FARMINGTON — The San Juan Symphony tackled an ambitious program for its Sunday afternoon performance of "Dread, Redemption, Nirvana."
The Veterans Day concert was the second installment of the symphony's 2012-2013 season and featured Johann Sebastian Bach's Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068, Tim Brady's Three or Four Days After the Death of Kurt Cobain and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem, K 626.
All three challenging pieces were virtually flawlessly performed.
The afternoon's highlight was Mozart's Requiem.
The San Juan Symphony, Durango Choral Society, Caliente Community Chorus were joined by soloists Gemma Kavanagh (soprano), Gemma Coma-Alaberts (mezzo-soprano), Brian Patrick Leatherman (tenor) and Peter Van de Graaff (bass-baritone).
Hearing the Requiem performed lived is always a special treat. Sunday's performance was no exception.
The combined forces of the symphony, the two choruses and four soloists filled the Henderson Fine Arts Center Performance Hall with a special kind of majesty.
Mozart's Requiem comes from the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead. The text of this mass and Mozart's piece take listeners on a journey through the depths of death, terror of judgment and blissful joy of resurrection.
At the heart of the piece lies the lengthy Sequentia, punctuated by the tempestuous Dies irae and the profound sorrow of Lacrymosa.
Sunday's performance not only did this masterwork justice, it accomplished what only live art can it engaged both the visceral and the spiritual, and let listeners experience the infinite unfold in every moment.
The concert began on a very different note, with selections from Bach's third orchestral suite in D major for which area high school musicians joined the symphony as part of its "Side-by-Side" program.
The opening movement is an Ouverture in the grand French baroque style popular during the period.
The strings carry the movement to an intense climax with bright, piercing trumpets and an undertone of rolling timpani.
The second movement is the most well known, the "Air."
The symphony closed the Bach selections with the Gigue based on the French dance.
Taken together, Bach's Suite No. 3 in D major opened Sunday afternoon's program on a bright note and set the stage for the darker pieces to come.
Tim Brady's "Three or Four Days After the Death of Kurt Cobain," came as a surprise. Although just nine minutes long, the piece is as stimulating and powerful as many symphonies.
This piece was composed just days after Cobain's suicide in April 1994. It represents Brady's immediate response to the news of the seminal grunge musician's death.
"I had been fascinated with the compositional possibilities of the opening riff of the Nirvana song Smells Like Teen Spirit ... it seemed an appropriate time to put my ideas down on paper," Brady wrote. "The work takes the driving electric guitar motif, changes the speed to a slow dirge, and creates a series of short episodes where this new, slower riff passes back and forth among different sections of the orchestra."
A particular highlight was the opening cello solo, reminiscent of the cello that opens Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63. Both solos carry a mournful tone that cast a shadow over the rest of their respective pieces.
Taken together, the three pieces in Sunday's excellent program transported listeners through sonic representations of death, judgment and resurrection a journey few are likely to forget.