From the President: Column by Thomas Becker


Column by Thomas M. Becker.

Saturday evening in the Amphitheater, you will have the opportunity to witness one of the most significant of all choral works as the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, led for the first time by guest conductor Robert Duerr, will be joined by the remarkable Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus in the performance of Brahms’ “Ein Deutsches Requiem.” The performance will feature two guest soloists, soprano Janice Chandler Eteme and baritone Tyler Duncan.

There is in this work a passionate affirmation of life, and a deeply reverent sense of the frailties of the human condition. Christopher Gibbs, in his stunningly comprehensive Oxford History of Western Music, notes that Brahms wrote the work in response to the death of his mother. Brahms quotes from Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible on consolation, acceptance of faith and the transcendence of suffering through love. Gibbs points out that through that quote, Brahms inserted an ecumenical choral composition into a largely Catholic German landscape.

The classical music broadcast station in Buffalo, WNED, will broadcast Saturday evening’s performance live to an audience stretching as far north as Toronto. The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, with more than 100 members, creates a colorful tapestry of sound. Saturday is the perfect evening to introduce a younger generation of your family to the beauty and joy of a live performance of a timeless work.

We knew last year when we announced the coming week on Pakistan that the subject would remain one of vital significance. No one foresaw the dramatic arc of unfolding events: the continuing tension with the military over supply lines, intelligence and the Haqqani network; the increased effectiveness of drone strikes in Pakistan amid public and official outrage; the Special Forces strike to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and in close proximity to a Pakistan military complex; etc.

This week’s lectures in the Amphitheater are bookended by two Americans, Fareed Zakaria and Nicholas Burns — one a respected commentator and journalist, the other a senior statesman who spent almost 28 years in the State Department.

Tuesday through Thursday we will hear from a former ambassador from Pakistan to the United States and the United Kingdom, a former ambassador to the U.S. accused of treason in Pakistan, and an expert on Pakistan’s military. The afternoon Interfaith Lectures feature one of the world’s most respected academics on Islam, a member of the National Assembly in Pakistan, a representative from the World Bank, a business leader in Pakistan who innovates contacts with business leaders from India, and Karen Armstrong, who travels frequently to Pakistan, where she speaks to thousands on the subject of compassion.

This week is an extraordinary opportunity for a deep look into one of the most complex and vitally important relationships facing the U.S., now and for years to come.

We will see the festival dancers Monday night and the North Carolina Dance Theatre Wednesday. The incomparable Alexander Gavrylyuk will join the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Thursday and next Saturday. And Jay Lesenger and the Chautauqua Opera Company open Manon Lescaut, a work of epic levels of love, loss, treachery and vanity and score of souring beauty.

This amazing mixture of art and the issues of our day, this density of activity in a small space infused with natural beauty, this community pulsed by engagement — all of this represents Chautauqua’s signature expression of a dedication to the best of human values and the enrichment of life.

Welcome to Week Five.