Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony takes center stage in the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra’s concert, “Radiant Joy,” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Mary B. Martin Auditorium of Seeger Chapel at Milligan College. the direction of Music Director and Conductor Robert J. Seebacher, the concert features Sun-Joo Oh, soprano, Jan Wilson, mezzo-soprano, Thomas Rowell, tenor, and Reginald Smith, Jr., baritone.
Accompanying the vocal soloists will be the East Tennessee State University Chorale, under the direction of Matthew Potterton and Alan Stevens, and the King University Symphonic Choir, directed by William P. Flannagan. Also on the program is Franz Schubert’s Ballet Music from “Rosamunde.” The concert is sponsored by Pam and Greg Blair and Ralph and Deborah Van Brocklin.
Soprano Sun-Joo Oh has earned a loyal following from audiences throughout the country with her charm and vocal agility. She is in demand as a soloist with symphonies both here and abroad. Oh’s programs feature a wide spectrum of literature that appeals to many nationalities, particularly aficionados of baroque and contemporary music. Oh is currently associate professor of voice at East Tennessee State University.
Acclaimed by the press for her “deeply moving” artistry and a voice that has been lauded as “rich and colorful,” mezzo-soprano Jan Wilson is known for her skilled interpretations of solo orchestral works, choral masterpieces, and chamber music. Wilson has performed with orchestras and choral societies across the U.S. A. Wilson made her solo debut at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium in December 2006 and lives in New York City.
Thomas L. Rowell, tenor, is the coordinator of vocal studies and directs USA Opera Theatre at the University of South Alabama. He teaches studio voice, vocal pedagogy, and song literature. He maintains a very active performing schedule as a recitalist, a soloist, and in roles with regional opera companies.
A member of Houston’s Grand Opera Studio, baritone Reginald Smith, Jr., has been an award recipient in many competitions, winning the Grand Prize for Young Artist in the Orpheus Vocal Competition in 2014.
Franz Schubert is far better known for his Lieder, piano music, and orchestral works than for ballet music. But the Ballet Music from “Rosamunde” is not actually from a ballet. It is part of the incidental music for the play “Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus” by Helmina von Chézy. Schubert’s music survived an unsuccessful run of the play to become a standard of the orchestral repertoire. The two dances that the JCSO will perform are numbers two and nine in the set of 10 movements that make up the composition.
It is hard to imagine that Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 was not universally admired when it was introduced in 1824. It was called by some inferior to Beethoven’s first eight symphonies and that the finale was “monstrous and tasteless.” Yet some composers who followed Beethoven limited themselves to nine symphonies because of their awe of this masterpiece. Audiences at the time were probably confused. First, the symphony was long, compared to other works of the time. Second, it had soloists and a choir. Was it a symphony or a vocal work?
Regardless of its initial reception, the symphony has become so iconic that we can just refer to it as the Ninth and people will know we are talking about Beethoven. Beethoven was influenced by philosopher Immanuel Kant and poet Friedrich Schiller and it took him 30 years to compose the work that used Schiller’s poem, “An die Freude” (To Joy). Beethoven uses the words of Schiller in the last movement with the vocal solos and choral accompaniment, taking the audience from a place of darkness in the first movements into the light of radiant joy.
Individual concert tickets are $35, $30 for seniors (65+), and $10 for students. Free bus service is available from Colonial Hill, leaving at 6:15 p.m.; Maplecrest and Appalachian Christian Village, at 6:30; and City Hall, at 6:45 p.m. Concerts are partially funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.