Beethoven, Hummel on tap for Octavo Singers

Trumpet soloist Catherine Sheridan to be featured in Haydn piece
Curtis Funk and Catherine Sheridan.
Curtis Funk and Catherine Sheridan.

GLENVILLE — Every chorus likes to sing something new, so Octavo Singers’ director Curtis Funk consulted a solid source.

“People suggested the program for Sunday’s concert, and both are new to the choir,” he said.

The pieces are Beethoven’s “Mass in C Major” and Johann Hummel’s “Mass in B-flat Major.” Funk also decided to feature trumpet soloist Catherine Sheridan in Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto.

What’s cool is that all the composers knew each other, although Funk was not familiar with the Hummel work until he’d done some research.

“The Beethoven and Hummel paired beautifully, as both were commissioned by the Esterhazy family,” he said, adding that Haydn had been the composer-in-residence for Prince Esterhazy’s orchestra.

Beethoven wrote his Mass, his first religious work in a traditional liturgical style, to be sung for Princess Maria Esterhazy’s birthday in 1808. The work was not published until 1812.

For Hummel, it was another chance to shine beyond his job as the concertmaster of the Prince’s orchestra.
“Both are fun to rehearse,” Funk said.

Beethoven followed the standard sequence of sections, such as the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo and Benedictus, but added what Funk calls a “fun fugue.” The vocal range is very comfortable and his 105 singers are very solid, he said.

There will be four soloists: soprano Nellie Rustick; mezzo-soprano Ann Marie Adamick; tenor Tim Reno; and bass Richard Mazzaferro, along with a 20-piece orchestra. 

Hummel was 26 when he joined the orchestra in 1804, and within a short time wrote this Mass.

“The piece is charming and there are no soloists,” Funk said. “It reflects Viennese classicism and Hummel’s desire to achieve it perfectly.”

Hummel worked as a violinist, but he was one of the great pianists of his day and most of his compositions are for piano. His talent was so remarkable that as a child he spent two years with Mozart and his family both living and being taught free of charge.

Sheridan is only the second instrumental soloist to be featured at an Octavo concert and Funk said he might make that a regular happening. She was an easy choice, as the choir loves her work and she’s a frequent freelancer in local orchestras.

Haydn was also a natural pick, as his almost 30-year connection to the Esterhazy orchestra began in 1761 when he was 29. He composed the trumpet concerto in 1796.

This is the first time Sheridan will perform the concerto professionally.

“I did it in college. It’s a staple,” Sheridan said during a ride home from her day job as manager of engineering and maintenance for the state’s Canal Corp.

“Because the piece is so well-known, it adds a little more complexity to the performance. I’ll be true to what the composer intends.”

The piece was written for then-local trumpet legend Anton Weidinger, who had developed a keyed instrument. Previously, trumpets were valveless and had a limited range that was generally clustered on high notes. The new trumpet could play notes in the lower and middle ranges.

“Haydn was writing for this new instrument, so he was experimenting. But he put a lot of humor in the piece, like putting his accents on the leading tone not on the downbeats, or his dynamics. It adds a little comedy,” she said.

She’ll use an E-flat trumpet, which, she said, gives the sound more muscle.

“I’m excited to come back to this concerto,” Sheridan said. “I’m noticing more subtleties. It’s more interesting now.”

Octavo Singers

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Church of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Saratoga Road, Glenville 
HOW MUCH: $25, $20, $15
MORE INFO: 518-253-7088;

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