Manchester Symphony, Chorale to perform music by Haydn and Brahms

By Karen Greer
For the Journal Inquirer
April 12, 2012

MANCHESTER — Manchester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale’s next concert, on Saturday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m. in Bailey Auditorium at Manchester . High School, brings the orchestra, chorale, and soloists together under the baton of Kevin L. Mack.

On the program of “Haydn & Brahms: Their First & Last” are the first and the last works for chorus and orchestra from these two great composers. The distinct voices of Franz Joseph Haydn and Johannes Brahms can be heard in their music, and nowhere more clearly, than in their music with voices.

Haydn enjoyed jokes, musical and otherwise; in fact, his most famous symphony is known as the “Surprise Symphony.”

At the age of 17, he wrote his first surviving choral work and was also expelled from the choir of St. Stephen Church in Vienna for his pranks, including climbing on the Schonbrunn Palace and snipping off the pigtail of a fellow chorister.

“Missa Brevis in F” is the work of an exuberant youth. All 163 words of the “Credo” are covered in a mere 38 measures of music. The setting of the same text in Haydn’s “Harmoniemesse,” composed at the age of 70, is far more expansive. But, it still has its share of whimsical moments; for example, when the chorus suddenly drops to a spooky whisper on the Latin word for invisible, “invisibilium.”

In his notes for the concert program. Mack describes the Harmoniemesse as “an essentially well-developed symphony for chorus, orchestra, and soloists.”

The soloists for this concert include chorale members R’el Rodriguez, Julia Babcock, Elizabeth Belbruno-Weber, Jennifer Keyes, and Steven Carpenter.

Guest soloists Allison Dunn, Floyd Higgins, and Ray Hardman are all familiar voices to audiences of previous Manchester Symphony and Chorale concerts. Hardman also is familiar to many as an announcer on Connecticut Public Radio and host of Connecticut Public Television’s news program “Front and Center.”

The life of Johannes Brahms spanned much of the 19th century and its many artistic controversies, some with Brahms himself at the center. His choral writing matured along with him, from the gentle purity of his early “Ave Maria” to his spectacular setting of “Gesang der Parzen” by Johan Wolfgang von Goethe.

In “Gesang der Parzen,” or “Song of the Fates,” Brahms contrasts the realm of the mighty but impassive Fates with the mortal world of love and suffering. As Mack comments, “The restlessness of his harmonies and the intricate writing for six-part chorus are wonderful musical reflections of Goethe’s uncertainties in life.”

Fate cut short the lives of many great composers, such as Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Schubert, leaving only speculation about what they might have written. For Haydn and Brahms, their long and productive careers left a rich and varied legacy to explore.

Tickets for “Haydn & Brahms: Their First & Last” are $18; $15 for seniors and students, and free for those under 18 years of age. Tickets can be purchased at the door. For more information, call 860-646-0047, email: MusicSix [at], or visit the Manchester Symphony Orchestra Chorale Facebook page or the website: