The Santa Barbara Choral Society, led by music director JoAnne Wasserman, continues its “Masterworks at San Roque” series with concerts featuring the music of Mozart and Beethoven this weekend at San Roque Catholic Church. In addition to the chorus and orchestra, the concert will feature sopranos Rena Harms and Nichole Dechaine, tenor Benjamin Brecher, bass Keith Colclough, and, in the final work, pianist Alexander Wasserman.
Performances are 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at San Roque Catholic Church, 3200 Calle Cedro in Santa Barbara.
The program will consist of three works: the Great Mass in c-minor (Große Messe in c-moll), K. 427 (K. 417a) and one of the three settings of the Latin Marian hymn, Regina Cœli (Queen of Heaven) both by Wolfgang Mozart; and the Fantasy in c-minor for Piano, Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra, Opus 80 by Ludwig van Beethoven.
Legend has it that Mozart composed the Great Mass in c-minor for his wife, Constanze, and while Constanze did indeed sing the “Et Incarnatus Est” at the first performance, the actual sequence of events is not quite so straightforward. In a letter to his father, Mozart reminded him of a vow he had made to compose a mass when he married Constanze and brought her to Vienna. He began to write the mass, his 17th, shortly after his marriage and completed it the following year (1783).
It was first performed in Salzburg on Oct. 26, 1783, while the newlyweds were visiting the town of his birth, so Mozart could introduce his wife to his father and sister — an introduction he must have viewed with some trepidation. It seems to have gone off all right, however. And though the mass was performed, it was never finished — nobody paid Mozart to write it, and probably the press of other work made him put its completion on the back burner, not knowing how little time he would have to polish it up.
The Beethoven Choral Fantasy, as it is usually called, is a rousing, deliriously bravura work, a kind of dress rehearsal for the Ninth Symphony, and it is always a tremendous hit when it is played in concert — which is not as often as you might think, because a symphony orchestra has to hire a pianist, soloists and a large chorus for 20 minutes of music (if you count just when somebody is singing, maybe half that) and there are few orchestras these days whose budgets admit such extravagance. A choral group is in a much better position, since most of their programs require solo singers and orchestra and their only additional hire is the pianist, albeit a virtuoso. From what I have heard of Alexander Wasserman, he will fit the bill very nicely.
Tickets to the concerts are $25 when purchased at the door, or click here to purchase tickets online for $20 apiece.