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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Music Department

12/16/2011

“Europe hails Christmas: The Messiah” concert

“Europe hails Christmas: The Messiah” concert ©FPA

As is now traditional, the Prince of Asturias Foundation Choir performed Handel’s “Messiah” at Oviedo Cathedral alongside the Principality of Asturias Symphonic Orchestra.

The European Parliament praised the Choir in 2007 for “their outstanding contribution to bolster European integration”.

The Prince of Asturias Foundation Choir, accompanied by the Principality of Asturias Symphonic Orchestra (OSPA) and under the baton of Jonas Alber, performed Handel’s Messiah for the twenty-sixth year now, on Thursday, 22nd December at Oviedo Cathedral, at 8pm.

Under the title “Europe Hails Christmas: The Messiah”, the soloists taking part were Maria Espada (soprano), the Cristina Faus (mezzo-soprano), Agustin Prunell-Friend (tenor) and Alfredo Garcia (baritone).

The Messiah, a masterpiece of symphonic-choral music, has become the most renowned oratorio by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759). This piece for soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists, choir of four voices and orchestra was composed between 22nd August and 14th September 1741, with libretto by Charles Jennes following the biblical text. The first public concert of The Messiah was held on 10th April 1742, four days before its opening at Dublin’s William Neal Music Hall. The piece is divided into three parts that form the liturgical year, through the different stages in the life and death of Christ.

Jonas Alber (Offenburg, Germany) studied violin and conducting in Freiburg and at the Vienna Musikhochschule. He was awarded a scholarship by the Herbert von Karajan Foundation and was appointed general music director of the Staatsoper in Braunschweig in 1998, becoming the youngest German director to obtain this position, which he held until 2007.

As a symphonic director, Jonas Alber has been invited to conduct major orchestras such as the Bayerischer Rundfunk Orchestra, the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken, the MDR Symphony Orchestra Leipzig, the Dresdner Philharmoniker, the Hamburger Symphoniker, the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vienna Tonkünstlerorchester Niederösterreichische, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre National de Belgique, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and the London BBC Symphony, among others.  In the operatic field, he has conducted more than five hundred performances of forty different operas from all periods: Mozart, Puccini, Richard Strauss, Zemlinsky, Korngold, Janacek and Wagner’s tetralogy. He has collaborated with opera houses such as the Vienna Volksoper, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, the Dresden Semper Opera, the Teatro Real in Madrid, the Hamburgische Staatsoper and the Pretoria State Theater in South Africa.

His numerous recordings include Schumann’s entire symphonic oeuvre, as well as selected works by Mendelssohn, Franck, Sibelius, Richard Strauss and Mahler. In 2008, he won the prestigious Diapason d’Or Prize for his recording of Benoit Mernier’s opera Frühlings Erwachen.

The Principality of Asturias Symphony Orchestra (OSPA) is composed of sixty-nine music teachers from several European Union countries, Russia, the USA and Latin America. Its main activity revolves around the concert seasons held each year in Oviedo, Gijón and Avilés. Some of the most important soloists and conductors on the international scene have performed with the orchestra, alongside its designate conductors Jesse Levine and Maximiano Valdes, the latter of whom conducted the ensemble for the last sixteen years. Standing out among its international tours is the one it made to Chile and Mexico in 1996. Two years later, it returned to Chile and also participated in the Lorient Celtic Festival in France. The OSPA returned to Mexico in 2007 to great critical acclaim. In the 2007/2008 season, it also travelled to China within the “Year of Spain” activities held there.

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