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Preview: HRO Arts First Concert

By SIDDARTH VISWANATHAN, Contributing Writer

April 29-April 30, 8:00pm

Sanders Theatre

Conducted by Andrew G. Clark

On April 29, the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra (HRO) will join the Holden Choirs in presenting a titanic program featuring Ludwig van Beethoven’s inspiring “Symphony No. 9” and the Boston premiere of the introspective “On the Transmigration of Souls” by John C. Adams ’71. These epic pieces require a Herculean effort to produce—both pieces are for chorus and orchestra and demand so many performers that extensions to the stage are required. “On the Transmigration of Souls” also calls for a children’s choir, which must perform on the Sanders Theatre balcony since no space remains for them on stage.

But the massive performing forces are not merely for show; the two featured pieces offer a taste of two disparate parts of the classical world: the intellectual romantic and the modern. There is nothing left unsaid about Beethoven’s superlative 9th Symphony; considered one of the greatest classical pieces of all time, it is described by Director of Choral Activities and concert conductor Andrew G. Clark as “an affirmation of humanity and the community.” Adams’s piece, although much newer, holds its own against Beethoven’s classic. It was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic as a tribute to the victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and since then has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music and a Grammy Award. According to Clark, the piece is typical for Adams, who “tackles controversial and compelling material, whether it’s responding to September 11th or writing operas about Nixon’s visit to China—‘Nixon in China’—or the Manhattan project—‘Dr. Atomic’… and allows the audience member to see different events through different lenses.”

Adams, a Massachusetts native, will be in the audience to hear the Boston premiere of his work that HRO violinist Aviva I. Hakanoglu ’14 describes as “one of the most powerful and dynamic pieces I have ever played.” She adds, “we are playing a really powerful program”—a program that Clark describes as a contrast between the joyous and awe-inspiring Beethoven and the more restrained and timid Adams.

The program, one that would tire most professional orchestras, has been difficult to assemble, with Beethoven’s Ninth clocking in at an immense 70 minutes and “On the Transmigration of Souls” exemplifying the immensely complex style of contemporary classical music. However, HRO bassist Bran S. Shim ’14 is optimistic. “It’s been a very trying journey that has been worth it,” he says. “The audience is definitely going to be moved.”

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