Johann Sebastian Bach’s famed “Magnificat,” with its spectacular opening chorus, will be one of three different versions of the biblical Canticle of Mary performed by a trio of Lawrence University choirs and the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra in the holiday concert “A Bach Family Christmas.”
The concert, featuring three conductors and guest soloist Chad Freeburg, a 1999 Lawrence graduate, will be performed Friday, Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, 510 E. College Ave., Appleton. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors/students (free to LU students, faculty and staff) and are available at the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.
The 46-member Lawrence Concert Choir and the symphony orchestra will open the concert with a performance of Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach’s 1749 version of the “Magnificat” conducted by David Becker, director of orchestral studies. C.P.E. Bach, the second-oldest surviving son of Johann Sebastian Bach, wrote his version of the “Magnificat” in 1749 in Berlin while serving an appointment as chamber musician to Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. It will be the latest of the three versions that will be performed during the concert.
The Lawrence Women’s Choir, under the direction of Phillip Swan, associate director of choral studies and accompanied by the string orchestra, will sing Italian baroque composer Nicholai Porpora’s “Magnificat.” Porpora, who collaborated with J.S. Bach’s youngest son, Johann Christian Bach in England, wrote his “Magnificat” for the famous all-girl choirs of the Venice “ospedali” — charitable orphanage-conservatories that provided musical training for orphaned, abandoned and illegitimate children of the city. The four ospedalis in Venice attracted many of Europe’s greatest composers of the time.
The concert finale, conducted by Richard Bjella, director of choral studies, will combine more than 180 voices and the symphony orchestra as the Lawrence Chorale joins the concert choir and women’s choir on stage in a performance of J.S. Bach’s 1732 D major version of the “Magnificat.” Bach’s first “Magnificat,” in E flat, was originally written to be first performed at Vespers on Christmas Day 1723 at the Church of St Nicholas in Lepizig along with four Christmas interludes in German.
“Even though they each use the same words, the text in each version is displayed quite differently,” said Bjella. “These remarkable works encompass much of the ‘best of’ from each composer. In a span of 30 minutes, J.S. Bach’s version explores many very dramatic, romantic and ancient music traditions. And the C.P.E. Bach ‘Magnificat’ may have the most incredible soprano solo written during the 18th century. I think this will be an absolutely breath-taking concert.”
Freeburg, a 2001 national semifinalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, returns to his alma mater as the concert’s featured soloist.
A tenor currently living in New York City, Freeburg has established himself as an accomplished singer of both opera and concert literature. Count Almaviva of “The Barber of Seville” has become a signature role for Freeburg, who has performed it with Opera Roanoke, Opera Delaware and Washington Summer Opera. He also will reprise the role in upcoming appearances with Utah Opera, Austin Lyric Opera and Lyric Opera of San Antonio.
Already in his young career Freeburg has performed with the American Ballet Theater at the Metropolitan Opera, the National Chorale at New York’s Lincoln Center, the Portland Symphony Pops, the Indianapolis Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, among others. He has performed “Diary of One Who Vanished” with pianist Richard Goode at the Marlboro Music Festival and sang as tenor soloist for “Bach Weekend” under the baton of Blanche Moyse.
“Magnificat” is the title commonly given to the Latin text and translation of the Canticle of Mary taken from the Gospel of St. Luke.