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March 7, 2001

 

Colorado Choir performs `Requiem for Reconciliation'

Musical masterpiece created for Requiem Mass to honor victims of World War II

By Alwen Bledsoe

Friday, March 23 and Saturday, March 24, the Colorado Choir will introduce what experts describe as "a musical masterpiece" to the United States, performing the American premiere of eight choral movements with orchestra from "Requiem of Reconciliation" at a new auditorium on the Auraria campus.

The work is a collaborative composition of 14 world-renowned composers from 13 countries involved in the Second World War. The Requiem memorializes the victims of the war. It has been performed in its entirety only twice — once in Germany and once in Israel. The new University of Colorado-Denver Kenneth King Academic and Performing Arts Center at the Auraria campus is scheduled to open with the historical performance.

Created as a tribute to the victims of World War II, the work was commissioned by The Internationale Bachakademie in Stuttgart, Germany, founded by the well-known conductor Helmuth Rilling, who brought together the 14 composers to collaborate on the piece. Collaborative from conception to birth, "Requiem of Reconciliation" was first performed by an international ensemble on April 16, 1995. The world premiere performance by Gachinger Kantorei Stuttgart, Krakauer Kammerchor, and Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, Helmuth Rilling conducting, earned international attention and won Rilling the Theodor Heuss Prize for that year's theme of "Acts of Reconciliation."

Originally created as music for a Catholic Mass to commemorate the dead, the requiem provides a venue for the living to remember and honor the dead. As such, "Requiem of Reconciliation" calls for an international and collective remembrance of all the victims of the Second World War. The composers from Italy, Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia, U.S.A., Norway, England, France, Poland, Russia, Japan, and Romania, once enemies in the war, came together to provide the international community with the memorial.

Each composer was assigned a separate section of the "Requiem of Reconciliation." Each worked within the tradition of the Requiem Mass differently, some incorporating Gregorian chant or other themes traditional to the Latin Mass, and some departing from tradition and simply using the general idea and spirit behind a requiem to guide their composition.

Colorado Choir conductor Randolf "Casey" Jones said of the composers, "they've given us a chance to feel some of the feelings and great ideas that these people must have felt in the Holocaust."

The eight composers whose pieces are being performed by the Colorado Choir are Friedrich Cerha of Austria, Judith Weir of England, Marc-Andre Dalbavie of France, Luciano Berio of Italy, Arne Nordheim of Norway, Krzysztof Penderecki of Poland, Gyorgy Kurtag of Romania, and Alfred Schnittke of Russia.

Colorado Choir earned the rights to the American premiere through the curators of the work in Stuttgart, largely, Jones said, due to the choir's reputation and unique ability to perform contemporary music.

Jones describes the piece as "the most difficult ever written for choir and orchestra" and said performing it once could be compared "to performing 10 Mozart Requiems in the same amount of time."

The piece incorporates no chords and relies heavily on dissonance to represent time, space, and ideas, Jones said.

The choir has rehearsed for three years for the historical performance and will use a 55-piece orchestra, including an electric organ in place of some of the original instruments. While the Holocaust has been the subject of much art, literature, and music, Jones said the requiem piece is much broader in its expression than most.

"It should be a good realization of what the composers wrote," he said.

"No one who walks in here will leave the same person," he said. "They will be changed by this piece." While the piece is clearly a reflection on death, Jones said it communicates a breadth of human emotion, not just suffering. Nordheim's movement, for example, depicts human suffering by using the tri-tone, considered the "devil in music" by the Medieval Church, to create dissonance, but then resolves into consonance by the end of the piece. Weir's piece, Jones said, is joyful. The Colorado Choir is a community choir of 100 singers and is associated with the University of Colorado-Denver. Capuchin Franciscan Father Ed Judy, director of Samaritan House, is a participant in the choir and a member of the choir's board of directors. Father Judy described the music as "an expression of spirituality" and a "positive expression of the soul." He said the piece brings back childhood memories of singing and hearing the Requiem Mass. He added that it has given him a greater appreciation of the more classical forms of religious music, which have largely been lost by the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council. Tickets range from $15 to $18 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster or by calling (303) 892-5922.

 


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