Prequel to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to be featured on West Michigan Symphony concert

Muskegon, Michigan, December 20, 2018 — Italian pianist Alessio Bax and the Chamber Choir of Grand Rapids both return to Muskegon to perform works by Vivaldi, Mozart and Beethoven with West Michigan Symphony on Friday, February 1 at 7:30 p.m. Forgotten for 200 years, Vivaldi’s sunny Gloria has become his most beloved choral work. The dashing Bax performs the elegant Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24, widely regarded as the composer’s greatest work in this genre. Bax, chorus and WMS unite for Beethoven’s magnificent Choral Fantasy, considered the precursor to his great Ninth Symphony. The concert is sponsored by Harbor Steel. Blue Lake Public Radio is the media sponsor.

Best known for his set of pieces for string orchestra known as The Four Seasons, Antonio Vivaldi was employed as a violinist, composer and all-around music teacher at Venice’s Pio Ospedale della Pietà—which essentially translates as “Mercy Hospital,” but was in fact an orphanage where young girls received a thorough music education. The Gloria was written for Vivaldi’s youthful chorus and premiered about 1715. The text, of course, comes from the Catholic Mass and is ancient: probably 2nd century in origin, written by an unknown individual in a style reminiscent of the biblical Psalms.

The Piano Concerto No. 24 is one of only a handful of works the composer wrote in a minor key, and seems to have marked a turning point in his style as he increasingly eschewed convention and followed his own inner muse. Brahms described it as “a masterpiece of art and full of inspired ideas.” Beethoven, upon hearing the piece, exclaimed “we shall never be able to do anything like that.”

Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy was premiered in 1808 in a four-hour long concert that included the 5th and 6th symphonies, the 4th Piano Concerto, and excerpts from his Mass in C Major and other choral compositions! The Choral Fantasy was written to close this performance, uniting all the musical forces, just as it does for our own (mercifully much shorter) concert.

“One of the great joys of my job is welcoming back a kindred spirit to make music with us again,” said Music Director Scott Speck. “This is my third collaboration with Alessio Bax, an artist who has become a friend. He plays with a pure and honest expression. This time around, Alessio has very generously offered to play two piano concertos with WMS. The very next night, he will turn around and offer a stunning Italian-themed program at The Block. Alessio’s return weekend in Muskegon with the West Michigan Symphony and at the Block will be an event, and you won’t want to miss any of it!”

Scott Speck will host a “Lunch ‘n Learn” presentation at 1pm on Wednesday, January 30 in The Block, WMS’s alternative performance venue at 360 W. Western Avenue. These events are free and open to the public. Guests are invited to bring their own lunch and enjoy an hour of lively exploration of and discussion about the music on the program.

Single tickets start at $24 for adults, $10 for students. Tickets are available at 231.726.3231, in person at the Frauenthal Box Office at 425 W. Western Avenue, or online at

Michigan Arts & Culture Council
National Endowment for the Arts