Next month will begin with an opportunity to listen to the San Francisco Symphony Chorus in Davies Symphony Hall without the presence of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS). Rather than offering its usual bill-of-fare, which is support for symphonic compositions, the SFS Chorus, led by Director Ragnar Bohlin, will perform both a cappella and with limited instrumentation. The program will begin with the one a cappella selection, Johannes Brahms’ Opus 109, Fest- und Gedenksprüche (festival and memorial aphorisms). As the title suggests, this is a collection of three settings of brief texts, each scored for eight-part chorus. This will be the first SFS Chorus performance of Brahms’ Opus 109.
The major work on the program will be Gabriel Fauré’s Opus 48 Requiem setting. This is an abbreviated setting of the complete Latin text for the Catholic Mass for the Dead. Fauré wanted to focus on eternal rest and consolation; so, as a result, he chose to omit the “Dies Irae” (day of wrath) sequence with its hell-and-brimstone account of the Last Judgment, substituting, instead, the Pie Jesu prayer to the “good Jesus,” which is the final couplet of the full “Dies Irae” sequence.
Fauré tried a variety of different approaches to instrumentation between his first version, completed in January of 1888, and the final version, which was given a flawed publication in 1901. Orchestration for the final version involved mixed chorus, soprano and baritone solos, two flutes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, harp, organ, and strings (one section of violins, two each for violas and cellos). This was the version that the SFS Chorus performed with SFS in May of 2014. At next month’s recital, all instrumental parts will be taken by an organ performed by Jonathan Dimmock. The vocal soloists will be soprano Joanna Taber and baritone Hadleigh Adams.
Between the Brahms and Fauré selections, Bohlin has chosen to revisit Mason Bates “Mass Transmission.” SFS commissioned this piece for performance during the American Mavericks Festival held as part of the SFS Centennial Season, and it was first performed on March 15, 2012. This is another Bates composition that reflects on the impact of technology, the technology in this case being wireless long-distance communication. Bates prepared a libretto that included a conversation between a Dutch child serving as a page for Dutch government officials in Java and the child’s mother in Holland. The piece was scored for full chorus, the two soloists, pipe organ, and Bates’ “electronica,” which he performed at the premiere. He will play again in next month’s SFS Chorus recital, and Dimmock will again be the organist.
This program will be given only one performance in Davies at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 1. Ticket prices range from $20 to $125 and may be purchased through the event page on the SFS Web site. Tickets may also be purchased at the Davies Box Office on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street or by calling 415-864-6000.