Editor’s Note: Trond Saeverud, conductor and musical director of the Galveston Symphony Orchestra, talked about the Sunday concert, the final performance of the season.
Q: One of the enduring mysteries of music is why Schubert’s masses are not better known. When we think of sacred music, we think of Bach, Handel or Haydn. How could such beautiful music be so little performed?
A: Yes, I agree that this is beautiful music that is heard much too seldom! One reason can be that it is not as dramatic and intense as most of the sacred works by the composers you mention. Another could be that Schubert treats the biblical text very freely, omitting some elements that, by many, would be considered the most important. Instead, he is inspired by a more general religious and pious mood and atmosphere.
Q: Is the fact that it is not frequently heard why you chose it?
A: Though I’m very happy we are performing it, this piece was actually chosen by the two choirs.
Q: You have the choirs from both community colleges for this performance?
A: Yes! We are looking forward to working with them again! And, in preparation, I will join rehearsals at the Galveston College and at College of the Mainland. They are both great groups!
Q: “Exsultate Jubilate” is another puzzle. Mozart wrote a lot of sacred music without being notably religious. But this piece is famous. Would it be too strong to say the “Alleluias” are the most famous in symphonic music?
A: No, I don’t think that is too strong. And this is my own favorite in the genre.
Q: This piece has been recorded by the great sopranos. Please tell us a bit about the soloist, Megan Stapleton. I believe she made her Galveston Symphony debut in 2015, singing Texas composer Todd Frazier’s song “We Hold These Truths.” What brings her back for this Mozart classic?
A: We also had Megan as soloist in our last cooperation with the same choirs: “A Night at the Italian Opera,” two years ago. She delivered incredibly virtuoso performances of big time arias! Sopranos can be a challenge for conductors, but Megan is so easy and fun to work with. Adding her impressive technique, crystal clear delivery, perfect intonation, she was the obvious choice for “Exsultate”! And she has important solos in the Schubert Mass.
Q: And Beethoven’s 8th Symphony — speaking of overlooked wonders. Why is that this piece is so little performed, compared to other Beethoven symphonies?
A: As his other even numbered symphonies, number eight is less intense, less romantic in spirit, than the celebrated Third, Fifth, Seventh and Ninth. And it is often considered a lesser work in all respects. This was talked about already in Beethoven’s lifetime. And, when asked why it received less notice, he said, “because it is better (than the others)!” Notice the second movement where he makes fun of the metronome — and its inventor.
Q: Did you have an ulterior motive here in putting together this program? Exposing us to beautiful, but perhaps a bit neglected, works?
A: Yes, in a way; especially since these are all composers that everybody knows. When presenting less famous composers, I start with their most successful and frequently performed works. With these guys, I’d like to move a little further out into the corners.
Q: And there is always a point with the symphony’s first piece on the program, in this case the overture from one of Bach’s Suites for Orchestra. No. 3, which has a famous air, is often performed, but you chose No. 1, which is heard less often. Why did you choose it?
A: In addition to trying to move beyond the most often performed works, this particular piece is also having a specific function in this program. Without getting too technical: attentive listeners may notice that its tonality leads effectively to the Beethoven symphony that follows. I’ll try to remember to describe that, briefly, from stage.
Q: Any final words for concertgoers?
A: I hope you will join us for our season finale! Those who come early will also be treated to short preconcert performances by the youngest players from Bay Area Youth Symphony.