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Singers to perform Bruckner works on Saturday

Singers to perform Bruckner works on Saturday

Curtis Funk, the director of the Octavo Singers, plans his seasons at least three years in advance.
Singers to perform Bruckner works on Saturday
Curtis Funk will conduct the Octavo Singers in Clifton Park on Saturday.

CLIFTON PARK — Curtis Funk, the director of the Octavo Singers, plans his seasons at least three years in advance. But he was stymied last summer when he learned that one of the pieces he wanted to perform on Saturday was not available.

“I’d wanted to do Anton Rubinstein’s ‘Eroica Fantasy’ and thought it beautiful,” Funk said. “But I couldn’t find the instrumental music in print. There was none around and no current publishing company. It was a real eye-opener that I couldn’t get the parts.”

Although a small score was available, copying out the parts for his 18-piece chamber orchestra would have been too time consuming. He did find that some European choruses had done the work but was holding out “only a grain of hope that I can get the parts,” he said.

Octavo Singers

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19, Saturday

WHERE: St. George’s Episcopal Church, 912 Rt. 146, Clifton Park

HOW MUCH: $25, $20, $15 (age 11 and up)

MORE INFO: 253-7088; www.octavosingers.com

When that didn’t happen, Funk decided to spotlight the work of Anton Bruckner (1824-1896), whose Requiem in D minor and “Te Deum in C Major” had already been programmed.

“They’re musical bookends,” Funk said. “He wrote the Requiem when he was 25 and the ‘Te Deum’ at 60. You can hear 35 years of growth as a composer.”

While many in his 95-voice chorus had done the “Te Deum” in the 1980s, the Requiem was new to them. They got their first look at the vocal parts this summer at the chorus’ Summer Sings sessions.

“The Latin text is not a challenge and they really took to the Bruckner,” he said. “There were smiles. When we started rehearsals, you could hear a pin drop. They wanted to stick this thing. They were really focused.”

Audiences, too, will gain something from hearing the two works.

“I like to go with the known but also include the lesser known works. It’s a musical education for the audiences,” Funk said.

For years, Bruckner, who was a very skilled organist and teacher as well as a devout Catholic, had doubts about his work and presented himself as a very humble musician. In his 20s, he borrowed from Brahms and Schubert, which is why the Requiem is very neo-classical in style, Funk said. But Bruckner continued to study with professors at the Vienna Conservatory. By his 40s and inspired by the harmonic revelations of Richard Wagner’s music, Bruckner found his compositional voice and began writing symphonies of great grandeur and visionary power with innovative rhythmic and harmonic methods often over vast horizons.

While many consider these nine symphonies grandiose, Funk said, his personality was still that of a humble man. Interesting, too, is that he wrote more romantic music the older he got, often with very complex harmonies.

“There’s a double fugue in the ‘Te Deum’ that is really difficult with harmonically unexpected cadences,” he said.

Fortunately, there are four very experienced soloists: soprano Kelly Hutchinson; mezzo-soprano Ann Marie Adamick; tenor Alexander Turpin; and bass Victor Klimash.

People might remember Hutchinson, who founded the creative arts group Mosaic Arts about five years ago before heading to North Carolina; and Klimash was, of course, the director of the Mendelssohn Club until he returned to Louisiana. Both these singers are coming just for this performance. The other two singers are local and “amazing,” Funk said. Most of his orchestra members work with the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra or the Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra.

Michael Emery, the concertmaster for this concert, will alo perform the Fall and Winter segments of Vivaldi’s “The Seasons.”

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