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ASU Symphony Orchestra, choirs perform Beethoven’s masterpiece

ASU Symphony Orchestra during a performance.

The ASU Symphony Orchestra.

April 27, 2023

The Arizona State University Symphony Orchestra, six ASU Choirs, two voice faculty and two graduate student soloists will collaborate on one of the masterpieces of Western art music, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, and a new commissioned piece, “Fate Now Conquers” by composer Carlos Simon, on April 28 in ASU Gammage.

“Fate Now Conquers,” composed in 2020, was written as a companion piece for the Beethoven symphony and was inspired by a journal entry from Ludwig van Beethoven’s notebook written in 1815.

“We had planned Beethoven Symphony No. 9 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 2020, but the pandemic made it impossible to mount such a big production,” said Jeffery Meyer, director or orchestras and associate professor in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. “We are excited to bring this collaboration to life this week!”

Meyer will conduct the orchestra and choirs for all four movements of the Ninth. Joseph Sieber, Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in orchestra and opera conducting, will conduct “Fate Now Conquers” to open the concert.

The four vocal soloists include Gordon Hawkins, bass, professor of voice; Stephanie Weiss, mezzo-soprano, associate professor of voice; Kaitlyn Sabrowksy, soprano, DMA in voice performance; and Carlos Feliciano, tenor, DMA in voice performance.

Students from six ASU choirs — Barrett Choir, Choral Union, Canticum Bassum, Concert Choir, Gospel Choir and Sol Singers — will perform together for the last movement of the work. The full choir involves more than 225 singers, including undergraduate non-music majors, both undergraduate and graduate music majors, and members of the community.

David Schildkret, co-director of choral activities and professor, and Jace Saplan, co-director of choral activities and associate professor of music learning and teaching and choral conducting, have been working with some of the choirs on the music since January to prepare for the concert.

“While the music itself is only moderately difficult, Beethoven makes enormous physical demands on the singers,” Schildkret said. “They have to sing at full volume and often at very high pitches for extended periods. It requires a training period comparable to preparing to run a long race, but we are ready.”

Schildkret began teaching at ASU in 2002 and is retiring this May. He currently conducts the Barrett Choir, which he founded in 2011, and the Choral Union. He has previously directed the Chamber Singers, Concert Choir and Canticum Bassum.

Simon, a past winner of the ASU Gammage and ASU School of Music, Dance and Theatre Composition Competition, is a frequent commissioned composer for previous concerts, including “Towards a More Perfect Union” and “Graffiti.” His compositions range from concert music for large and small ensembles to film scores with influences of jazz, gospel and neoromanticism. Simon is currently composer-in-residence for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 is the final complete symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven. It is regarded by many critics and musicologists as Beethoven's greatest work and one of the supreme achievements in the history of music. It is one of the most frequently performed symphonies in the world.

The Ninth was the first example of a major composer using voices in a symphony. The final movement features four vocal soloists and a chorus in the parallel modulated key of D major. The text was adapted from "Ode to Joy," a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and revised in 1803, with additional text written by Beethoven.

Originally commissioned by the Philharmonic Society of London in 1817, the symphony was composed between 1822 and 1824 and was first performed in Vienna in May 1824.

Beethoven had steadily lost his hearing during the course of the symphony’s composition, and by the time of its premiere Beethoven was profoundly deaf and never heard a note of his magnificent composition.

Beethoven Symphony No. 9

7:30 p.m., Friday, April 28

ASU Gammage, Tempe campus

Tickets: $12

Concert program

All students with an ASU, college or school ID and all Herberger Institute faculty and staff are eligible for complimentary tickets through the ASU Gammage box office.

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