Guest Conductor Hans Graf joins the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in Mozart Requiem


DETROIT, (Mar. 24, 2010) – Guest conductor Hans Graf, along with soprano Celena Shaefer, mezzo-soprano Susan Platts, tenor James Taylor, bass Eric Owens and the UMS Choral Union join the DSO in Mozart Requiem, the composer’s unforgettable final work, on Apr. 22-24.  The performance is paired with Strauss’ poetic interpretation of Death and Transfiguration, which he composed to depict the death of an artist, and his Serenade in E-flat major.  The concerts, sponsored by PVS Chemicals, take place in Orchestra Hall on Thu., Apr. 22 at 8:00 p.m.; Fri., Apr. 23 at 8:00 p.m.; and Sat., Apr. 24 at 8:30 p.m.

Known for his creative programming, the distinguished Austrian conductor Hans Graf is one of today’s most highly respected musicians. Internationally, Hans Graf conducts in the foremost concert halls of Europe, Japan and Australia. He has recorded for the EMI, Orfeo, CBC, Erato, Capriccio and JVC labels and recent releases include the complete works of Dutilleux for BMG Arte Nova and with the Houston Symphony, works by Bartok and Stravinsky for Koch International and Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony for Naxos.

Praised for her silvery voice, fearlessly committed acting and phenomenal technique, soprano Celena Shafer is recognized as one of the leading artists of her generation garnering great acclaim for her operatic, orchestral, and recital performances. Recent orchestral highlights include Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Coronation Mass and the Brahms Requiem with the New York Philharmonic and Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 and the Mozart Requiem with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

British-born Canadian mezzo-soprano Susan Platts brings a uniquely rich and wide-ranging voice to concert and recital repertoire.  Orchestras she has appeared with include the CBC Radio Orchestra, Saint Paul and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestras, Les Violons du Roy, Kansas City, Alabama and Austin Symphonies.  Conductors with whom she has collaborated include Sir Andrew Davis, Roberto Abbado, Helmuth Rilling, Jeffrey Kahane, Leon Botstein, Jane Glover, Anne Manson, Peter Bay and Itzhak Perlman. 

With a repertoire ranging from the Renaissance to the 21st century, tenor James Taylor devotes much of his career to oratorio and concert literature. One of the most sought-after Bach St. Matthew Passion Evangelists, Taylor has performed throughout the United States, in South America, Japan, Israel, and in the great concert halls of Europe including Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Vienna’s Musikverein, and the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Acclaimed for his commanding stage presence and inventive artistry, bass-baritone Eric Owens has carved a unique place in the contemporary opera world as both an esteemed interpreter of classic works and a champion of new music.  Equally at home in concert, recital and opera performances, Owens continues to bring his powerful poise, expansive voice and instinctive acting faculties to stages around the world.

Throughout its 130-year history, the University Musical Society (UMS) Choral Union has performed with many of the world’s distinguished orchestras and conductors. Based in Ann Arbor, the 175-voice Choral Union is known for its definitive performances of large-scale works for chorus and orchestra. Fourteen years ago, the UMS Choral Union further enriched that tradition when it began appearing regularly with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Richard Strauss was a musical Romantic through and through, a composer given to sweeping and colorful sonic invention. But in his youthful Serenade in E-flat major, Opus 7, Strauss looked back to a venerable tradition of music’s Classical period. Serenades for bands of wind instruments had been a popular musical form during the second half of the eighteenth century. Strauss composed his Serenade in 1882, the year he turned eighteen, though it may have been written somewhat earlier. While a youthful effort, this work was nevertheless the product of an already accomplished composer.

Seldom at a loss for a quotable quote, Richard Strauss issued one of his most genial observations on his deathbed: “Dying is just as I composed it in Death and Transfiguration,” he told his daughter as his own life reached its lowest ebb in September 1949. The tone poem to which he referred was composed sixty years earlier, when the personal experience of death was the furthermost thing in Strauss’ mind. But he conjured up the scenario of an ailing man whose past life suddenly flashes through his memory. The mystical eight-section tone poem that resulted depicts the sick man asleep, pleasant dreams, severe pain, his childhood and youthful passions, a second onslaught of pain, his unattained goal in life, the moment of his death, and finally, his transfiguration and the fulfillment of that goal.

No work of Mozart’s has acquired so heavy a gloss of legend and romantic fiction as has his final composition, the Requiem Mass. Mozart was scarcely in his grave, the unfinished Requiem still on his desk, before various persons began to speculate on the coincidence of his writing a setting of the Mass for the Dead while he himself was fatally ill. Since the 19th century, the Requiem legend has grown so familiar and, to those sentimentally inclined, so appealing, that it now requires some effort to objectively consider the work and the circumstances in which it was composed. The Requiem reflects Mozart’s quite different attitude toward mortality. Some idea of this may be gleaned from an often‑quoted letter the composer wrote to his father in 1787. In it, Mozart speaks of death as “the true goal of our existence . . . the best and truest friend of mankind,…something very soothing and consoling.” The music of his Requiem is precisely this, “soothing and consoling,” its profound beauty overcoming any sense of desolation and serving to put us on more intimate terms with our “best and truest friend.” Mozart, during his all‑too‑early maturity, must have felt no higher artistic purpose.


Tickets to Mozart Requiem range in price from $19 to $71 with a limited number of box seats available for $65 to $123.  Tickets may be purchased at the Max M. Fisher Music Center box office (3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit); by calling (313) 576-5111; or online at  Seniors (60 and over) and students with a valid student ID can purchase 50% off RUSH tickets at the box office 90 minutes prior to concerts based on availability.  For group discount information (10 people or more), please contact Chuck Dyer at (313) 576-5130 or


PVS Chemicals Preferred Series Partner

Mozart Requiem

Orchestra Hall

Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Hans Graf, conductor; Celena Shaefer, soprano; Susan Platts, mezzo-soprano; James Taylor, tenor; Eric Owens, bass; UMS Choral Union, chorus

Thu., Apr. 22 at 8:00 p.m.; Fri., Apr. 23 at 8:00 p.m.;  and Sat., Apr. 24 at 8:30 p.m.


STRAUSS                             Serenade in E-flat major, Op. 7 

STRAUSS                             Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24 (Death and Transfiguration)

MOZART                               Requiem, K. 626 

Get the most out of each concert by attending Ford ConcerTalks, one hour prior to performances (excluding Coffee Concerts).   ConcerTalks are informal and may include special guests, lectures and music that reveal interesting facts about the program and provide a behind-the-scenes look at the art of making music.

 Mozart Chamber Music performed by students from the University of Michigan.



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