Classical weekend

Brahms and ballet

That Fortuna is a fortunate woman, indeed.

That Fortuna is a fortunate woman, indeed.

Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts

9399 Old Davis Rd.
Davis, CA 95616

(530) 754-2787

Sacramento Community Center Theater

1301 L St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 808-5291

The upcoming weekend offers some fantastic opportunities to check out classical-arts performances.

First, the Sacramento Ballet presents a program that includes what many local aficionados of dance consider co-artistic director Ron Cunningham’s signature piece: Carmina Burana, featuring the music of Carl Orff. Based on a series of medieval poems, Orff’s work premiered in 1937. That combination of the medieval with the modern includes, in Cunningham’s work, the goddess Fortuna balanced atop her wheel (yes, it’s that wheel, the Wheel of Fortune). Expect pageantry galore.

The program will open with George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, a piece set to Tchaikovsky’s Third Suite for Orchestra; the staging includes Russian-style costumes that set a classical mood. The dance is being restaged by Balanchine protégé John Clifford.

While Theme and Variations is more classical in style, Carmina Burana is nothing short of epic. With a live chorus and music, the piece is rife with passion and eroticism. Themes of nature, beauty and immortality—all at the whim of Fortuna, goddess of Fate—haunt the work, which has been called the Sacramento Ballet’s masterpiece.

Melissa Sandvig will join the company again as a guest artist, following her appearance in a limited run as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the most recent production of The Nutcracker. Sandvig is perhaps best known as the first contestant trained in ballet to become a finalist on the Fox program So You Think You Can Dance.

Music lovers can enjoy a Brahms double-header this weekend, with two programs featuring major works.

The Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra will do an all-Brahms program on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Mondavi Center at UC Davis. The centerpiece will be Ein Deutsches Requiem, a massive choral work that Brahms revised over several years, and finally completed in 1868 after his mother’s death. Rather than follow the liturgical pattern of the traditional Requiem Mass, Brahms selected his own favorite passages from the Bible and set them to music that is often affirmative (with little of the fire and brimstone found in the Verdi or Berlioz Requiems).

“His intent was to draw together readings that would become a Requiem for all humanity,” said conductor Don Kendrick. “The Brahms Requiem may be the most comforting, humane Requiem ever written. Brahms is asking, ‘Death, where is thy sting?’”

The program will include the Brahms Alto Rhapsody, and Kendrick’s adaptation of the Academic Festival Overture incorporating a male chorus.

Also this weekend, there are two opportunities to hear one of Brahms’ most famous chamber works: the Horn Trio. The Sacramento Chamber Music Society will feature one of the most famous horn players in the country: Philip Myers, the principal horn with the New York Philharmonic since 1980. Myers is joining SCMS at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (March 27) at Congregation Bet Haverim, 1715 Anderson Road in Davis; repeating at 7:30 p.m. Sunday (March 28) at the Music Recital Hall (in Capistrano Hall) at Sacramento State. Tickets are $24 general, $20 senior, $12 student with ID. (916) 443-2908.