Yannick leads a Bruckner experience, with choral masterworks framing the Ninth Symphony
Join us on Sunday, September 24 at 1 p.m. on WRTI 90.1 and Monday, September 25 at 7 p.m. on WRTI HD-2 as The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert brings you an extraordinary journey through Bruckner’s final symphony, illuminated by his choral works.
Anton Bruckner was a deeply spiritual composer–a devout Roman Catholic and gifted church organist who composed sacred choral works in profusion before focusing on symphonic writing in the latter half of his career. Those symphonies are grand cathedrals of orchestral sound that unite the sacred and secular realms in moving and resonant ways. Music director Yannick Nezet Seguin conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia Symphonic Choir in this concert that unites two choral works and a symphony by Bruckner in one continuous whole.
The centerpiece of the program is his massive but unfinished Ninth Symphony in d minor, which the composer dedicated to “Almighty God.” Before the symphony we’ll hear an unaccompanied choral motet, “Christus factus est pro nobis” (“Christ was made obedient for us”)–in the same key of d minor – and after it, his triumphant setting for soloists, choir, and full orchestra of the traditional hymn of praise from the Roman Catholic service of Matins, “Te Deum laudamus” (“We praise Thee, o God”). Concluding performances of the Ninth with this majestic choral work–which Bruckner viewed as “the pride of my life”--was, as Yannick notes in an interview with WRTI’s Susan Lewis, “an instruction that Bruckner gave on his deathbed. He said, ‘I didn’t finish my [Ninth] Symphony. Please play the Te Deum as a finale.’ ”
Both “Christus factus est” and “Te Deum laudamus” were completed in 1884, a few years before Bruckner began work on his Ninth Symphony. They make fitting bookends to the unfinished Ninth. Like the symphony, the motet is in the key of d minor, with a dramatic arc that forms a perfect prelude to the hushed, mysterious opening of the Symphony. In this performance, the choir’s final, hushed chord merges almost imperceptibly, and magically, into the quiet d minor chord that opens the symphony. After the massive and moving three completed movements of the symphony, the “Te Deum laudamus” comes as a cathartic release, not unlike the choral finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This performance draws on the choral splendor of the Philadelphia Symphonic Choir and four soloists who are stalwarts of the Metropolitan Opera (which Yannick also directs): soprano Elza van den Heever, mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, tenor Sean Panikkar, and bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green.
Bruckner: “Christus factus est pro nobis”
Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 in d minor
Bruckner: “Te Deum laudamus”
The Philadelphia Orchestra
The Philadelphia Symphonic Choir
Yannick Nezet-Seguin, conductor
Elza van den Heever, soprano
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano
Sean Panikkar, tenor
Ryan Speedo Green, bass-baritone
WRTI PRODUCTION TEAM:
Melinda Whiting: Host
Alex Ariff: Senior Producer
Susan Lewis: Consulting Producer
Joseph Patti: Broadcast Engineer
Listen to The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts every Sunday at 1 p.m. on WRTI 90.1, streaming at WRTI.org, on the WRTI mobile app, and on your smart speaker. Listen again on Mondays at 7 p.m. on WRTI HD-2. Listen for up to two weeks after broadcast on WRTI Replay.