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Music Department 12/21/2009

Concert “Europe hails Christmas: The Messiah”


The Prince of Asturias Foundation Choir performed its traditional Haendel´s “Messiah” alongside the Principality of Asturias Symphony Orchestra.

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

The Prince of Asturias Foundation Choir, under the baton of maestro Paul Mann and alongside the Principality of Asturias Symphony Orchestra (OSPA), performed Handel’s Messiah in the traditional Christmas concert for the twenty-third consecutive year. The concerts were held at 8 p.m. at the Cathedral of Oviedo and at the Theatre of the Laboral in Gijón on 18th and 20th December respectively.

Voices from different countries of the European Union and New Zealand performed in the concert title “Europe hails Christmas: The Messiah”. The performance featured soprano Julia Sophie Wagner, mezzo Madeleine Shaw, tenor Nathan Vale and bass Martin Shell.

The Messiah, masterpiece of symphonic-choral music, has become the most renowned piece of Georg Friedrich Haendel´s (1685-1759) oratorios. This oratorio for soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists, choir of four voices and orchestra was written between the 22nd August and 14th September in 1741, with libretto by Charles Jennes following the biblical text. The first public concert of The Messiah was held on the 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.

Paul Mann (England) is the conductor of the Odense Symphony Orchestra (Denmark), where he has been acclaimed both by the audience and the music critics. He carried out his musical studies at Chetam’s School of Music and the University of York and began his musical career performing as a pianist and chamber musician.

After obtaining first prize at the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition, he went on to become assistant conductor for the London Symphony Orchestra and later of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducting more than eighty concerts and covering the Orchestra’s wide repertoire. Paul Mann made his debut with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1999. Some of his projects with this Orchestra include The Duke Ellington Centenary Concert at the Barbican and working alongside the legendary rock band Deep Purple at the Royal Albert Hall.

Mann is considered one of the best conductors of his generation, partially for his wide repertoire and versatility. He has worked with Orchestras from Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States and has conducted the Philharmonic Orchestras of Bergen, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Saint Petersburg, Verona, Copenhagen and Birmingham, among others. He frequently travels to the United States, where he is usually invited to conduct the New York City Ballet. He has also been guest conductor for the Orchestras of Colorado, New Mexico and Oregon Symphony Orchestra. After his first visit to Australia in 2002, he was invited in several occasions to collaborate with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, the Queensland Orchestra and the Auckland Philharmonic.

Principality of Asturias Symphony Orchestra (OSPA). The Orchestra made its official debut under the baton of Amalio López in January 1940. It has performed in more than a hundred concerts since then and participated in the Oviedo Opera Season. Its first recordings targeted Asturian music with a recording alongside Maestro Valdés entirely dedicated to the music by Julián Orbón and The Celtic night. The orchestra has also made a CD called Vivir para cantarlo (a play on words, "to live to tell the tale" transforms into "to live to sing about it" with a single letter change in Spanish) which was recorded live with Victor Manuel. It has recorded Beethoven´s and Mendelssohn´s violin concerts with Elmar Oliveira for Artek as well.

Prince of Asturias Foundation Choir. Founded in 1983 and conducted by José Esteban G. Miranda, the Choir has become one of Europe´s major amateur ensembles and has reached considerable international prestige.  Jesús López Cobos, 1981 Prince of Asturias Award Laureate for the Arts, is the Choir’s honorary conductor alongside Krzysztof Penderecki, who was also presented with this Award in 2001. In December 2007, the Choir was praised by the European Parliament for “their extraordinary service on behalf of the European Union”.

The Choir has successfully toured Europe, offering outstanding concerts in Russia alongside the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra and the Virtuosos de Moscú. Its performance at London´s Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1993 with the English Chamber Orchestra, figures prominently amongst its successes. In 2001, the Choir visited the USA for the first time, being described as "magnificent" by the Washington Post´s music critic. In December 2002, the Foundation represented Spain at the Vatican for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and the choir gave three performances in Rome. In October 2003, it gave two historic performances at Saint Patrick´s Cathedral and at New York´s Lincoln Centre for Columbus Day. It was also invited to perform at the wedding ceremony of T.R.H. the Prince and Princess of Asturias, singing in the Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha, where the Princess of Asturias offered her wedding garland to the Virgin Mary.

In October 2005 it performed Verdi´s Requiem alongside the Orfeón Donostiarra, 1984 Prince of Asturias Award Laureate for the Arts, and the Principality of Asturias Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Jesús López Cobos. In March 2006, the Choir opened the Sao Paolo State Symphony Orchestra´s season in Brazil at the Estación Júlio Prestes, one of South America´s principal concert halls, under the conductorship of John Neschling, with the Sao Paolo State Symphony Orchestra and Choir. In April 2007, at a concert titled "Penderecki conducts Penderecki", the Foundation´s Choir placed itself in the hands of this conductor to perform his most recent work, Symphony No. 8 Lieder der Vergänglichkeit. In June 2007, the Choir traveled to Greece to take part, as guest ensemble, in the 16th International Music Festival of Nafplion. In October 2008, the Choir performed the Symphony Nº 2 in C minor "Resurrection", by G. Mahler alongside the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, best exponent of the National Network of Youth and Children Orchestras of Venezuela, (2008 Prince of Asturias Award Laureates for the Arts) under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel. Last 25th November, the Choir traveled to Belgium to offer a performance at the European Parliament during Jean Monnet's opening speech and at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels.

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