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Donald Runnicles shares his operatic expertise with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus on Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, the "Choral" Symphony. Following up on their acclaimed recording of Orff's Carmina burana (CD-80575), Runnicles and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus deliver another stirring performance, with the help of a stellar roster of soloists including soprano Mary Dunleavy, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Bishop, tenor Stephen Gould and bass Alastair Miles.
"This was an incredibly rewarding experience for me, especially in the collaboration with Donald prior to the sessions," says Producer Robert Woods, President of Telarc. "We got together right after the final rehearsal and every evening after the concert. We had philosophical and practical discussions and how to let the music communicate to the audience (including the recording audience) in a way that was shaped as Donald wanted it. We discussed the spirit of each movement, and gratefully found ourselves completely parallel in what we wanted as an outcome. To me, there is an earthiness to the performance, which seems to personify what we know about Beethoven. It's an excellent combination of tension, power, high ideals, a tender expression of love in the third movement, and most importantly, humanity. We really immersed ourselves in a continuing dialogue, often asking ourselves, 'What did this piece sound like in Beethoven's head?'"
Beethoven's 9th had the longest growth period of any of his other symphonies. He began thinking about it during the completion of his 7th and 8th symphonies. The 9th stayed on the backburner for several years while Beethoven worked on his Missa solemnis and "Hammerklavier" Sonata.
The composer was inspired after reading Fredrich Schiller's "To Joy." He considered setting it to music, but was faced with many uncertainties, including introducing a choral element after three purely orchestral movements. Finally, Beethoven built the choral movement around the bass recitative, which calls on all of humankind to join in the singing of Schiller's words.
One of this generation's most distinguished conductors in both operatic and symphonic repertoire, Donald Runnicles is the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's Principal Guest Conductor. He also serves as Music Director of the San Francisco Opera and Principal Conductor of the Orchestra of St. Luke's in New York.
While the core of his operatic repertoire is Mozart, Strauss, and Wagner, Runnicles has led a broad range of works from Gluck to Tippett at the San Francisco Opera, including the world premiere of Conrad Susa's Dangerous Liaisons (telecast worldwide), Harvey Milk by Michael Korie and Stewart Wallace and the North American premiere of Tippett's King Priam.
In great demand at the world's foremost opera houses and festivals, Runnicles conducts at the Bayreuth Festival, Salzburg Festival, Metropolitan Opera, Paris National Opera, and La Scala.