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May 6, 2010

This Day in UMS History: Philadelphia Orchestra (May 6, 1962)

By Paula Muldoon

Sunday, May 6, 1962
Hill Auditorium

The Philadelphia Orchestra
The University Choral Union
Thor Johnson, Guest Conductor

Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Lili Chookasian, contralto
Richard Lewis, tenor
Donald Gramm, bass-baritone

Antonin Dvořák’s Requiem Mass, Op. 89

I’m always curious when I stumble across pieces that I’d never heard of.  I know and love Mozart’s, Brahms’s, Verdi’s, and Victoria’s Requiems (and know and intensely dislike Berlioz’), but I never knew that Dvořák had even written one.  I immediately searched for it on YouTube, and am listening to it as I write this; the Introitus sounds like the Lord of the Rings soundtrack.

If you’re interested in choral music and/or text in music, a fascinating project is to compare different settings of the Requiem text – it’s startling to see how differently composers deal with the exact same text (the Brahms Requiem, of course, is ineligible for that exact comparison, as the text is different ).  Such a comparison is equally possible with the mass text – try Mozart’s Great Mass in c minor, K. 427 with Bach’s Mass in b minor and William Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices.

This concert came in the midst of a series of themed concerts with the Philadelphia Orchestra that May.  With various conductors and soloists, the orchestra presented all-Beethoven and all-Strauss concerts, along with evenings of music by British, French, and Russian composers.  Back in the 1960s, the annual May Festival ended the regular UMS season, with six different concerts in four days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening, Sunday afternoon, and Sunday evening).  After presenting the Dvorák Requiem at 2:30 pm on Sunday, May 6, the Philadelphia Orchestra returned for an evening performance that featured Richard Strauss’s Don Juan and Ein Heldenleben, as well as his Burleske in d minor for Piano and Orchestra, performed by the great Hungarian pianist György Sándor, who performed in 16 UMS concerts from 1958-1981.

“This Day in UMS History” is an occasional series of vignettes drawn from UMS’s historical archive.   If you have a personal story or particular memory from attending the performance featured here, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.


Paula Muldoon is a UMS Marketing Intern. She recently graduated from the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance with a degree in violin performance.