Limited seats available. Tickets will be available 7 days prior to each concert.
ANTONINE UNIVERSITY CHOIR
One of the leading choirs in Lebanon, Antonine University Choir was founded in Baabda-Lebanon 1978. It has contributed since the eighties in the cultural enrichment of the Lebanese musical life with its repertory.
UA choir has performed in Rome, Milan, Nice, Lyon, Monaco, St. Étienne, Doha, Dubai, Al Aïn in United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Tbilisi, Paris, New york, Los Angeles, Muscat, Naples, Venice, Helsinki and Manhaus Brazil. It has participated in the Classical Music Festival of Al Ain(United Arab Emirates 2008-2009), Al Bustan International Festival (2009 to 2019), Byblos International Festival (2010-2011-2013-2014), Baalbeck International Festival (2011-2018-2020), Beirut Chants Festival-Lebanon (2008 to 2021), Ehdeniyat (2016), Tbilisi Opera Festival (2012), Festival d’Ile de France (2012-2013), and Bahrain International Music Festival (2013) Abu Dhabi Festival (2022). In May 2010, April 2013 and May 2015, the choir performed at the legendary Carnegie Hall in New York. It made its Los Angeles debut in April 2014, performing at the LA City Hall. In November 2016, the choir also made its debut at the San Carlo opera house. In addition, the choir has represented Lebanon in the opening of the Lebanese Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale in May 2017. In October 2019, Antonine University Choir performed at the Manhaus Opera House in Brazil. In December 2022, the choir will perform Handel’s Messiah in Jordan with the Amman Chamber Orchestra.
NOTRE DAME UNIVERSITY CHOIR
With more than a dozen concerts per season, numerous recordings and publications, as well as many international awards, the Notre Dame University Choir is one of Lebanon and the region’s outstanding choirs. A broad repertoire, a richly warm sound, an unmistakable interpretation all contributes to make it a permanent partner of the international festivals, and the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra and its conductors, where it functions as a musical ambassador for Beirut in the great concert halls around the world.
Along with the symphonic choral central repertoire, the annual season programing of the choir includes a wide range of Lebanese music, in close cooperation with celebrated composers, such as Iyad Kanaan, Gabriel Yared and Valentino Miserachs Grau, with the aim of developing and growing the Lebanese choral repertoire. Furthermore, Notre Dame University Choir is constantly developing new and unusual ways of experiencing choral music.
Since its establishment in 1993, it has been shaped by Reverend Khalil Rahme, a Maronite Mariamite monk, who returned to Beirut after completing his music studies in Rome, to found the choir and the School of Music at Notre Dame University, in addition to his numerous entrusted tasks at the Lebanese National Conservatory of Music.
Armenian State Symphony Orchestra:
Now a celebrated symphony orchestra at home and overseas, the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra emerged from a group of devout enthusiasts of classical music with the shared vision of championing spiritual excellence through music and upholding the musical traditions of their native Armenia. Reputed to have finely distinct quality of sound and emotionally charged performance style, the orchestra has long become an awaited guest in leading concert halls around the world.
The orchestra performs over 50 concerts in Armenia and across the world annually. The rich and diverse repertoire of the orchestra covers multiple genres and performance formats, ranging from symphonies to ballet and opera music to symphonic arrangements of popular and cinematic music or jazz interpretations of classical music. Along with recurrent debut performances of great masterpieces from the world heritage of classical music, the orchestra places a considerable importance in exposing contemporary and young composers as well, featuring new works in its mainstream programming throughout concert seasons.
Together with its Founding Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Sergey Smbatyan, the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra has established four annual classical music festivals, hosting in Armenia a multitude of internationally renowned virtuoso performers and conductors over years, including artists such as
Gil Shaham, Mischa Maisky, Steven Isserlis, Maxim Vengerov, Mikhail Pletnev, Gautier Capuçon, Sergey Khachatryan, Andreas Ottensamer, Ning Feng, Jօseph Calleja, Thomas Hampson, Dmitry Yablonsky, Hannu Lintu, John Malkovich and many others. The orchestra treasures years of friendship and cooperation with remarkable contemporary composers such as Arvo Pärt, Tigran Mansuryan, Krzysztof Penderecki, Giya Kancheli, Sir Karl Jenkins and Qigang Chen.
By virtue of its belief in the meaningful dialogue between classical music and modern technologies,
the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra is profiled as a highly tech-driven and innovative orchestra, with a perpetual pursuit of experimental diversity by leveraging AI and other high-tech solutions in its artistic endeavors.
The orchestra has a growing input in the education of young people in Armenia. Launched in 2018, the DasA program strives to incite curiosity, understanding and liking for classical music among high school students. The program is designed to bring the youth and high quality musical art closer together and share entertaining knowledge about classical music. The orchestra also targets university students in the framework of the “My Symphonic” project, conducting focus group discussions, meeting sessions and providing invitations to concerts, adopting them to meet to the needs of the new generation. Aside from educational programs, master classes with prominent artists are held frequently for young musicians.
With a committed awareness of its social responsibility, the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra ensures the cultural engagement of vulnerable social groups by regularly issuing invitations and making available complimentary attendances to the orchestra’s performances, along with involving in charity concerts and events for fundraising purposes.
CESAR NAASSY, BARITONE
Known for his striking stage presence and deep warm voice, Cesar finds himself particularly well in the works of Mozart. His notable vocal agility and cantabile voice, also allow him to tackle the Belcanto repertoire of Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti. Some of the roles he performed on stage include Raimondo in “Lucia di Lammermoor”, Dulcamara in “Elisir d’amore”, Don Alfonso in “Così fan tutte”, Bartolo in “Le nozze di Figaro, Sarastro in “Die Zauberflöte”, The king of Scotland in “Ariodante” and newer works, such as Superintendant Bud in Benjamin Britten’s “Albert Herring”.
Since the start of his singing career, he has performed on the international stage in renowned theatres, such as “Teatro San Carlo” in Naples, “Teatro Flavio Vespasiano” in Rieti, “Auditorium della Concigliazione” in the Vatican, “Teatro di Ostia antica” in Rome, all the way to “Théatre de l’Opéra de Montreal” and “Théatre Monument National” in Montreal.
He has had the privilege to work with world renowned directors such as Charles Binamé, and has studied with international artists such as,Elisabeth Norberg Schultz, Caterina Ditonno, Cinzia Forte, Roberto Frontali and Toufic Maatouk. He also holds two Masters degrees in Musicology and Performance from the prestigious McGill University in Montreal.
Joseph Dahdah, Tenor:
Tenor Joseph Dahdah was born in Zgharta, Lebanon in 1992. He began studying singing and piano at the age of 12 with Camille Hanna. After arriving in Italy, he continued his studies in Rome with Raina Infantino and later at the Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali Briccialdi in Terni, where he obtained a three-year diploma in 1st level and a 2nd level diploma in Lyrical Singing with honors (110/110) under the guidance of mezzo-soprano Ambra Vespasiani. He has participated in numerous masterclasses with renowned artists such as Richard Barker, Luca Salsi, Eva Mei, Bruno de Simone, and Tatiana Chivarova. Joseph has performed in numerous operas, oratorios, concerts, and festivals in Lebanon, Italy, Germany, Venezuela, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria. He then joined the Academy of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. As a solo tenor, Joseph has performed in the world premiere of Luca Francesconi’s “Per lo corpo luce” conducted by Ingo Metzmacher, Beethoven’s “Fantasia” conducted by Manfred Honeck, and Liszt’s “Faust Symphony” conducted by Marc Albrecht. Among his operatic roles, he has portrayed the Sergeant in Umberto Giordano’s “Siberia” at the Teatro del Maggio, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda; Barbarigo in “I due Foscari” alongside Placido Domingo at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in 2022; Radamès in a production of “Aida” for Venti Lucenti at the Cavea del Teatro del Maggio; Ein Uffizier in “Ariadne auf Naxos”; Un messo in “Il trovatore”; Don Riccardo in “Ernani”; Araldo reale and Conte di Lerma in “Don Carlo” conducted by Daniele Gatti; Soldier and Herzog von Parma in Ferruccio Busoni’s “Doktor Faust” conducted by Cornelius Meister; Gastone in “La Traviata” conducted by Zubin Mehta; and various solo tenor roles including Pulcinella in Igor Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella” conducted by Daniele Gatti, the Te Deum by A. Bruckner, Cassio in Verdi’s “Otello,” and lately he made his debut in Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville singing Pollione in Bellini’s Norma.
Kyubin Chung, Piano:
Kyubin Chung was born in Korea in 1997. He studied at the Korea National University of Arts with Prof. Daejin Kim and completed his bachelor’s degree in 2020. He also studied orchestra conducting as a minor.
He has won numerous prizes, including 1st prize at the Isang Yun International Competition, 1st prize at the Tokyo International Competition, 3rd prize at the Ettlingen International Piano Competition and 6th prize at the Vienna International Beethoven Piano Competition.
He has appeared as a soloist with the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, Korean Symphony Orchestra, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra and others.
Since October 2020 he has been studying his Master of Music with Prof. Antti Siirala at the University of Music and Theater in Munich.
TOUFIC MAATOUK, CONDUCTOR
Toufic Maatouk, is one of the most compelling conductors of his generation. In the 2012 season, Maatouk began his tenure as Artistic Director of the Beirut Chants Festival in Lebanon. He is also Guest Conductor of the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra since 2013 and a Guest Conductor of the Romanian Radio Chamber Orchestra Orchestra since 2017. Maatouk was appointed Artistic Director and Choir Master of the Antonine University Choir, in August 2005 and Head of the vocal department in the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music since October 2015. Maatouk has been Head of Academy of the Saudi Music Hubs in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) founded by the Saudi Ministry of culture and been selected as Academic Board member at the Global Leaders Program (USA). Lately, he was appointed Executive Manager for Programming at the Abu Dhabi Festival (UAE).
He holds a Ph.D. in Musicology from the Istituto Pontificio di Musica Sacra (Pims) in Rome where he conducted and published different studies on the syro-maronite chants. As chief conductor, Toufic Maatouk has led the Antonine University choir for more than 18 years.
In 2020, Maatouk was knighted by the President of the Italian Republic as “Cavaliere dell’Ordine Della Stella d’Italia” and been nominated by the Peace and Prosperity Trust (UK) as Artistic adviser to the Trust.
He collaborated with several orchestras, festivals and theatres including Orchestra del Teatro di San Carlo (Napoli), Orchestra Giovanile Mediterranea (Palermo), Orchestra Roma Sinfonietta (Rome), New England symphonic ensemble (New York), Los Angeles Sinfonietta Orchestra (Los Angeles), Saint Petersburg Symphony Orchestra (Russia), Kiev Symphony Orchestra (Ukraine), Al-Bustan International Festival, Baalbeck International Festival, Byblos International Festival (Lebanon), Festival d’ile de France (Paris), Carnegie Hall (New York), Global Leaders Program (New York),Teatro dell’Opera di Roma (Roma), Teatro di San Carlo (Napoli), Académie de l’Opéra de Paris, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence (France), Romanian Radio (Bucharest), Al-Ain Music Festival (UEA), Bahrain International Music Festival (Bahrain).
He performed also with world-renowned artists such Maria Agresta, Jessica Pratt, Joyce El Khoury, Daniela Barcellona, Carmen Giannatasio, Laura Giordano, Maria Grazia Schiavo, Paolo Fanale, Giorgio Berrugi, Krzysztof Baczyk, Mirco Palazzi, Seong-Jin Cho, Dmitry Masleev, Jack Swanson, Anna Maria Labin, Eric Le Sage, Xavier De Maistres, Faycal Karaoui, Gabriele Ferro, Francesca Dego, Modigliani Quartet, Kodaly Quartet, Boris Andrianov, Alexander Ghindin, Caterina Di Tonno, Rosa Bove, Leonardo Cortellazzi and others.
He has been invited as a jury member to several prestigious competitions as the Ottavio Ziino International Liric Competition (Italy), Voce Verdiane International Competition (Italy) and the Biennale des Quatuors à cordes (Philharmonie de Paris).
He collaborates with many Orchestras such as Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra (Lebanon), Orchestra del Teatro di San Carlo (Italy), Orchestra Giovanile Mediterranea (Italy), Roma Sinfonietta (Italy), New England Symphonic Ensemble (USA), Los Angeles Sinfonietta Orchestra (USA), Saint Petersburg Symphony Orchestra (Russia), Kiev Symphony Orchestra (Ukranine), Romanian Radio Chamber Orchestra (Bucharest).
Maatouk published his new book on the Syro-Maronite tradition with Geuthner’s edition in Paris. Different articles are published in international musicology journals and 13 CD on the Maronite tradition with the Antonine University chorus.
Lately, he has been Jury member at the 21st edition of the Ottavio Ziino International Competition in Italy (September 2022). Upcoming schedule includes two concerts with the Radio Romania Chamber Orchestra (March 2023).
100th Anniversary of Puccini Death
Giacomo Puccini (1858 – 1924)
Messa di Gloria (45’)
Puccini is justly celebrated as one of the greatest opera composers, renowned particularly for La Boheme, Tosca, and Madame Butterfly. He was the fourth generation of a family of church musicians from Lucca in northern Italy and held the position of town organist and maestro di capella at the cathedral of San Paolino. He studied at the nearby Institute Musicale and in 1876 walked twenty miles from Lucca to Pisa and back to hear a performance of Verdi’s Aida. It was this experience that finally decided him to pursue a career in the theatre rather than the church. Whilst he was still only eighteen, he composed a setting of the mass for choir and orchestra as his graduation piece More than a glimpse through that window into the future was offered by Puccini in his graduation exercise for the Pacini Institute, composed to be performed, as had been his earlier motet, on the eve of the Feast of San Paolino, in July 1880, entitled simply Messa a Quattro Voci. The first performance in 1880 was a great success, praised by critics and the public alike, but Puccini filed it away and it was not heard again in his lifetime.
In 1951 Father Dante del Fiorentino, an émigré Italian priest living in New York who had known Puccini when he was a young curate, was visiting Lucca to collect material for a biography of the composer. He came upon a copy of the mass and on his return home organized the first American performance of it in Chicago in 1952, seventy-two years after its premiere in Lucca. Regrettably, the notes in the preface of the published score perpetuated the fiction claimed by Father Dante that he had ‘rediscovered’ the ‘lost’ manuscript amongst the large collection of Puccini’s works held by the family of his musical secretary, Vandini. In fact, the work was never lost; Puccini scholars had always known of its existence and Father Dante was by no means the first to have seen the manuscript. The real reason why it was not performed after its premiere was because Puccini quite clearly intended it to be a farewell to his association with liturgical music.
Since its publication in 1951, it has been universally known as the Messa di Gloria and has become a firmly established part of the choral repertoire. It comprises the usual mass sections: Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. Puccini uses a standard classical orchestra, with tenor, baritone, and bass soloists. The Messa di Gloria is an uncomplicated work. Its style is direct and unashamedly operatic, and it is clearly influenced by Puccini’s hero, Verdi. As a liturgical work written in an overtly operatic style, its most obvious antecedents are Rossini’s Petite Messe Solonelle (1863) and Verdi’s Requiem (1874). It is a remarkably assured work for an eighteen-year-old, full of colour, vitality and musical surprises such as the many sudden key changes.
The work’s operatic credentials are not immediately revealed. The Kyrie begins with a luminous string introduction leading to a lyrical ‘Kyrie eleison’. The music becomes more forceful halfway through the ‘Christe eleison’ before returning to the peaceful opening mood.
The Gloria, a real tour de force, takes up nearly half the entire mass, hence the title by which the work has become known. It could easily be performed as a complete work and abounds in rhythmic energy, soaring melodies, and arresting dramatic gestures. Here Puccini’s operatic instincts are fully expressed. There are several sections, starting with a joyous opening theme that defines the movement. A dramatic tenor solo at ‘Gratias agimus’ is followed by a reprise of the ‘Gloria in excelsis’ theme, and then for ‘Qui tollis’ a truly Verdian melody is introduced by the chorus basses. ‘Cum sancto spiritu’, as custom decreed, is set to an exuberant fugue, the final section of which combines the fugue subject with the opening ‘Gloria’ theme, building to a compelling climax.
Like the Gloria, the Credo is divided into several sections. It begins with strong, unison choral phrases answered by rising orchestral interpolations. A beautiful section for tenor solo and unaccompanied chorus ensues at ‘et incarnatus est’. After an extended bass solo for ‘Crucifixus’ the music explodes into life for the energetic ‘et resurrexit’. The solemn tones of ‘et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum’ usher in the concluding section of the Credo – a surprisingly light and dancelike ‘et vitam venturi’.
The Sanctus is short and simple. The stately opening is followed by a brisk ‘Pleni sunt coeli’ and ‘Hosanna’. The Benedictus is given over to the baritone soloist, the chorus then returning with a brief ‘Hosanna’. The Agnus Dei is also straightforward. A lilting melody for the tenor soloist is answered by the chorus with ‘miserere nobis’. This pattern is repeated with the baritone soloist and finally with both soloists, until the Mass comes to an untroubled close with an innocent triplet phrase.
L.V. Beethoven (1770-1827)
Fantasia for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra (“Choral Fantasy”) Op. 80 (24’)
This work, completely original in concept, has been devalued both by its unfortunate debut and by unfair comparisons with the Ninth Symphony, composed some sixteen years later. Thoroughly rehearsed and passionately performed, however, the Choral Fantasy can evoke much of the spirit of the later work, a sort of Ode to Joy Lite. First, it gives us a rare glimpse of Beethoven freely improvising at the piano; though we have no record of what he might have played in the premiere, he wrote down the introductory fantasia some years later.
The opening Adagio tests the limits of the performer and the instrument; the score blackens, first with 32nd notes, then 64th, and even 128th notes! Like the second movement of the Fourth Piano Concerto, which premiered before intermission in the 1808 concert, the Finale begins with a dialogue between ominous martial strings and a conciliatory piano response. Like the Ode to Joy, the heart of the work is a series of variations on a simple stepwise theme. (Why this catchy tune didn’t find its way into hymnals and Suzuki violin methods is beyond me.)
A three-note fanfare precedes the introduction of the theme, played in the simplest Classic style. Beethoven had used the same melody in 1794 for his lied entitled Gegenliebe. Delicate variations follow for flute, two oboes in parallel thirds, a trio of clarinets and bassoon, and a string quartet before the full orchestra takes up the theme. The piano leads into new territory: a gruff C minor episode evocative of “Turkism” and an offbeat march in C major. Some of the celestial modulations Beethoven will use in the Ninth Symphony are also tested here.
The chorus enters in the final quarter with an exuberant paean to the harmony of life, the power of music, and the gift of art. (Because their poetic scansions are identical, you may catch your subconscious singing along to Schiller’s Ode to Joy). The poet is uncertain—either Christoph Kuffner (1780-1846) or perhaps Georg Friedrich Treitschke, reviser of the libretto of Fidelio—but Beethoven is likely to have also contributed.
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