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Bach | Mendelssohn St. Matthew Passion Archival Book

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Follow the journey Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia has taken this season to perform the North American Premiere of Mendelssohn’s version of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. This 52 page archival book contains the full libretto, program notes for the concert, photos, historical information, and background material.

There is a very limited supply of these books, so why wait in line? Pre-order your copy today and pick it up at the concert on Sunday. Sample pages below:


Andrew Bogard (Bass-baritone)

Bass-baritone Andrew Bogard hails from central Ohio and is currently pursuing his Master of Music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music where he is a student of Marlena Malas.

Andrew was heard at Opera Philadelphia as the First Priest/Second Armored Guard in Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte” and Maestro in Golijov”s “Ainadamar”, as The Abbott in Britten’s “Curlew River” at Ballet Opera Pantomime (Montreal), as Alidoro in Rossini’s “La Cenerentola”, Dulcamara in “L’elisir d’amore”, Spencer Coyle in Britten’s “Owen Wingrave”, Sarastro in “Die Zauberflöte”, Dr. Reischmann in Henze’s “Elegy for Young Lovers, and “Mephistopheles in Gounod’s “Faust” at the Curtis Institute of Music. Orotorio performances include the bass soloist in “The Messiah” with the Park Avenue Chamber Orchestra and Marion Civic Orchestra, and Raphael/Adam in “The Creation” with Symphony in C and the Mendelssohn Club of Philadephia.

In summers at the Chautauqua Music Festival, Andrew sang le Marquis de la Force in Dialogue of the Carmelites, Leporello in Don Giovanni, Dulcamara in Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore”, Simone in “Gianni Schicchi”, Reverend Hale in “The Crucible”, and Colline in “La Boheme”.

Andrew won first place in the 2014 Mario Lanza Scholarship Competition, and was a Mid-Atlantic regional finalist and encouragemnt award recipient in the 2014 MET Competition.

The Story

Why reconstruct Mendelssohn’s 1841 revision of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion?

Bach’s stature and influence is so firmly established in Western culture that it’s difficult to imagine that 160 years ago his music was almost unknown to all but a few academics. It was through Mendelssohn’s recognition of Bach’s genius and his efforts in making Bach’s works accessible to a wider public that these works are recognized among the greatest masterworks. Revisions for Mendelssohn’s Berlin (1829) and Leipzig (1841) performances are preserved in Oxford‘s Bodleian Library (Mendelssohn made additional revisions after the 1829 premiere).

Mendelssohn revised the SMP to last around two hours with contemporary instrumentation, dynamics, and symphonic choral forces providing an interesting alternative for present-day audiences (Bach’s original is approximately three hours, with Baroque instruments, no written dynamics, and traditionally performed by small chorales). Though purists may express displeasure at altering SMP, if it weren’t for Mendelssohn’s efforts, Bach may have remained unknown to the greater public. Mendelssohn’s edits were designed to bring Bach to his contemporary community – the very community who didn’t have access to a SMP score. Our performance will demonstrate Mendelssohn’s intentions, not only as an historic monument to and reconstruction of Mendelssohn’s 1841 performance, but as a highly dramatic version of SMP.

With such intensified focus on SMP’s drama, for the performance MCP will project supertitles and have written libretti/project books available in support of Mendelssohn’s efforts. In advance of the performance, we will produce a BIG SING concert designed to invite participation from the audience using some of Bach’s SMP chorales, in addition to some Mendelssohn cantatas that are directly related to Bach’s influence. We will also present a symposium to examine Mendelssohn’s choices in comparison to Bach’s original.

Our culminating concert will be performed in Girard College Chapel, which can accommodate a double orchestra/chorus, soloists, and a large organ with a 32′ pedal. Historically, the 1829 premiere was in Berlin’s secular Sing-Akademie with an 800-seat capacity. In 1841, Leipzig’s Thomaskirche, with a 2000-seat capacity, was used. Thus, there is precedence to perform SMP in a sacred or secular space. Mendelssohn used operatic voices for the soloists in his performances; thus, we will be using Eric Owens (former MCP core singer), Marietta Simpson, and Yusuke Fujii (the Evangelist used by Masaaki Suzuki, one of the world’s foremost Bach specialists, twice) and Susanna Phillips as our primary soloists.

The concert will be recorded for HD video distribution by NAXOS for streaming and downloads.

Artistic Statement by Alan Harler
When we listen to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, we sense his deep concern for humanity and his desire that we hold ourselves to the highest values. After almost three centuries, audiences all over the world still respond strongly to Bach’s humanism and compassion. Working so closely with Bach specialist Koji Otsuki reinforced the idea that Felix Mendelssohn also revered Bach’s genius. I decided to travel to Oxford University myself to examine Mendelssohn’s own copy of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.

Although I have been involved in over fifty commissions with Mendelssohn Club, I have never experienced such intimacy with a contemporary score. (Of course, Sibelius, the popular composition software program, makes it unnecessary for a present-day composer to ever write directly on manuscript paper.) Studying Mendelssohn’s own handwriting on his score was like inspecting the brushstrokes of a master painter. Did he choose pencil rather than in ink because of an underlying uncertainly about changes or was he simply being careful not to destroy the original? Do erased sections reveal that he was struggling with a given passage or phrase? Mendelssohn handled his rare copy with great care, tenderly laying paper over the parts he “cut” so that the original would never be damaged.

My time in the Bodleian Library at Oxford provided me with a deeper understanding of what Mendelssohn wanted to achieve with his version of The St. Matthew Passion. I now have a more profound appreciation of his respect for Bach as a master composer with so much to teach all who came after him. In many ways, Mendelssohn considered himself a student of Bach. Over a century later, my teacher and mentor, the brilliant Julius Herford, shared his own very deep connection to Bach the composer, and to Bach the man, with me and all his students including Leonard Bernstein, Margaret Hillis and Robert Shaw, among others. As a young faculty member at Indiana University and the Aspen Choral Institute, I was struck by Herford’s reverence for the Bach master–especially considering the historical context of the St. Matthew Passion and Herford’s experience as a Jewish man who had to flee Nazi Germany.

For the past five decades, I have longed to conduct Bach’s St. Matthew Passion having conducted the St. John Passion and Mass in B Minor numerous times. Yet, in my long career of teaching and conducting, the timing just never aligned with the resources required. A symphonic chorus as large as Mendelssohn Club never seemed appropriate to this work because of the intimate size of the group required in Bach’s original score. The score poses other challenges for a chorus of any size including the delicate and quite difficult coloratura passages and the Baroque period practices related to instrumentation, vocal affect, etc. All that changed, however, three years ago, when I heard Roger Norrington’s performance of Mendelssohn’s version. Here at last was a St Matthew Passion that was compatible with the 140 voices of Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia.

After more than forty years as a conductor and over a quarter century with Mendelssohn Club, I am honored and humbled to bring this glorious score to Philadelphia for its American premiere. I am genuinely excited to be advised by Maestro Masaaki Suziki, one the world’s foremost specialists and conductors of Bach. All of us are eager to replicate Felix Mendelssohn’s specific directions by performing this work outside of liturgical practice and by using operatic voices for the soloists. Obviously, presenting this version of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion provides our chorus with an historic opportunity to speak about our own founding in 1874. Finally, I am especially proud that our research and public performance will bring new awareness of this important score to audiences and choruses across the world.

Marietta Simpson (mezzo-soprano)

Marietta Simpson, whose deeply expressive, richly beautiful voice has made her one of the most sought-after mezzo-sopranos today, has sung with major orchestras throughout the United States, under many of the world’s greatest conductors, including the late Robert Shaw in her Carnegie Hall debut in 1988 as soloist in Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

In season 2012-13 Marietta Simpson sang as Queenie in Showboat with Houston Grand Opera, as soloist in Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra under Carlos-Miguel Prieto, and in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. Her 2011-12 season included singing as soloist in Messiah with the United States Naval Academy, and in Bruckner’s Te Deum and Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, both with Collegiate Chorale. Recent highlights featured her performances as soloist in Messiah at Washington National Cathedral, also Bethel’s First AME Church; in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with Richmond Symphony; in Tippett’s A Child of Our Time with Utah Symphony; Mahler’s Rückert Lieder with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra; Verdi’s Requiem with the Louisville Orchestra; Messiah with Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, also Detroit Symphony; Mendelssohn’s “Die Erste Walpurgisnacht” and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, both with Alabama Symphony; an appearance in recital at the Kennedy Center; as soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood under Kurt Masur; and in “Summertime Songs with the Philadelphia Orchestra” at Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

Other highlights include Maria in Porgy and Bess in a return to Lyric Opera of Chicago; Hindemith’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed” with Cathedral Choral Society of Washington DC; Verdi’s Requiem with Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia; Bach’s Cantata No. 78 and Christmas Oratorio, both with Baldwin-Wallace Bach Festival; as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra in an evening of opera arias and spirituals; Verdi’s Requiem in a return to Nashville Symphony; a recital with Chamber Music Society of Philadelphia; an evening of spirituals and gospel songs, and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, both with Singing City in Philadelphia; Verdi’s Requiem and Donald McCollough’s Let My People Go, both with the Master Chorale of Washington; Maria in Porgy and Bess for Washington National Opera, Opera Birmingham, Los Angeles Opera and Opera Pacific; the role of Dominga de Adviento in the world premiere of Peter Eotvos’s opera, Love and Other Demons, with Glyndebourne Festival Opera; and Messiah with both the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Nashville Symphony Orchestra.

As a concert artist, Marietta Simpson made her New York Philharmonic debut under Kurt Masur in Mendelssohn’s Elijah, followed by performances of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Symphony No. 9, and Bach’s St. John Passion, also under Masur. She sang in Carnegie Hall’s commemoration of the 250th anniversary of Messiah, and performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, under Zdenek Macal, for the inauguration of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Both events were nationally televised. She toured in Poland, Germany and Russia with Helmuth Rilling and the Stuttgart Bachakadamie Orchestra and Chorus, and has sung at the Prague and Brno Festivals, as well as many festivals in the United States, including Grant Park, Ojai, and at the Mann Music Center.

Among Ms. Simpson’s concert highlights are her performances of Handel’s Messiah with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra under Nicholas McGegan, and with Lyric Opera of Chicago; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim; and Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater in a debut with the Vienna Philharmonic, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, which she also reprised under Rattle with the Berlin Philharmonic. She has also sung Mozart’s Requiem with St. Louis Symphony under David Robertson; Elgar’s Sea Pictures with Louisville Orchestra under Raymond Leppard; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Phoenix Symphony under Michael Christie; Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Greater Pensacola Symphony; and the world premiere of a new work entitled The Thread, composed by J. Mark Scearce to text by Toni Morrison, with Nashville Chamber Orchestra.

On the operatic stage, Ms. Simpson made her debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago singing the role of Addie in Marc Blitzstein’s opera Regina, a role which she later reprised at both the Kennedy Center and Bard SummerScape Festival; and her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in Trevor Nunn’s production of Porgy and Bess, which was filmed for British television. She has also toured Europe with Lorin Maazel and the Pittsburgh Symphony in concert performances of Porgy and Bess. She was a member of the Houston Opera Studio for several seasons, has sung roles with Mobile and Minnesota Operas, and New York City Opera.

Ms. Simpson can be seen on Video Artists International’s complete version of Handel’s Messiah with Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, shown seasonally on PBS television. She has recorded Vivaldi’s Gloria, Bach’s Magnificat, Schubert Masses No. 2 and No. 6, Beethoven’s Mass in C, Bach’s B Minor Mass, Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, and both Dvořák’s and Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater on the Telarc label, also with Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. She can be heard on the EMI recording of Porgy and Bess, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle; and on the Grammy Award-winning recording of William Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, with Leonard Slatkin conducting, on the Naxos label.

Susanna Phillips (soprano)

Alabama-born soprano Susanna Phillips, recipient of The Metropolitan Opera’s 2010 Beverly Sills Artist Award, continues to establish herself as one of today’s most sought-after singing actors and recitalists. The 2013-14 season saw Phillips return to The Metropolitan Opera for a sixth consecutive season. Starring roles with the company include Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, under the baton of returning music director James Levine, Rosalinde in a new staging of Strauss’s Die Fledermaus as part of the annual New Year’s Eve gala, and Musetta in La bohème, a reprise of the role in which she made her house debut in 2008.

Phillips’ 2013-14 orchestral engagements included Fauré’s Requiem with Charles Dutoit and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra as well as with the Philadelphia Orchestra where it shared the program with Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas brasileiras No. 5 with Alain Altinoglu. Phillips also joined the St. Louis Symphony to sing Ellen Orford in a concert performance of Peter Grimes, under David Robertson, at Carnegie Hall on Britten’s 100th birthday and in St Louis. Other orchestral engagements included Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Milwaukee Symphony and Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Jacksonville Symphony.

In recital, Phillips was joined by bass-baritone Eric Owens at Chicago’s Symphony Center for a program of Schubert lieder. Chamber music engagements included performances with Paul Neubauer and Anne Marie McDermott in a trio concert tour that culminates at Boston’s Gardner Museum.

In 2012-13, Phillips sang Donna Anna in Don Giovanni at the Met and returned to Carnegie Hall for a special concert performance as Stella in Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire opposite Renée Fleming—a role she went on to perform, to rave reviews, at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Other operatic highlights included her return to Santa Fe Opera as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, and a concert production of Idomeneo at the Ravinia Festival. Orchestral appearances included collaborations with the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Alabama, and St. Louis, and with the Oratorio Society of New York. The soprano made her solo recital debut at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall with pianist Myra Huang.

In 2011-12, Phillips sang Musetta at the Met; sang the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor at Chicago’s Lyric Opera and the Minnesota Opera; and made her European debut as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte at the Gran Teatro del Liceu Barcelona. In concert, she appeared with the St. Louis Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and Santa Fe Concert Association, while the release of Paysages, her first solo album on Bridge Records, was hailed as “sumptuous and elegantly sung” (San Francisco Chronicle).

Highlights of Phillips’s previous seasons include numerous additional Metropolitan Opera appearances: as Pamina in Julie Taymor’s celebrated production of The Magic Flute, Musetta in La bohème (both in New York and on tour in Japan), and she was a featured artist in the Met’s Summer Recital Series in Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park. She made her Santa Fe Opera debut as Pamina, and subsequently performed a trio of other Mozart roles there: Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Countess Almaviva in Figaro, and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. Phillips made two appearances with Boston Lyric Opera and three with Opera Birmingham. She portrayed Adina in Lyric’s L’elisir d’amore, and, as a participant in the company’s Ryan Opera Center, sang the female leads in Roméo et Juliette and Die Fledermaus. Phillips made her Minnesota Opera debut in the notoriously challenging role of Elmira in Tim Albery’s production of Reinhard Keiser’s The Fortunes of King Croesus, and later sang Euridice there opposite David Daniels in Orfeo ed Euridice. Phillips has also played Mozart’s Countess with the Dallas Opera and Donna Anna with the Fort Worth Opera Festival.

Highlights of Phillips’s previous seasons include numerous additional Metropolitan Opera appearances: as Pamina in Julie Taymor’s celebrated production of The Magic Flute, Musetta in La bohème (both in New York and on tour in Japan), and she was a featured artist in the Met’s Summer Recital Series in Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park. She made her Santa Fe Opera debut as Pamina, and subsequently performed a trio of other Mozart roles there: Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Countess Almaviva in Figaro, and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. Phillips made two appearances with Boston Lyric Opera and three with Opera Birmingham. She portrayed Adina in Lyric’s L’elisir d’amore, and, as a participant in the company’s Ryan Opera Center, sang the female leads in Roméo et Juliette and Die Fledermaus. Phillips made her Minnesota Opera debut in the notoriously challenging role of Elmira in Tim Albery’s production of Reinhard Keiser’s The Fortunes of King Croesus, and later sang Euridice there opposite David Daniels in Orfeo ed Euridice. Phillips has also played Mozart’s Countess with the Dallas Opera and Donna Anna with the Fort Worth Opera Festival.


Eric Owens (bass-baritone)

Bass-baritone Eric Owens has a unique reputation as an esteemed interpreter of classic works and a champion of new music. Equally at home in orchestral, recital and opera performances, Owens brings his powerful poise, expansive voice and instinctive acting faculties to stages around the world.

Owens began his 2013-2014 season in Berlin, performing Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle. After mentoring the next generation of opera stars at the American Singers’ Opera Project at the Kennedy Center with friend and collaborator Renée Fleming, Owens appeared as Sarastro in Mozart’s The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera. He makes another role debut as Vodnik in Rusalka at Lyric Opera Chicago at the start of 2014. In the spring, Owens joined what director Peter Sellars called his “dream cast” in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Handel’s Hercules as the title role alongside Alice Coote, David Daniels, and Richard Croft. 2013-14 also saw a duo recital with soprano Susanna Phillips presented by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Throughout that season, Owens bowed as Alberich in the Deutsche Opera Berlin Ring Cycle. That summer, Owens performed in the Wiener Staatsoper Ring Cycle. Owens has created an uncommon niche for himself in the ever-growing body of contemporary opera works through his determined tackling of new and challenging roles. He received great critical acclaim for portraying the title role in the world premiere of Elliot Goldenthal’s Grendel with the Los Angeles Opera, and again at the Lincoln Center Festival, in a production directed and designed by Julie Taymor. Owens also enjoys a close association with John Adams, for whom he performed the role of General Leslie Groves in the world premiere of Doctor Atomic at the San Francisco Opera, and of the Storyteller in the world premiere of A Flowering Tree at Peter Sellars’s New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna and later with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Doctor Atomic was later recorded and received the 2012 Grammy for Best Opera Recording. Owens made his Boston Symphony Orchestra debut under the baton of David Robertson in Adams’s Nativity oratorio Owens’s career operatic highlights include his San Francisco Opera debut in Otello conducted by Donald Runnicles; his Royal Opera, Covent Garden, debut in Norma; Aida at Houston Grand Opera; Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and La Bohème at Los Angeles Opera; Die Zauberflöte for his Paris Opera (Bastille) debut; and Ariodante and  L’Incoronazione di Poppea at the English National Opera. He sang Collatinus in a highly acclaimed Christopher Alden production of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia at Glimmerglass Opera. A former member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Owens has sung Sarastro, Mephistopheles in Faust, Frère Laurent, Angelotti in Tosca, and Aristotle Onassis in the world premiere of Jackie O (available on the Argo label) with that company. Owens is featured on two Telarc recordings with the Atlanta Symphony: Mozart’s Requiem and scenes from Strauss’ Elektra and Die Frau ohne Schatten, both conducted by Donald Runnicles. He is featured on the Nonesuch Records release of A Flowering Tree. Owens has been recognized with multiple honors, including the 2003 Marian Anderson Award, a 1999 ARIA award, and second prize in the Plácido Domingo Operalia Competition, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition.

A native of Philadelphia, Owens began his musical training as a pianist at the age of six, followed by formal oboe study at age eleven under Lloyd Shorter of the Delaware Symphony and Louis Rosenblatt of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He studied voice while an undergraduate at Temple University, and then as a graduate student at the Curtis Institute of Music. He currently studies with Armen Boyajian. He serves on the Board of Trustees of both the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts and Astral Artistic Services.

Yusuke Fujii (tenor)

Japanese tenor Yusuke Fujii has established himself as one of the leading tenors in oratorio repertoire in Japan, and is rapidly expanding his international career, especially through a decade-long relationship with Bach Collegium Japan—one of the most celebrated period instrument ensembles worldwide.

Born and raised in Oita, Japan, Yusuke began his voice training at the age of 14 with Kanako Togawa, and earned his doctorate from Tokyo University of the Arts in 2011, studying along the way with recognized teachers such as Kazuya Edagawa, Kan-ichi Suzuki, Chieko Teratani, Olga Warla-Kolo, Makoto Okuda, and Brian Parsons.

The cornerstone of his career has been sacred vocal works that require stylistic sensitivity and extensive knowledge in performance practice; however, his repertoire is not limited to early music. He frequently performs oratorio and passion works such as J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Passions, Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s The Creation, Mozart’s Requiem, and Dvorak’s Stabat Mater. His recent solo works also include Schumann’s oratorio The Pilgrimage of the Rose and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. He has collaborated with conductors Kotaro Sato, Kenichiro Kobayashi, Jun-ichi Hirokami, and Rolf Beck, and with orchestras such as Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra and Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa.

His reputation as a professional vocalist, with solid technique and a clear voice, has kept him busy with numerous recording projects and international tours with Bach Collegium Japan (BCJ), directed by Masaaki Suzuki, the foremost Bach expert of our time. His solo appearances with BCJ include Handel’s Israel in Egypt (2007) and Mendelssohn’s St. Paul (2012) oratorio productions.

Mr. Fujii has also explored operatic roles and recitals. His recent opera appearances include the role of Luciano in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (the New National Theater production, 2009). Giving two solo recitals in 2013, he continues to strive for informed, insightful and sentimental performances of art song. His current research interest is the Lieder by Schumann.

Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia

Since its founding fifteen decades ago, Mendelssohn Club Chorus has been devoted to sharing great choral music as a way to connect artists, audiences and communities. Mendelssohn Club, one of America’s oldest choruses, continues to expand its repertoire in the 21st century by collaborating with a wide range of musical organizations, each of which is devoted to representing, or reaching out to, new audiences in innovative ways. Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia performs choral music to create a shared transcendent experience among its singers and audiences. Through the excellence of its adventurous performances, Mendelssohn Club advances the development of choral music as an art form.

During its long, rich history, Mendelssohn Club played a role in forming the Philadelphia Orchestra; gave the Philadelphia premiere of the Brahms Requiem, provided more than 300 singers for the American premiere of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, gave the world premiere of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13; and was nominated for a GRAMMY for its recording of the Vincent Persichetti Winter Cantata. The 140-voice chorus is a highly artistic, auditioned chorus, made up of 16 professional core singers; music teachers, professors, therapists, and instrumentalists, as well as those with music training but who have other nn-music-related professions. That the chorus’s projects are recognized both for their artistic achievement and as the critical gathering place that it provides for a community passionate about singing speaks to the integral role that it plays in the region, particularly Philadelphia’s singers, instrumentalists, composers, collaborating organizations that they employ and the audiences that they inspire.

Mendelssohn Club believes in taking artistic risks that stretch and challenge its singers and audiences; in supporting the talent, passion, and dedication of its singers, and in the powerful communal experience that comes from shared music-making; in respecting the commitment and appreciation of the audience members; and in ensuring Mendelssohn Club’s long-term stability as an important cultural resource in the region and as an influence in the world of choral music.

“With a passionate commitment to artistic excellence, repertoire diversity, audience engagement, and commissioning new works, the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, under the direction of Maestro Alan Harler, continues to be a dynamic, vibrant, and relevant choral ensemble in the greater Philadelphia community.”
Rollo Dillworth, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Chorus America

For information about Mendelssohn Club’s concerts and programs, or to order tickets for the 2014-2015 season, visit You can also find Mendelssohn Club on Facebook at

Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia

A founding resident company of The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia is a 33-member professional ensemble led by Music Director Dirk Brossé. The Chamber Orchestra, founded in 1964, has a well-established reputation for distinguished performances of repertoire from the Baroque period through the twenty-first century.

The Orchestra’s development was motivated in part by the desire to provide performance opportunities to young professional musicians emerging from the Curtis Institute of Music and other regional training programs but also by a desire to make substantial contribution to the City and region’s cultural life. In addition to presenting its own productions, the Orchestra started to develop an entrepreneurial approach by seeking other performance opportunities among the region’s presenter/producer community, thereby providing additional employment for its members. The ensemble also championed new music, focusing on regional composers. In total, the organization has commissioned and premiered over seventy new works.

In 1994, Ignat Solzhenitsyn, a concert pianist and conducting graduate from the Curtis Institute of Music, joined the Chamber Orchestra as Assistant Conductor. In 1998, he was named Principal Conductor and Music Director in 2004. Maestro Solzhenitsyn, in assuming the position of Conductor Laureate in 2010, remains closely associated with the Orchestra.

A conductor and composer of international acclaim, Maestro Dirk Brossé enters his fourth season as Music Director of The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia in September 2013. In the 2013-2014 subscription season, the Orchestra will perform six concert programs from September through May in the Kimmel Center’s intimate, 600-seat Perelman Theater and one concert program in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall. Two of the concert programs will also be performed at Lincoln University.

The Chamber Orchestra has performed with such internationally acclaimed guest artists as Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Mstislav Rostropovich, Issac Stern, Rudolph Serkin, The Eroica Trio, Jean-Pierre Rampal, The Romeros Guitar Quartet, Julie Andrews, Bernadette Peters, Ben Folds, Elvis Costello, Sylvia McNair, Steven Isserlis, Joseph Silverstein, Ransom Wilson, Gerard Schwarz, Jahja Ling and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, among others. The ensemble travels regularly, having toured the United States, Europe, and Israel.

Alan Harler

Meet Alan Harler

Alan Harler became Mendelssohn Club’s twelfth Music Director in 1988 and was named Artistic Director in 2009.  Maestro Harler served as Laura H. Carnell Professor and Chairman of Choral Music at Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music.

A strong advocate for new American music

Alan Harler is a strong advocate for new American music.  He was founder and director of the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble of Indiana.  During his tenure with Mendelssohn Club, he has commissioned and premiered over 55 new compositions, including Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields (2013), David Lang’s battle hymns (2009), Jennifer Higdon’s On the Death of the Righteous (2009) and Pauline Oliveros’s Urban Echo: Circle Told (2008) in his 20th anniversary season. Other major commissions are Robert Moran’sRequiem: Chant du Cygne (1990), Charles Fussell’s Specimen Days (1992), Robert Stern’s Returning the Song (1994), Cynthia Folio’s Touch the Angel’s Hand (1994), James Primosch’s Fire Memory/ River Memory (1998), Charles Fussell’s High Bridge (2003), and Andrea Clearfield’s The Golem Psalms(2006) and Tse Go La (2012).  Maestro Harler conducted Mendelssohn Club in a critically acclaimed recording of the Moran Requiem for Argo/London Records in 1994.  In 2012, Innova Records released a CD featuring the Higdon, Primosch, and Clearfield commissions for large chorus and orchestra.  As conductor of the Temple University Concert Choir, he has presented many Philadelphia premieres, including Moran’s Hagoromo, Alfred Schnittke’s Requiem, and Arvo Pärt’s Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Secundum Joannem. If you would like to support Alan’s vision, contribute to the Alan Harler New Ventures Fund.

An exceptional conductor with a global reach

Alan Harler is an active conductor outside of Philadelphia, having performed regularly at the Festival Casals in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Aspen Choral Institute, and has given master classes and conducted performances in Taiwan and China under the sponsorship of the Taiwan Philharmonic Association.

He has prepared choruses for many of the country’s leading orchestras and conductors including Ricardo Muti, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Klaus Tennstedt, Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, David Roberstson and Max Rudolph.

Harler counts the teaching experience as one of the most important creative elements of his work. “One of the strongest characteristics of a good conductor is the ability to teach. You teach as you conduct. I’m really a teacher at heart,” he says.

Harler has led many master classes in conducting, and currently serves as one of five Conducting Mentors with the Conductors Guild, making himself available for consultation with young conductors internationally.  At Mendelssohn Club, he works with a young conductor apprentice each year through our apprenticeship program.

Recognized for his outstanding work
  • Adventurous programming by Maestro Harler was recognized in 2013 by Chorus America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, which recognized member choruses that demonstrated a commitment to fostering and promoting new music.
  • Maestro Harler’s provocative programming vision was recognized in 2009 by Chorus America, with the Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art.
  • Harler was also honored in 2009 by the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia with an Honorary Lifetime Membership for Distinguished Contribution to Musical Life of Philadelphia.
  • In December 2007, Harler conducted the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a performance of Handel’s Messiah — an honor typically offered to music directors of orchestras.
  • In August 2007, Harler received the Elaine Brown Award for Life-long Service to Choral Music, given by the Pennsylvania Division of the American Choral Director’s Association.
  • In April 2005, Harler was honored with Temple University’s Creative Achievement Award for 2005
  • In 2004, Harler received the Emanuel Kardon Foundation Award for “contributing to the vitality and excellence of the Philadelphia arts community.”
  • In 1995, Harler was elected to the Board of Chorus America, the national professional association of professional and volunteer choruses.