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Symphony will perform two requiems - and a miracle.

Byline: Fred Crafts The Register-Guard

Although composers Wolfgang Mozart and Einojuhani Rautavaara had death on their minds when they wrote their requiems, Eugene Symphony Orchestra conductor Giancarlo Guerrero insists their works are life-affirming.

Thursday night, the orchestra will play Mozart's Requiem Mass in D Minor (K.626), widely known through the soundtrack for the motion picture "Amadeus," and the Finnish composer's "Requiem in Our Time" (Op. 3), an award-winning work seldom heard in this country.

Guerrero has built the entire program around Mozart's Requiem.

"The message is quite powerful, having to deal with the Mass for the Dead and how we humans deal with the death of a close one and how we put those feelings in religious perspective," he says.

Mozart's work exists in fragments. Count von Walsegg-Stuppach gave Mozart the commission that summer, but the composer was too busy with other projects to complete it before he died on Dec. 5, 1791, under mysterious circumstances.

It was probably rheumatic fever that felled Mozart, but playwright Peter Shaffer (``Amadeus'') is among those who believe otherwise.

Whatever happened, Mozart left only the first section complete, with just the vocal parts and basso continuo for the others. Franz Xaver Sussmayr completed the work, but many critics have argued it was an inferior job.

Two centuries later, Mozart expert Robert Levin of Harvard University revised the piece, inspired and guided by Mozart's other church music. Helmuth Rilling conducted the premiere of Levin's version in August 1991 at the European Music Festival in Stuttgart, Germany, and later conducted it at the Oregon Bach Festival.

About the project, Levin has written: "We have tried to revise not as much, but as little as possible and in a manner we feel is faithful to the character, writing, voice leading, design and structure of Mozart's music."

Guerrero will use Levin's version because "his orchestration is much more transparent than previous editions and his transitions are much smoother. The choral voicing is superb, because you never lose track of the text. He also finished the `Amen' movement, which other editions completely ignore."

The Eugene Symphony orchestra and chorus will be joined by four soloists:

Soprano Serena Benedetti has sung with the Atlanta Symphony, Lyric Opera of Cleveland, New York Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Danish Radio Symphony.

Mezzo-soprano Marietta Simpson has sung with the Oregon Bach Festival, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony and Pittsburgh Symphony.

Tenor Glenn Siebert has sung with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra and the Boston, Seattle, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Houston and St. Louis symphonies.

Bass Dean Elzinga has sung with the San Diego, Long Beach, New West, Ann Arbor and Baltimore symphonies, Colorado Symphony, New York City Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Glimmerglass Opera.

Why two requiems on the same program?

"I've been quite intrigued about how different composers set the words from the Bible," Guerrero explains. "For example, in his requiem, Giuseppe Verdi put a lot of emphasis on the darker parts of the text; Maurice Durufle, on the other hand, is more about hope and pursuing eternal rest; we will do Durufle's Requiem next season. Mozart's is a combination of both. There are sections like the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) that make you think about the consequences of a sinful life. But then you have the Benedictus, which rewards the `blessed ones.' '

Rautavaara, perhaps the best-known Finish composer outside of Finland except for Jean Sibelius, wrote his "Requiem in Our Time" in 1953, in memory of his mother. He was only 24, and the work won the Thor Johnson Competition in the United States.

"I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Rautavaara a couple of years ago," Guerrero explains. "We spent a lot of time talking, and I loved listening to his stories about the time he spent with Jean Sibelius. At age 80, he is still incredibly active and just recently had premieres with the Philadelphia Orchestra and New York Philharmonic."

The "Requiem in Our Time" attracted Guerrero because "it was not a choral piece but a piece for (13) brass instruments and percussion. It still has the movements you would expect in a standard Requiem Mass (Dies Irae, Lacrymosa, etc.), but it's a purely instrumental work. The piece dates back at a time when Rautavaara was experimenting with atonality."

With two requiems on the program, Guerrero "needed something positive for that evening. Otherwise, it would have been too depressive."

Haydn's Symphony No. 96 in D Major (``Miracle'') is, he believes, "a perfect way to balance the evening."

The work had its premiere in 1791 in the Hanover-Square Concert Rooms, where, Guerrero says, "a chandelier fell from the ceiling during the performance. Miraculously, no one was injured. From that time on, the piece became known as the `Miracle' Symphony."

The piece will, Guerrero believes, serve to "celebrate the miracle of life in the midst of all the uncertainty that is happening in the world today."

Reach Fred Crafts at 338-2575 or


Eugene Symphony Orchestra

What: W.A. Mozart Requiem, Einojuhani Rautavaara's "Requiem in Our Time," F.J. Haydn's "Miracle" Symphony; Giancarlo Guerrero conducting

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: Silva Hall, Hult Center, Seventh Avenue and Willamette Street

How much: $14 to $38, through the Hult Center box office (682-5000)

Free preview: Guerrero and soloists, noon Wednesday, Hult Center's Studio One

Pre-concert lecture: Guerrero, 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Studio One

GuardLine: To hear some of the music, call GuardLine at 485-2000 and request category 3733
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Title Annotation:Entertainment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 6, 2003
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