The Yale Glee Club and the Yale Symphony Orchestra this weekend will present “Heavenly Bodies,” a concert showcasing the evolution of classical music.
On Saturday. Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Woolsey Hall, the program will begin with present-day American composer Missy Mazzoli’s piece called “Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres),” followed by Bohuslav Martinu’s “Oboe Concerto” featuring soloist Alec Chai ’22. Finally, the ensembles will perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Requiem in D minor” completed by Robert Levin.
“I wanted to find two works that were in complete contrast to the Requiem,” said William Boughton, the director of the YSO. Mozart’s completion of the Requiem was interrupted by his death — fitting, since requiems are masses for the repose of the souls of the dead.
Boughton, who will be directing the Mazzoli and Martinu pieces, explained that Mazzoli’s work seeks to sonically capture the setting of outer space. Boughton said the doubling of the wind and brass parts with harmonicas and rich string passages “transport the listeners into another world.”
Mazzoli included other uncommon instrumental choices in the Sinfonia, including a boombox and a lion’s roar.
Chai used Martinu’s concerto to audition for the William Waite Concerto Competition in 2019, which he won alongside violinist Alex Goldberg ’22. Chai was the third oboist to ever win the competition. Winners of the annual competition perform their audition piece accompanied by the YSO.
“[Martinu’s] piece is one of the masterworks of the oboe repertoire,” Chai said. “This piece stuck out to me because it goes through a wide range of emotions. Martinu was away from his home for some time because of WWII, so you can feel a lot of that in the music that he wrote. It also showcases a lot of virtuosic technicality that is a lot of fun to play.”
Last October, the Yale Schola Cantorum, directed by David Hill, performed a version of Mozart’s Requiem completed by Franz Xaver Süssmayr in 1792. Saturday’s concert will showcase a 20-year-old completion by Harvard musicologist Robert Levin.
Levin’s completion strives to more closely imitate Mozart’s style. Jeffrey Douma, director of the Glee Club, mentioned that “when we realized that [Hill] wanted to do the traditional version and I wanted to do the Levin completion, I thought, ‘Well, this is a university, why don’t we give our audience and students a chance to experience both versions of this beloved work?’”
Violinist Vivian Mayers ’21, the concertmaster of the YSO’s first violins, explained why the Requiem is so powerful.
“Mozart wrote the Requiem near the end of his life, and I think the music is intensely emotional and reflective in a way that reveals how much he was coming to terms with his mortality,” Mayers said. “There are lighthearted sections, but the piece as a whole is much more serious, even somber, than Mozart’s typical work. It’s not overly flashy or virtuosic — this isn’t child-prodigy Mozart who was composing sonatas at the age of five. This is some of the last music written by an incredibly talented man who, through this piece, reveals himself to be just as human as the rest of us.”
Last year, the YSO and Glee Club performed Francis Poulenc’s Gloria together. Saturday will be the first time this academic year that the groups are sharing a concert. Member of the Glee Club Alex Whittington ’22, who has a solo in Saturday’s concert, called the collaboration “an absolute joy and a pleasure.”
“It’s a privilege getting to see all the musicianship of the Glee Club and the YSO come together,” Whittington said. “The people that make up these two musical organizations have so much expressive and beautiful individuality that makes for an absolutely enchanting musical experience I think the audience will really love.”
Mozart died on Dec. 5, 1791.
Marisol Carty | firstname.lastname@example.org