Berlioz highlights big bicoastal choral fest 

click to enlarge Major project: Adrian Horn organized the Berlioz Grand Requiem Mass concert at Davies Hall. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Major project: Adrian Horn organized the Berlioz Grand Requiem Mass concert at Davies Hall.

Among the world’s Olympic-sized choral works — in the class of “Ode to Joy” ending Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony — are the 1837 Berlioz  Requiem and the Finale of Boito’s 1868 opera “Mefistofele.”

Both are on the program of a massive concert in Davies Hall  Sunday featuring the Redwood Symphony Orchestra, dozens of singers from Finger Lakes Choral Festival and the Rochester Oratorio Society in New York, and 140 vocalists from 35 Bay Area choral groups.

Concert organizer Adrian Horn, who founded the San Francisco Choral Society in 1989 and now directs the  the Finger Lakes choir, says the idea for the Bay Area concert  came two years ago as he conducted the Requiem in Rochester: “During a particularly exhilarating moment at a rehearsal, I blurted out with out giving it much thought, ‘How’d you like to perform this thing in San Francisco?’ “After the hooting and hollering died down, I realized that fate had answered. So over the next few days I contacted some of my old friends and colleagues in San Francisco, and here we are.”

Locally, San Francisco Lyric Chorus is taking a lead role — providing two-thirds of the singers and handling publicity for the event. All of the performers, including tenor soloist Dan McInerney, are appearing without pay.

The Berlioz Requiem, an enormously ambitious work, originally required more than 400 singers and instrumentalists, including four offstage brass bands. The piece is mysterious and powerful, with an ethereal conclusion that captures the essence of eternity.

Redwood Symphony Music Director Eric Kujawsky, who conducts the Requiem Sunday, calls the presentation “the latest in a long series of big, ambitious projects that characterize Redwood Symphony’s unique profile in the community.” The group already has performed all of Mahler symphonies, Messiaen’s “Turangalila” Symphony, major scores by Stravinsky, Bartók, Shostakovich, Corigliano, Adams and Lutoslawski — as well as complete operas in concert.

On Sunday, Horn leads the “Mefistofele” Finale, a work whose intensity equals that of the Requiem.

Rounding out the concert are Eric Townell of the Rochester Oratorio Society leading Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides” Overture and Robert Gurney of the San Francisco Lyric Chorus conducting “Shepherd’s Farewell” from Berlioz’s “L’Enfance du Christ.”

Kujawsky also leads the familiar Fanfare from Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” the movie theme from “2001: a Space Odyssey.”


Berlioz Requiem 

Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F.

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

$20 to $45

Contact: (415) 392-4400,

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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