Ten works I heard performed live this weekend:
- Claudio Monteverdi, Vespro della Beata Vergine
- Russell Garcia, Variations on a 5 Note Theme
- Ludwig van Beethoven, Egmont Overture, Op. 84, arr. Alan Civil
- Bernhard Heiden, Variations for Solo Tuba and 9 Horns
- Matthew Beecher, Themes from Star Trek
- César Franck, Panis Angelicus
- Thomas Tallis, Spem in alium
- Norman Dinerstein, When David Heard
- Robert Kyr, Santa Fe Vespers
- Arr. Moses Hogan, My God is so high
The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music presents a lot of free musical performances, and this past weekend I went down to Mills Hall in the Mosse Humanities Building on the UW campus to avail myself of three of them. Saturday night, I saw the University Concert Choir perform a program of unusual chronological breadth; Spem in alium is a work from the early 16th century, while Santa Fe Vespers was composed earlier this year. (Nos. 8 and 10 were also heard at that show.) Somewhat coincidentally, the latter work was inspired by and based upon the first work listed above, which I saw performed the following evening by the UW Madrigal Singers, accompanied a small ensemble of period instruments, including cornetti, sackbuts, and a theorbo, the last of which is something I'd never seen played live before.
Sandwiched between those two on Sunday afternoon was a concert by the UW Horn Choir, at which I heard nos. 2 through 5. Speaking as a former horn player, I thought it was great. I didn't care much for the Heiden piece; it was one of those atonal modern works that sounds like a mess of random notes with occasional blats and squawks thrown in for good measure. That said, the tuba soloist was very good; you can't even begin to approach a piece like that without being a master of your instrument. The highlight of the show was the Star Trek medley; I was a little disappointed it didn't include the themes Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, or Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (by James Horner, Leonard Rosenman, and Cliff Eidelman, respectively), but it did incorporate Jerry Goldsmith's Klingon theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and trust me when I tell you you haven't heard that until you've heard it played by sixteen French horns.
Number six was the only piece I didn't hear at Mills Hall. It was the Communion anthem at Christ Presbyterian Church, and was sung by the choir's paid section leaders. (One of whom, incidentally, was a featured soloist in the Monteverdi Vespers.) It's really nice having the pros in the choir, because it allows us the time to prepare more challenging works. At my old church in Virginia, we often prepared two anthems for each service, which was fun but usually wasn't particularly challenging. (For me, at least.) At Christ Presby, the section leaders will generally sing one anthem--sometimes as a quartet, sometimes solo--while the choir as a whole does the other. Since we're preparing half as much material, we can afford to spend more time working on harder music. Which also is fun, albeit in a different way.