By George Basler
The Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra will tackle one of the masterworks of Western music this Sunday (Jan. 28) when it presents Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor at the Broome County Center for the Performing Arts (The Forum).
“Any orchestral performance is a shared act of musical remembering, and Mozart’s Requiem is one of the greatest examples,” Julia Grella O’Connell, the Philharmonic’s director of education and community engagement, wrote in her program notes.
Maestro Daniel Hege will lead the orchestra in performing the Requiem, along with a combined chorus of the Southern Tier Singers’ Collective and the Binghamton University Chamber Singers under the direction of William Culverhouse.
Mozart’s masterwork has an intriguing history. His widow, Constanze, told some fanciful stories surrounding the composition, including the “fact” that “a mysterious stranger” showed up at Mozart’s door with the offer of a commission to write the Requiem.
Alas, the real story is more prosaic. The “mysterious stranger” was in reality a messenger from Count Franz von Walsegg, who wanted the piece written to commemorate the first anniversary of his young wife’s death. Walsegg, whose reputation preceded him, apparently intended to pass the piece off as his own.
The terminally ill Mozart took the commission because it promised a big payday, and he was in desperate need of the money. But he did not finish his Requiem before dying on Dec. 5, 1791. That job fell to his pupil, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, who completed it in time to be performed at Mozart’s own funeral in January 1792.
Mozart had an intimate appreciation of the pain that death can bring. Five of his six siblings did not live past infancy. Of his six children, only two survived. His Requiem is modeled on the Catholic Mass for the dead.
Despite this, Mozart intentionally meant to bring hope and joy to the living in his work, O’Connell said. Mozart “infuses the familiar words of the Mass with profoundly humanistic vocal writing, reminding the listener that the soul, however sinful, has reason to hope,” she wrote in her program notes.
The chorus is a major part of Mozart’s work, O’Connell added: “It functions almost like a solo instrument” as the singers shift between moods, expressions and tempos.”
The combined chorus for the Jan. 28 concert will feature some of the best singers, not only in Binghamton, but in the entire Southern Tier, O’Connell said: “It’s great for us to reach out and collaborate with the local community.”
The performance also will feature four vocal performers from the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia: soprano Juliette Tacchino, mezzo-soprano Katie Trigg, tenor Jackson Allen and bass Evan Gray.
The Philharmonic worked for about a year and a half to plan the Requiem performance, O’Connell said.
Tickets are selling well. “Apparently people love great choral music in this community,” O’Connell said.
The 3 p.m. concert will be preceded by a 2 p.m. pre-concert chat, “Mozart and Memory,” given by O’Connell.
IF YOU GO: The Binghamton Philharmonic will perform Mozart’s Requiem at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28, at The Forum, 236 Washington St., Binghamton. Tickets are $25 to $65. Children 17 and under attend free, thanks to M&T Bank. For more information, and to order tickets, call the philharmonic box office at 607-723-3931 or visit www.binghamtonphilharmonic.org.