Günther Herbig Leads Baltimore Symphony in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, July 23-24

Internationally renowned conductor Günther Herbig will lead the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Choral Arts Society in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, “Choral,” July 23 at the Music Center at Strathmore at 8:00 p.m. and July 24 at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall at 7:30 p.m. These concerts will feature soprano Heidi Stober, mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor, tenor Gordon Gietz and baritone Stephen Powell. This program will conclude the BSO’s 2009 Summer Nights season at the Meyerhoff and Strathmore.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is among the most recognizable works in the classical canon. Since the composer was already completely deaf, the theatre’s music director, Michael Umlauf, conducted alongside Beethoven on the podium for its premiere in 1824. Because the musicians followed Umlauf’s count, Beethoven was still fervently conducting when the orchestra finished the piece, leading one of the musicians to turn him around to see the audience’s standing ovation. The Ninth Symphony became history in the making, as it was the first of its kind to feature a full chorus with a symphony orchestra. Beethoven was fond of his contemporary’s poetry, Friedrich Schiller, and felt his “Ode to Joy” was well suited for the Ninth Symphony chorus. The poem defines joy as a state in which “all men are made brothers.” With its uplifting lyrics and its universal recognition, the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony has been used to mark historic events, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, and now serves as the European Union’s anthem.

Günther Herbig, conductor
Günther Herbig left the challenging political environment of East Germany and moved to the United States in 1984, where he has since conducted all of the top-tier orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chicago, Boston and San Francisco symphony orchestras. Mr. Herbig has been the music director of the Detroit Symphony and the Toronto Symphony, principal guest conductor of the Dallas Symphony and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and general music director of both the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra and Berlin Symphony Orchestra. Currently he is artistic advisor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan and principal guest conductor of Las Palmas in the Grand Canaries, Spain. Mr. Herbig has toured America several times with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and received high praise for their many performances in New York’s Carnegie Hall. In January 1989, he toured Europe with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to critical acclaim. In 1990, he toured the Far East with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Europe in the spring of 1991 for his 37th international orchestra tour. He has also conducted most of the major European orchestras and toured Japan, South America and Australia. He has recorded more than 100 works with East German orchestras, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the Saarbrücken RSO, Toronto Symphony, Orchestre de Paris and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Key figures in his musical training include Hermann Abendroth, Hermann Scherchen and Herbert von Karajan.

Heidi Stober, soprano
Soprano Heidi Stober is rapidly gaining recognition for her beautiful voice, exquisite musicianship and exciting presence on the operatic stage. She has received high praise for performances with New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Santa Fe Opera and Boston Lyric Opera. For her performance in Platée, Opera News said, “Only soprano Heidi Stober, as Folly, stood out vocally; her extended aria … was a musical and theatrical tour de force.” In the 2008–2009 season, Ms. Stober made her European debut with Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB) as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte where she was also heard as Oscar in Un ballo in maschera and The Shepherd in a new production of Tannhäuser. She repeated The Shepherd on DOB’s tour to China, where she also performed in Der Rosenkavalier. She returned to Opera Colorado as Leila in The Pearl Fishers and made her company debut as Aminta in Il re pastore with Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Concert engagements include performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Kelley O’Connor, mezzo-soprano
Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor has emerged as one of the most compelling artists of her generation. During the 2007-2008 season, she performed in Dvořák’s Moravian Duets with the National Symphony Orchestra, Peter Lieberson’s Neruda Songs with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Handel’s Messiah with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Haydn’s Mass in the Time of War with the San Francisco Symphony, Stravinsky’s Les Noces with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Falstaff at the Santa Fe Opera.

Ms. O’Connor garners unanimous international critical acclaim for her numerous performances as Federico García Lorca in Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar. She created the role for the world premiere at Tanglewood and has performed it in New York, Boston, London and Los Angeles. She reprised this role in the world premiere of the revised edition of Ainadamar at the Santa Fe Opera in a new staging by Peter Sellars, which also was presented by Lincoln Center.

Gordon Gietz, tenor
Gordon Gietz has performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with many orchestras including the Toronto Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Houston Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic, and as part of the London Proms Concerts under John Eliot Gardiner. Mr. Gietz developed the role of Stingo in Nicholas Maw’s Sophie’s Choice at Covent Garden and reprised the role for the North American premiere in Washington, D.C. under the baton of Marin Alsop. He appeared as Tamino and Don Ottavio at the Opéra National de Paris and created the character of Yonas in the world première of Kaija Saariaho’s Adriana Mater, a role he reprised at the Barbican in London for the British première with the BBC Orchestra. He made his La Scala debut as Chevalier in Dialogues des Carmélites and returned for Robert Carsen’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Lysander, his debut role at Glyndebourne and the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. Other highlights include Die Nase at the Metropolitan Opera, Steva in Jenufa at the Châtelet and Madrid’s Teatro Real, Hoffmann in Marseille, Don José in Carmen in Montréal and Lille and Béatrice et Bénédict with the New York Philharmonic, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse and the Santa Fe Opera.

Stephen Powell, baritone
In 2008-2009, Mr. Powell sang Germont in La Traviata and Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with Los Angeles Opera. He also sang Germont with San Francisco and New Orleans operas. He sang solo in Carmina Burana with the Phoenix Symphony and New Jersey Symphony Orchestra; Messiah with the Baltimore Symphony; Brahms’ Requiem and Dvorák’s Te Deum with the Cathedral Choral Society; Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with the Tonhalle Orchestre Zurich; Mahler’s Das klagende Lied with The Philadelphia Orchestra; Haydn’s The Creation with the Rochester Philharmonic; Verdi’s Requiem with the Mendelssohn Club; and as Miller in Luisa Miller at the Cincinnati May Festival. He also performs in recital with his wife, soprano Barbara Shirvis, in a program entitled “American Celebration.” In 2009-2010, he sings as soloist in Carmina Burana with the Cincinnati Symphony and appears as Amonasro in Aida with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. He has appeared with the San Francisco Symphony; Brooklyn Philharmonic; at Kennedy Center, under Leonard Slatkin; Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal; Houston, Nashville, Milwaukee and Detroit symphony orchestras; Les Violons du Roy; Handel and Haydn Society; and Minnesota and Boston Baroque orchestras.

Baltimore Choral Arts Society (Tom Hall, director)
The Baltimore Choral Arts Society, now in its 43rd season, is one of Maryland’s premier cultural institutions. The Symphonic Chorus, Full Chorus, Orchestra and Chamber Chorus perform throughout the mid-Atlantic region, as well as in Washington, D.C., New York and in Europe. In the summer of 2007, Tom Hall led the Chorus in a successful, three-city tour of France including sold-out performances in Paris and Aix-en-Provence. The Chorus has also appeared at Spain’s prestigious Festival of the Costa del Sol.

For more than 10 years, WMAR Television, the ABC network affiliate in Maryland, has featured Choral Arts in an hour-long special, Christmas with Choral Arts, which won an Emmy Award in 2006. Mr. Hall and the chorus were also featured in a PBS documentary called Jews and Christians: A Journey of Faith, broadcast nationwide, and on National Public Radio’s Special Coverage in 2001. Appointed Music Director in 1982, Mr. Hall has added more than 100 new works to the BCAS repertoire. On local radio, Mr. Hall is the host of Choral Arts Classics, a monthly program on WYPR that features the Choral Arts Chorus and Orchestra, and he is the culture editor on WYPR’s Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast.

COMPLETE PROGRAM INFORMATION:
Summer Nights: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 8:00 p.m.—Music Center at Strathmore
Friday, July 24, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. —Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall

Günther Herbig, conductor
Heidi Stober, soprano
Kelley O’Connor, mezzo-soprano
Gordon Gietz, tenor
Stephen Powell, baritone
Baltimore Choral Arts Society Tom Hall, director

Tickets at the Meyerhoff range from $25 to $55 and at Strathmore from $35 to $55. Tickets are available through the BSO Ticket Office, 877.BSO.1444, 410.783.8000 or BSOmusic.org.

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