From Bohemia to Benaroya in Six Generations: A World Premiere

Sammamish Symphony Orchestra: Requiem Æternam
Saturday, October 14, 2017 at 2:00 pm
Benaroya Hall, Seattle

“Imagine being on a roller coaster. You know how it gets scary, and then more scary, and then even more scary, until finally you’re screaming downhill in terror? That’s how this part goes – give me a little emotion, then a little more; let the crescendo build up and build up before you go off the cliff.”

That was Adam Stern, conductor and music director for the Sammamish Symphony Orchestra, addressing the chorus during a Saturday morning rehearsal. At times, Adam would halt play and walk to the back of the auditorium to talk to the chorus, giving them little visual cues about what he wanted.

After rehearsal, Adam and I found a place to sit down. He was electric!

“I don’t get the opportunity to work with a chorus very often,” Adam says. “Many orchestra players just want to be told to play a part long/short or loud/soft. When you’re working with a chorus and working with texts, using imagery to get musical results out of them is absolutely the way to go!”

Adam Stern conducts the Sammamish Symphony Orchestra.
Adam Stern conducts the Sammamish Symphony Orchestra. (Photo: Brent Ethington)

When the Sammamish Symphony Orchestra joins the Cantaré Vocal Ensemble and The Liberty Singers at Benaroya Hall this weekend, the program will consist of three works:

Alois Bohuslav Storch – Requiem in D major
Gabriel Fauré – Requiem in D minor, Op. 48
Handel – Viola Concerto in B minor, featuring Aloysia Friedmann on viola

This is the world premiere of Alois Bohuslav Storch’s Requiem, a show nearly two hundred years in the making. An 1820s Bohemian pharmacist, Storch composed music in obscurity, writing in the Classical era with hints of the Romantic era to come; his work provides the centerpiece for the evening.

The great-great granddaughter of Alois Storch, Laila Storch, faculty emeritus at the University of Washington, had possession of Storch’s original, hand-written music for years. Eventually, Adam was enlisted to re-copy the material into contemporary notation and format. The addition of violist Aloysia Friedmann, daughter of Laila Storch, as the soloist for the Handel viola concerto makes this concert a 6-generation story. (More about the Requiem’s fascinating history can be found at The Seattle Times and the UW School of Music.)

The two Requiem pieces played next to each other give the audience a chance to observe the completely different scorings of the ancient text. Storch is angry. His musical interpretations of death are intense and powerful, with big, building crescendos. This music is full of life, fighting for, demanding, those last, precious breaths. His work reminded me of the Dylan Thomas poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night (Old age should burn and rave at close of day / Rage, rage, at the dying of the light). The Fauré piece is beautiful and somber, but he’s at the acceptance stage. His interpretation of the Requiem is comparatively relaxed. (Recall the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.)

Adam programs from the heart, but not without the audience in mind. He is very curious about the audience’s take, and makes a point of going out into the hall to greet people as they are leaving. They sometimes have words of wisdom, or share what they liked – or didn’t like.

“I hope the audience will revel in the familiar – I’m sure many of the audience will know the Fauré piece – and then be excited enough by what is unfamiliar to them to pursue it a little bit,” Adam told me. “I always hope that the unfamiliar will not be a flash in the pan, that something will take root in enough of the audience to justify my faith in the material.”

Sammamish Symphony Orchestra will perform Requiem Æternam on Saturday, October 14, 2017 at 2:00 pm at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. They will be joined by Cantaré Vocal Ensemble and Liberty Singers. Details here.

 

GreatWall_GreatKent_BWxKent Karnofski has been a Seattleite most of his adult life. By day he is a research engineer at a local manufacturing firm, by night he is an extraordinary audiophile. In addition to his work with the Live Music Project, he is the curator and primary contributor at CommunityNoise.blog.