the Fantasie in the symphony.

H.K.: Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy displays his earlier, more Classical style, and the Ninth Symphony borders on Romanticism. By juxtaposing these pieces, we are showing the range of Beethoven’s compositional style as well as demonstrating how composers often use past compositions as inspiration for newer works.

How is the preparation going so far?

M.C.: So far, preparations are going well. We have two rehearsals this week with our soloists, all from Boston. I’m eager to hear them in both works. Our pianist is Alissa Leiser, who teaches piano at the College and has a private studio. She is elegant, musical and lovely to work with!

N.O.: The preparation has been going very well so far. Our Choral Director, Mallorie, has been doing a terrific job, as usual, and the singers have been working very hard on their German — learning the notes is only half the battle.

H.K.: Although our rehearsal time always feels limited given the difficulty of this piece and the level of musicality it requires, the orchestral music is pulling together and we are excited to rehearse with the choir this week.

What should the audience pay special attention to in order to better appreciate the symphony?

H.K.: Since Beethoven was a master of form, the audience should pay special attention to the way themes move between sections of the orchestra and the choir.

N.O.: Considering the uplifting nature of both works, the performance will definitely benefit from the Amherst musical community’s youthful energy and enthusiasm (as well as its youthful voices, as Beethoven’s vocal writing is notoriously strenuous.)

Even if you aren’t Beethoven’s biggest fan, his Ninth Symphony and Choral Fantasy is too good to be missed. The concert will be held this Saturday (March 5) in Buckley Recital Hall. Tickets for admission are free for Five College students and $10 for the general public. Since the performance is expected to sell out, early reservations are strongly recommended.

Issue 17, Submitted 2011-03-02 01:00:44