MAHLER SYMPHONY NO. 2

Saturday, April 22, 2023 | Hill Auditorium

A titanic way to end a powerful, joyous, life-affirming concert season, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 encompasses an Everest of human emotion. From Hill Auditorium, the 90-minute symphonic journey from cataclysm to catharsis underscores the composer’s belief in life after death and the possibility of ultimate redemption. Ferocious, seismic utterances open the symphony’s partwriting; chorus and soloists reinforce the orchestra’s ethereal transformation from darkness to transfixing light at its close.

Massive, menacing and unimaginably moving, the symphony has undergone a “resurrection” in its own right. Once dismissed as unplayable, the inexhaustible efforts of Mahlerians such as Leonard Bernstein rescued the work from obscurity, with Bernstein insisting on its performance two days following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A fitting profession of deliverance from despair, the symphony’s performance set the stage for one of Bernstein’s most memorable quotes: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

PROGRAM

Saturday, April 22, 2023 | Hill Auditorium 

Vuvu Mpofu, soprano
Susan Platts, mezzo-soprano
UMS Choral Union
Earl Lee, Music Director

Mahler Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”

VUVU MPOFU, SOPRANO 

BIOGRAPHY

South African soprano Vuvu Mpofu was a prizewinner at both the Operalia and Belvedere Singing Competitions, she was awarded the John Christie Award at the 2019 Glyndebourne Festival and was a participant of the Accademia Rossiniana at the Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro.

Ms. Mpofu’s current engagements include Violetta La traviata for Seattle Opera; the European Premiere of Blue by Jeanine Tesori at Dutch National Opera; Pamina Die Zauberflöte for Staatsoper Stuttgart; Musetta La bohéme for the Glyndebourne Festival and the Vlaamse Oper; Leila Les pêcheurs de perles for Cape Town Opera; Lavinia in Mozart’s L’oca del Cairo at the Mozartwoche in Salzburg with Maestro Robin Ticciati and her role debuts as Bess in Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves and Violetta La traviata both for Theater St Gallen. 

In the 2019/20 season, Ms. Mpofu returned to Glyndebourne as Gilda Rigoletto; she made her debut for Oper Köln as Corinna Il viaggio a Reims conducted by Riccardo Frizza; she sang Astarte Der Schmied von Gent (Schreker) for the Vlaamse Oper and made her debut with the DSO and Robin Ticciati at the Philharmonie, Berlin. 

Ms. Mpofu made her debut at the Bayerische Staatsoper as a Blumenmädchen in a new production of Parsifal in 2018 conducted by Kirill Petrenko; other appearances include: Cunegonde Candide for the Bergen National Opera; Corinna Il viaggio a Reims for the Rossini Opera Festival; Pamina Die Zauberflöte for Opera North; Clara Porgy and Bess at the Teatro Real, Madrid and Teatro Colon, Buenos Aries and First Nymph Rusalka at the Glyndebourne Festival. 

Susan Platts, mezzo-soprano

BIOGRAPHY

British-born Canadian mezzo-soprano Susan Platts brings a uniquely rich and wide-ranging voice to the concert and recital repertoire.  She is particularly esteemed for her performances of Gustav Mahler’s works. A Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative Fellow, Platts studied with world-renowned soprano Jessye Norman.

Ms. Platts has performed with, amongst others, the Philadelphia, Cleveland and Minnesota Orchestras, Orchestre de Paris, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, Detroit, Milwaukee, Baltimore and Houston Symphonies, as well as the Los Angeles and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras. She has collaborated with many of today’s leading conductors, including Marin Alsop, Sir Andrew Davis, Christoph Eschenbach, JoAnn Falletta, Jane Glover, Vladimir Jurowski, Carlos Kalmar, Keith Lockhart, Kent Nagano, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Carlos Miguel Prieto, Peter Oundjian, Bramwell Tovey, Osmo Vänska and Pinchas Zuckerman.

Ms. Platts’ recent highlights include her Royal Opera House debut in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Wagner’s Die Walküre with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, John Adams’ Nixon in China for BBC Proms, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and the premiere of a new work by Howard Shore with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Verdi’s Requiem with the National Arts Center Orchestra, Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in Mexico City with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional and Mahler’s Third Symphony with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Ms. Platts appears on recent Naxos releases La Tragédie de Salomé (Florent Schmitt) and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (chamber version). She has recorded the full version of Das Lied von der Erde with the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with the Smithsonian Chamber Players, and Lieder of Robert and Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms on the ATMA label.

UMS Choral Union 

BIOGRAPHY

Formed in 1879 by a group of local university and townspeople who gathered together for the study of Handel’s Messiah, the UMS Choral Union has performed with many of the world’s distinguished orchestras and conductors over the course of its long history. First led by Latin professor and organist Henry Simmons Frieze and then conducted by the University of Michigan’s first music instructor, Calvin Cady, the group has continued to perform Handel’s Messiah in Ann Arbor annually. In May 2015, UMS announced the appointment of Scott Hanoian as the Choral Union’s music director and conductor following Jerry Blackstone’s 12-year tenure.

The 175-voice Choral Union is known for its definitive performances of large-scale works for chorus and orchestra. In 2004, UMSCU participated in a rare performance and recording of William Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience in Hill Auditorium under the baton of Leonard Slatkin. The Naxos Records three-disc set of this recording won four Grammy Awards in 2006, including “Best Choral Performance” and “Best Classical Album.” The recording was also selected as one of the New York Times “Best Classical Music CDs of 2004.”

Other recent highlights include a recording project with the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s choral and orchestral ensembles of the rarely-heard Oresteian Trilogy by Darius Milhaud conducted by Kenneth Kiesler. In May 2013, chorus members joined the Detroit Symphony and Leonard Slatkin in a performance of Ives’s Symphony No. 4 as part of Carnegie Hall’s Spring for Music festival in New York.

by the numbers

Premiere date, Mahler's Symphony No. 2

Mahler Symphony No. 2 length in minutes (approx.)

Mahler's age when he first began composing the symphony

SEE YOU AT THE SYMPHONY!

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