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Beethoven 9 go-withs

Dear Colleagues,
For a concert a bit down the road, we're looking for a first-half piece to pair with Beethoven 9.
The design problem is that local funding agencies won't support something as popular as the Beethoven, so we need something new, exciting and different; also something that will provide the choral singers with meaty and extended music to work on as they prepare the Beethoven.  Something in the 15- to 25-minute range or so.
Our preference is Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls, but its orchestral numbers and other extra needs might expand the budget a little beyond what's healthy.  So we're seeking something equally attention-getting but less demanding in cost.  One thing we're considering is Kancheli's Styx, but it's a bit longer than ideal.  Schoenberg's Survivor from Warsaw is a bit too brief, though still a possibility.
The work would need to be by an internationally prominent composer, preferably living or at least only recently deceased, who hasn't received many perfomances in this part of the world (so submissions by composers on this list, while interesting and welcome, wouldn't be useful).
Any suggestions?
Many thanks for your help!
Best regards,
Jerome Hoberman
Music Director/Conductor, The Hong Kong Bach Choir & Orchestra
Principal Conductor, Baguio Cathedral International Music Festival (Philippines)
on June 7, 2011 6:45am
This doesn't fit your criteria, but I think Brahms's Nänie, Op. 82, would make a beautiful and interesting pairing with Beethoven 9 - both texts by Schiller.  Nänie is in the 13 minute range, and not too difficult -- you could consider pairing the Brahms with the Schoenberg on your first half.
on June 8, 2011 5:57am
Years ago, as members of the Saratoga-Potsdam Choral Institute singing with the Phila. Orch. under Stanislaw Skrowaczeski, I think we performed the Chichester Psalms on the first half of the program. Intermission followed by the Beethoven 9th. 
on June 8, 2011 11:28am
Prayer for St. Cecelia, by Gerald Finzi.
on June 9, 2011 10:12am
Professor Lindsay Lafford is now some 96 years old, but he was the Organist and Choir Master at St John's Cathedral, Hong Kong, in 1935 (more fascinating facts here ) SInce about 1995, he has been writing short pieces for The Walbrook Singers, and they're all fascinating. He still drives himself around Europe every summer and regales us with stories of singing, as a young chorister, under Elgar's stern direction ('He used to scare the **** out of us!').
It may be worth dropping him a line (he was hale the last time I spoke to him a few weeks ago, and has written a new piece for us to perform at Lichfield Cathedral in a few weeks time) and seeing what he has in his cupboard, I'm sure he'd be thrilled to hear from you! Let me know if you'd like his address.
on June 10, 2011 6:32am
I have been wanting to spread the news about Sphaera, a work for chorus and orchestra by the emerging French composer Guillaume Connesson.   Kind of a Stravinskian, octatonic remix of Carmina Burana, very exciting as well as grateful to sing (and mostly not difficult to learn), and astutely orchestrated.  About 20 minutes long.  The Monmouth Civic Chorus gave the US premiere of this work a couple of years ago, and had a great time with it.  It has also had performances in France.  Publisher is Billaudot.  This would be an ideal curtain raiser for Beethoven 9, both thematically and musically.
Another work I would like to champion is the Lamentations of Jeremiah by the sadly neglected African-American composer Ulysses Kay.  This 20-minute cantata has a prominent baritone solo, which would make it a nice partner for the Beethoven.  Kay, who died in 1995, was a very serious and skillful musician who deserves to be better known.
on June 11, 2011 6:13pm
The first things that come to mind, if you have the singers for them, would be one of the three late Stravinsky choral works, "Canticum Sacrum," "Threni," and "Requiem Canticles."  All top-notch music, if not exactly crowd-pleasers, and hardly ever performed.  For a totally different approach, there is Samuel Barber's wonderful "Prayers of Kierkegaard."  And Bartok's "Cantata Profana."
on June 13, 2011 3:28am
Healy Willan's "Te Deum Laudamus" is a good possibility.  Info about this (and other choral works) at this PDF of a Choral Foundation Research Memo on Willan.  11'25" on my Vancouver Bach Choir recording.
While it'd be hard to top the Barber "Prayers," or if you can pull them off, the Stravinsky or Bartok, the Willan is closer to Beethoven stylistically and is gloriously "choral," so you singers will feel like they had enough to do.  It's ceremonial but not tiresome.  The text in English includes psalm phrases like "peace be within thy walls."  So coupled with the Schiller Ode, you'd have a Peace and Joy theme going.
on June 14, 2011 7:11am
When we performed B9 with our orch. 3 years ago - I conducted the Serenade to Music - Vaughan Williams, and we used 10 student soloists.  THe piece might be too short for your needs - only 14 minutes or so.   For our needs, the audience loved it . . .   It *is* beautiful music!
on June 14, 2011 9:15am
We did a recent performance of Beethoven 9 paired with a new cantata by Canadian composer John Estacio (, with the Edmonton Symphony conducted by Jean-Marie Zeitouni.  The cantata, Two Houses Stand Not Far Apart, set to text by John Murrell, the librettist for Estacio's operas, is about two clans living on either side of a river, with similar histories and cultures, who nevertheless have over the centuries developed an enduring hatred for one another, which inevitably leads to conflict and tragedy.  It is a very powerful work, about 25 minutes in duration, beautifully orchestrated (more or less same orchestration as the Beethoven, with a few additional percussionists needed), set for soprano and baritone solo and chorus.  Regrettably there is not much reference to the work yet on John's website, but you can contact him there for information, scores and a recording of the Edmonton premiere performance which was broadcast by CBC.  Worth a look!
Len Ratzlaff
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