Monday, November 2, 2009


Tonight The Hartford Chorale will rehearse in a sitzprobe led by Constantine Kitsopoulos, guest conductor for our upcoming performances of the Brahms Requiem with The Hartford Symphony Orchestra (and candidate for the soon-to-be-vacant post of Music Director of the HSO).

Sitzprobe. Sounds painful, doesn’t it? Well, what is it? And why is it important?

The word is from the German sitzen (to sit) and proben (to rehearse).

The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians offers two related definitions. The entry proper for sitzprobe reads as follows: “Term used in opera houses, in virtually all countries, for what is normally the first rehearsal of an opera with orchestra, during which the singers remain seated on the stage; this, undertaken when the singers have learnt their parts, is intended to show them how their own music fits into the total musical texture as supplied by the orchestra and the other singers without the distraction of acting.” In the Grove Opera essay on Rehearsal, one may read the following passage: “A particularly important occasion is the Sitzprobe (the German word is current in all English-speaking countries), a rehearsal where the singers sit and work with the orchestra and conductor to sort out purely musical problems, undistracted by the demands of the staging.” An opera sitzprobe may take place on the stage or in the rehearsal hall.

The Hartford Chorale’s sitzprobe rehearsals are quite different and far simpler than opera sitzprobe. Of course, we are not preparing an opera, so we do not have to consider staging, costumes, lighting, and other technical concerns. Our interest is entirely musical and, from the chorister’s perspective, consists in learning how the orchestral conductor will handle tempi, transitions, moods, cues, and the like. This will be our first session with him, since our rehearsals up until now have been led by Richard Coffey, Music Director of The Hartford Chorale. This is a fairly typical arrangement, wherein the chorus master prepares the chorus, then hands it off to the conductor who will actually lead the performance(s). (It can be a real challenge to prepare a work with one conductor, then perform it with a different conductor. Not only might each conductor have his or her own interpretation of the work, but will surely have a distinctive conducting style. )

Our sitzprobe takes place not in the concert hall, and not with the orchestra, but in our regular rehearsal hall, with Jim Barry, the Chorale’s excellent accompanist, at the piano. There will probably be a lot of starting and stopping, instructions (pencil at the ready!), and repetitions of key passages. It’s likely that we will not sing through any movement in its entirety. Or it could turn out to be completely the opposite: Maestro Kitsopoulos may run the entire work from start to finish, and convey instructions later to Maestro Coffey, who will pass them on to us. Or it might be something in between those two extremes. The point is: Be prepared, be flexible, and be willing to sing the music differently than we have been doing in our rehearsals over the past several weeks. Polite attentiveness, flexibility in vocal and musical interpretation, and a gracious accommodation for our guest conductor are essential to a successful sitzprobe tonight.

Next week is “tech week” – On Monday we have our only working rehearsal with the orchestra; we’ll need to have all of tonight’s adjustments clearly marked in our scores and present in our collective consciousness. On Wednesday, it’s dress rehearsal with orchestra and soloists, then our first performance follows on Thursday night, with additional performances on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon.

Tickets are selling briskly – don’t be left out! Call for your tickets today.

The Hartford Chorale and The Hartford Symphony Orchestra
Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 8:00 p.m.
Friday, November 13, 2009 at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 14, 2009 at 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 3:00 p.m.
Belding Theater at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, Hartford

To purchase tickets, contact:
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra
PHONE 860.244.2999
or online at
Discounted tickets may be available via for some concerts.

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