Vaughan Williams, Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Beethoven, Ruins of Athens: Turkish March
Ruins of Athens: Overture
Mendelssohn, Symphony No. 5
Composers throughout the history of music have been inspired by the human voice. They have always strived to achieve the extraordinary sensation from their work that a single sung note or spoken word can awaken from the depths of our emotions. Even those such as Mozart yearned for an instrumental equivalent and became obsessed with the clarinet because he thought it was such. With this concert, we honor the inspiration that the orchestra draws human voice and its ability to warm even the weariest of hearts.
We honor Beethoven yet again in this season, the 250th anniversary of his birth. We start with the famous Coriolan Overture, written to accompany Heinrich Joseph von Collin’s play of the same name. As such, it possesses unparalleled suspense and drama — no doubt why it has emerged as one of Beethoven’s most notable works. We will also be presenting selections from one of Beethoven’s lesser known choral works, the Ruins of Athens, another play for which Beethoven provided music. Beethoven takes inspiration from the most compelling facets of human voices and stories to set the orchestral scene, including to calm and provide comfort as well as to rally to cause.
Joining Beethoven on this concert is Ralph Vaughan Williams, English composer known for his uniquely immersive choral and choral-inspired works. The Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis pays homage to one of the most important choral composers of the Renaissance. This setting is categorically extraordinary, using the effects of placement and stereo sound to fully bring the listener back to a 16th century cathedral. The USO will be presenting this as authentically as possible.
Finally, Mendelssohn’s Fifth Symphony, subtitled “Reformation” closes out this stirring concert. It takes inspiration from the famous German hymn, “A mighty fortress is our God.” I am excited to share this piece with you, if not only for one singular moment in the last movement — a moment of pure and reverent transcendence — as if a reward for the strength and struggle of faith.