[Voice Magazine] Ode to Joy - Following the Ninth with the Maestro
By Daniel Kepl, Voice Magazine
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Conductor Nir Kabaretti has been following Beethoven's Ninth Symphony all his life, but particularly since conducting the world famous masterpiece in Buenos Aires eight years ago for the first time. The unforgettable message of hope in the last movement, Friedrich Schiller's Ode to Joy, has inspired peoples around the globe with its dynamic incantation, Alle Menschen werden Bruder (All men become brothers) and will again next weekend when a massive chorus serves up the Symphony's first concert pair of the 2016-17 season.
The chorus, made up of the Santa Barbara Choral Society, Quire of Voyces, choirs from Westmonth College, UCSB and San Marcos High School will join the Santa Barbara Symphony and Kabaretti (who will be conducting the work for the fourth time since Buenos Aires) at the Granada Theatre for two performances on Saturday, October 15th at 8pm and Sunday, October 16th at 3pm. Vocal soloists, all well known to the community, will include soprano Jeanine De Bique, mezzo-soprano Nina Yoshida Nelsen, tenor Benjamin Brecher, and bass DeAndre Simmons. The program, whihc will have no intermission, will open with Christopher Rouse's short but ecstatic work for large orchestra, Rapture, composed in 2000.
"Of course, the first performance is the most frightening one," Kabaretti remembered of his first professional engagement conducting Beethoven's Ninth, during an interview with VOICE from Rome, where he is conducting an extensive run of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake at the Rome Opera House. "I had memorized it, I knew the music, but it's always so frightening to touch a sacred piece that you've known since childhood. And even worse (he chuckled), the musicians know it so much better!"
Explaining the process of preparing such an enormous work - four separate movements, the last with massed choruses and vocal students - Kabaretti revealed that it's not the thrilling last movement, with its several distinct sections, busy chorus and soloist entries, and increasingly faster tempos that is hard to put together. Rather, it's the three orchestra-only movements that precede the Ode to Joy. Apparently, it's difficult to sustain the energy and audience interest necessaryto reach the last movement of the work. And the most difficult of the three orchestral movements, Kabaretti made clear, is the Adagio. "When Beethoven writes an adagio, it's really very slow and that's one of the things I ask myself," he revealed. "We live in a different time. We walk faster, we think faster, we do things faster. Should that be reflected in the tempi I choose?"
Conductors usually program a short piece to round out the Beethoven Ninth program and Maestro Kabaretti has chose American composer Christopher Rouse's piece for large orchestra composed in 2000 titled Rapture.
"The content of the two pieces is of course very different. 200 years of difference, but taht is part of our mission," Kabaretti related. "It's a great opportunity for me to help people who just come to hear the Beethoven, explore with us a different thing; new music, contemporary music, nevertheless wonderful music." Rapture begins in a whisper, as does the first movement of the Beethoven, which Kabaretti describes as "the pianissimo of the creation of the universe," noting, like the Ode to Joy finale, Rouse's piece "grows both dynamically and in speed. I think in that sense the two pieces have similarities."
To prepare the audience for a better experience at the live performances of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, the Santa Barbara Symphony will present a free screening of the documentary film, Following the Ninth, at the Granada Theatre on Thursday, October 13th at 4:30pm. The story of four people whose lives have been transformed, repaired, and healed by the Ninth Symphony's message of hope will be followed by a Q & A with the filmmaker Kerry Candaele, Maestro Kabaretti, Symphony Board Member Howard Jay Smith, and San Marcos High School Vocal Director Carolyn Teraoka-Brady.
The 2016-17 Santa Barbara Symphony season will continue at the Granada on November 19th and 20th with Favorite Piano Masterpieces; a Peter and the Wolf Family Concert with storyteller Michael Katz on November 26th; a special New Year's Eve Pops Concert with Cirque de la Symphonie on December 31st; Disney Fantasia Live in Concert on January 28th and 29th; Iconic Schubert and Copland on February 11th and 12th; The Seasons of Vivaldi and Piazzolla on March 18th and 19th; The Best of Grieg and Sibelius on April 15th and 16th; and will finish on May 13th and 14th with From Paris to Broadway.