Mozart's Requiem

Program Listing

Saturday, April 6, 2024, 7:30 PM
SUNDAY, April 7, 2024, 2 PM
MONDAY, April 8, 2024, 7:30 PM

Return to concert page



David Danzmayr, Conductor
Lauren Modica-Soloway, Narrator
Yulia Van Doren, Soprano
Kelley O’Connor, Mezzo Soprano
Miles Mykkanen, Tenor
Morris Robinson, Bass
Portland State University Chamber Choir
Ethan Sperry, Choir Director

William Grant Still

Darker America

James Wilson

Remnants for Poet and Orchestra (U.S. premiere)
Lauren Modica-Soloway
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Yulia Van Doren
Kelley O’Connor
Miles Mykkanen
Morris Robinson
Portland State University Chamber Choir



This performance is being recorded for broadcast on All Classical Radio.

The broadcast will air on May 9, 2024, at 7 pm on 89.9 fm in Portland, and worldwide at


Conducted one hour before each performance, the Concert Conversation will feature Choir Director Ethan Sperry and Brandi Parisi or Coty Raven Morris, hosts of All Classical Radio.


Program Notes

Darker America
Remnants for Poet and Orchestra (U.S. premiere)

Return to concert page


William Grant Still

Darker America

Work composed: 1924
First Oregon Symphony performance
2 flutes, oboe, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, horn, trumpet, trombone, cymbal, bass drum, piano, and strings
Estimated duration: 12 minutes

Known as “the dean of African American composers,” William Grant Still composed music in a wide variety of genres: symphonies, opera, chamber music, choral works, solo songs, and concertos.

Still’s childhood and teen years were filled with music; he studied violin and taught himself to play a number of other instruments before graduating high school at 16. Still went on to attend Wilberforce College and Oberlin College, where he studied composition with George Whitefield Chadwick. During the 1920s, Still also worked privately with the French modernist composer Edgar Varèse. Under Varèse’s mentorship, Still met influential musicians and conductors, had his own works performed, and expanded his compositional horizons.

Darker America, Still’s first work for orchestra, established him as a composer of formidable ability and intent. In his detailed program note, Still wrote, “Darker America, as its title suggests, is representative of the American Negro. His serious side is presented and is intended to suggest the triumph of a people over their sorrows through fervent prayer. At the beginning, the theme of the American Negro is announced by the strings in unison. Following a short development of this, the English horn announces the sorrow theme which is followed immediately by the theme of hope, given to muted brass accompanied by string and woodwind. The sorrow theme returns, treated differently, indicative of more intense sorrow as contrasted to passive sorrow indicated at the initial appearance of the theme. Again hope appears and the people seem about to rise above their troubles. But sorrow triumphs. Then the prayer is heard (given to oboe); the prayer of numbed rather than anguished souls.

Strongly contrasted moods follow, leading up to the triumph and the people near the end, at which point the three principal themes are combined.”




James Wilson
b. 1988

Remnants for Poet and Orchestra

Work composed: 2020. Commissioned by the Southbank Centre, London
First Oregon Symphony performance Instrumentation: 3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (1 doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons (1 doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, large marimba, snare drum, triangle, piano, harp, and strings
Estimated duration: 12 minutes

James B. Wilson is an award-winning composer of contemporary classical music based in Bedfordshire, England. Wilson’s music focuses on the rich textural, timbral and harmonic possibilities of acoustic instruments, as well as the voice. He is at heart a storyteller, and his work is particularly notable for exploring visceral stories of contemporary life.

In 2020, during the height of worldwide BLM protests, Patrick Hutchinson rescued a white counter-protestor during a BLM demonstration outside the Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre in London. A Reuters photographer captured the moment, and the photograph quickly went viral in the UK and around the world. In response to this image, Wilson, with poet Yomi Sode, created Remnants for Poet and Orchestra.

“Remnants is a piece born out of the social unrest and the existential crises of our time; we are in a troubled new decade,” Wilson writes. “This historic period has been tumultuous in so many ways and has had an effect on almost everyone across the globe. It has exposed the fragility of society. Old wounds have opened anew.

“In particular, the music, and accompanying poetry (written by Yomi Sode), are a response to 2020’s most viral and visceral image, depicting Patrick Hutchinson saving a counter-protestor during the summer’s BLM protests. The image shows humanity at its best: Patrick literally saved this man’s life. He did this despite the fact that the counter- protester’s purpose for being at the march was to provoke and stand for a position in direct opposition to those of his savior.

“In a world where division is rife and society is becoming more polarised, Patrick Hutchinson’s actions show a strength of character and morality, which is to be admired.

“The music and poem feed off the anxiety of our times and the cracks in the soil of society. The music opens with an exclamation of alarm and exudes a feeling of unease. This is music of catharsis for me. The poet then speaks in the shadow of what we have just heard. The poem concludes with the line ‘trauma folds itself in ocean waves, leaving its remnants washed up on the shore, for us to collect …’ The music ends in like manner, with the opening sonority awash in the orchestra like a memory in time; a remnant of what we have seen and heard.

“I can’t help but feel this glorious image is but a silver lining on a broiling cloud … This fact cannot be forgotten.”


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Requiem, K. 626 (Süssmayr)

Work composed: 1791. Mozart died before finishing the Requiem; one of his students, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, completed the Requiem using Mozart’s notes and sketches.
Most recent Oregon Symphony performance: Carlos Kalmar led the Oregon Symphony, soloists, and Portland Symphonic Choir on May 13–15, 2006, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Instrumentation: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soloists, satb chorus, 2 bassoons, 2 basset horns (or clarinets), 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, organ, and strings
Estimated duration: 50 minutes

The mysterious circumstances surrounding Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem have lent the work an enduring aura of romance and intrigue. The real story of the Requiem is no less compelling, but ultimately it is the music itself that endures. The dramatic power of Mozart’s final composition highlights the austere and ultimately redemptive language of the text of the Catholic requiem mass.

In the summer of 1791, Count Franz Walsegg von Stuppach sent a messenger to Mozart with an anonymous commission for a requiem to honor Walsegg's late wife. Walsegg, an amateur musician, had a habit of commissioning works from well-known composers and passing them off as his own (hence his desire for anonymity). Mozart, whose financial situation was always precarious, accepted the commission and completed several sketches before putting the Requiem aside to finish the operas
The Magic Flute and La clemenza di Tito. By October 1791, in failing health, Mozart returned to the Requiem; he completed the Introit, Kyrie, most of the Sequence, and the Offertory before his death on December 5. Mozart's widow Constanze, facing a mountain of debt, asked one of Mozart's students, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, to complete the remaining sections. Süssmayr agreed, using unfinished sketches and possibly ideas discussed with Mozart prior to the composer's death to compose the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei sections. For the Communion, Süssmayr repeated music Mozart had written for the Introit and Kyrie.

Meticulous attention to the meaning of the text of the Requiem dictates the musical structure throughout. The chorus' heartfelt pleading in the opening lines, "Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine" (Grant them eternal rest, O God), are set in a dark minor key. This is transformed into a promise of glowing eternity in the next sentence, "Et lux perpetua luceat eis" (and may perpetual light shine upon them) as the music emerges into a major key. The austere Kyrie (Lord, have mercy/Christ, have mercy) is a somber fugue, Mozart's homage to J. S. Bach.

The Sequence begins with the Dies irae (Day of Wrath), whose fiery, agita ed setting and orchestral accompaniment bring the terrible fury of the text frighteningly alive. In the Tuba mirum, the bass soloist and solo trombone proclaim the Day of Judgment The chorus begs for salvation in the powerful Rex tremendae, followed by the more intimate pleading of the Recordare; here, each of the soloists makes a personal petition to God. The thundering Confutatis follows, juxtaposing images of the damned consigned to the flames of hell with that of a supplicant kneeling in prayer.

In the exquisite Lacrimosa, the chorus gives voice to grief and weeping, while the sighing violin appoggiaturas echo the text's laments. In the Offertory, the choms ends its plea for mercy with a reminder, in fugal form, of God's promise to Abraham.

The Sanctus opens joyfully: both chorus and orchestra sing God's praises accompanied by shining exclamations from the brasses and a fugue on the words "Hosanna in the highest." The aria-like melody of the soloists' Benedictus conveys the blessedness of those "who come in the name of the Lord;" a recurrence of the fugue from the Sanctus follows. With the Agnus Dei, the chorus and orchestra return to the dark shifting mood of the opening movement; this culminates in the Communio, which uses the music of the opening Requiem aeternam and concludes with the same fugue used in the Kyrie, this time setting the words "cum sanctis tuis in aeternam" (with Thy saints forever).


© Elizabeth Schwartz