The Johnson City Symphony continues its Orchestral Journeys Nov. 10, with “Sunrise to Sunset,” featuring soprano Angelique Clay. Under the direction of Music Director and Conductor Robert J. Seebacher, the JCSO presents a program of music by Richard Strauss, Franz Schubert and Felix Mendelssohn. The concert is sponsored by Charles and Patricia Green in honor of Elaine in memory of Don Pectol.
The Nov. 10 concert begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Mary B. Martin Auditorium of Seeger Memorial Chapel at Milligan College.
Angelique Clay, a coloratura soprano, is assistant professor of voice at the University of Kentucky School of Music. She received a doctor of musical arts degree from UK, and while a student there, she won first place in the district Metropolitan Opera auditions. In 1999, she was chosen as one of six performers to sing in the third of a series of concerts held at UK to commemorate the 100th year of the birth of Duke Ellington. Clay is a member of the American Spiritual Ensemble, a highly select group of singers who seek to preserve the legacy of the American Spiritual. The group, which has performed across the U.S. and in South America, Europe, and Japan, also performs jazz and other music of the black experience. Clay performs extensively as a recitalist and soloist in both opera and oratorio productions.
The concert leads off with “Sunrise” from Also Sprach Zarathustra. Few short pieces from the classical repertoire are more familiar than this movement. It has been used in many extra-musical settings, most famously in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Strauss was very interested in the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, studying this philosopher during a period of exhaustion from his work as both a conductor and composer. Nietzsche wrote of the life of Zoroaster in his work Also Sprach Zarathrustra. In the Prologue, Zoroaster’s idea are rejected and he decides to seek out like-minded thinkers instead of trying to lead people to his new philosophy as he awakes to a new idea—reflected in the sunrise that seems to be what Strauss was illustrating with his dramatic and powerful music.
Whatever the reasons for Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B minor being “unfinished,” there is ample precedent in his work. Over his short lifetime, Schubert left at least seven operas, a dozen or more vocal works, and numerous orchestral or chambers work either incomplete or in preliminary sketches. According to musicologist Robert Winter, this was not because Schubert couldn’t handle the demands of the work; he may have just wanted to try out a particular style or genre or that, being a teenager, he just lost interest. Schubert wrote much of his music while still in school. Similar to Mozart, whose music influenced Schubert, he was a child prodigy and died young. The Symphony No. 8 was written in 1822, when Schubert was 25. Throughout this piece, influences of both Schubert’s contemporary, Beethoven, and Mozart can be heard—from the repetitive motive in the first movement to the dramatic changes in the second movement.
The concert’s third selection brings in the Milligan College Concert Choir to accompany the orchestra in Mendelssohn’s “How Lovely are the Messengers,” in a special tribute to Don Jeanes, who passed away in August. Jeanes had just become the chairman of the board of directors of the orchestra after serving on the board for the past six years. The oratorio had somewhat fallen out of favor by the time Mendelssohn came along. As choral conductor in Düsseldorf, Mendelssohn had dedicated himself to reviving the works of J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel, including the oratorios. Conducting these works inspired him to write his own oratorio based on the conversion of Saul and his eventual canonization as St. Paul. The words of the oratorio have special meaning in regards to the work of Jeanes as an educator and community leader.
Angelique Clay will be featured in Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss. Strauss’s Lieder were usually accompanied by piano, but these songs, written to honor Strauss’s wife, who was a soprano, are specifically designated for voice with orchestra. Strauss composed these songs when he was near the end of his life and he became interested in poetry that explored death and what might come next. The Last Four Songs, set together as a unit by Strauss’s friend and editor, Ernst Roth, includes poems by Hermann Hesse and ends with “At Sunset” by Joseph von Eichendorff.
Individual concert tickets are $30, $25 for seniors (60+), and $10 for students. Season tickets are still available online at www.jcsymphony.com or by calling the symphony office at 423-926-8742. Tickets for the entire season range from $70 to $120. The symphony accepts Master Card, Visa, and Discover. Free bus service is available from Colonial Hill, leaving at 6:15 p.m.; Maplecrest and Appalachian Christian Village, at 6:30; and City Hall, at 6:45 p.m. Concerts are partially funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.