LSU Orchestra, Choral Ensemble join for ‘Symphony No. 9’

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNONLSU School of Music director of choral activities John Dickson leads members of the LSU Schola Cantorum, LSU Men’s and Women’s choruses, LSU Chamber Singers and LSU A Cappella Choir, 175 in all, as they rehearse April 17 at the LSU School of Music Building.
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNONLSU School of Music director of choral activities John Dickson leads members of the LSU Schola Cantorum, LSU Men’s and Women’s choruses, LSU Chamber Singers and LSU A Cappella Choir, 175 in all, as they rehearse April 17 at the LSU School of Music Building.

Most people know it simply as “Ode to Joy.”

And they’re right. Ludwig van Beethoven included the words of Friedrich Schiller’s 1785 poem An die Freude in his “Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125.”

Of course, Beethoven fans shorten this title to “Symphony No. 9,” which is exactly how it’s billed for the LSU Symphony Orchestra’s concert on Friday, April 26, on the LSU Union Theater stage.

This will be the sixth performance in the orchestra’s year-long Beethoven Festival. Three more concerts are slated for the fall semester, but even they won’t be able to top this one.

“This is definitely the biggest,” Carlos Riazuelo said.

He’s LSU’s director of orchestral studies. The orchestra will be joined on stage by the LSU Choral Ensemble, assembled and led by John Dickson, the university’s director of Choral Studies.

This concert requires voices. There would be no Au die Freude without them.

That’s German for “Ode to Joy,” and this symphony is the first in which a composer combined voices and musical instruments.

Now imagine not being able to hear this combination, especially one so joyous. Beethoven had lost his hearing by the time he wrote this piece, but there is no bitterness found in the music.

“It’s happy and uplifting,” Riazuelo said. “And now with the events happening in Boston, this symphony is needed more than ever with its happiness and joy.”

The concert will feature faculty vocal soloists Loraine Sims, Lori Bade and Dennis Jesse, along with tenor Pedro Willis-Barbosa.

And then there’s the Choral Ensemble, made up of some 70 members from the LSU A Cappella Choir, the Schola Cantorum, the LSU Men’s Chorus and the LSU Women’s Chorus.

“We’re also expecting some volunteers to sing the chorus,” Riazuelo said.

Riazuelo has conducted Beethoven festivals twice before coming to LSU. It’s one of his favorite projects, because it gives both orchestra and audience a chance to grow with the music.

Beethoven’s symphonies become more technically advanced with each new composition.

“This symphony is technically difficult, but it’s been great watching the students in the orchestra grow with it,” Rizzuelo said. “They pick it up fast, and they understand the language of Beethoven. People talk about the magic of Beethoven, and his music is still magical today.”

And the magic never fades.

“I can step away from this symphony and not play it for a few years, and I’m still impressed when I come back to it,” Riazuelo said. “Beethoven’s symphonies are almost perfect. They’re not too long — they’re just enough. Mahler has nine symphonies, but they’re heavy. Beethoven’s are almost perfect in every way.”

Beethoven composed the “Symphony No. 9” in 1824. It was his final complete symphony before his death in 1827.

Whereas many people refer to it as the “Symphony No. 9,” others call it the “Choral,” referring to Beethoven’s use of voices in the final movement.

The symphony premiered on May 7, 1824, in the Theater am Karntnertor in Vienna. The deaf Beethoven assisted conductor Michael Umlauf, and in the end received a standing ovation.

Hard to imagine not being able to hear something so beautiful. Especially when that beauty is your own creation.

But the LSU Symphony Orchestra’s audience members will be able to hear it, as well as Giuseppe Torelli’s “Sonata for trumpet and strings.” This composition will put the spotlight on Associate Professor of Trumpet James West, who is retiring at the end of the spring semester after 30 years at LSU.

And rounding out the concert will be a performance of “Concerto for marimba and orchestra” by Ney Rosauro with featured soloist Gustavo Miranda, first prize winner of this year’s LSU School of Music Concerto Competition. This piece will be conducted by graduate student Alejandro Larumbe.

“It will be a big concert with the symphony, the concerto winner and Jim West’s performance,” Riazuelo said.

And it will be filled with joy as only Beethoven could compose it.