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September 25, 2000

Professor and former student collaborate for European concert

By Barbara McKenna

Normally at this time of year music professor and Dean of Arts Edward Houghton is immersed in planning and administration meetings, dealing with the hectic demands that arise at the beginning of every quarter.

But this year is different. This year, Houghton will spend early October in Berlin, attending the opening performances of the German Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Chorus, conducted by one of his former students and featuring Houghton's edition of a Renaissance mass.

The former student is conductor Kent Nagano, who graduated with degrees in music and sociology in 1974. It's been a stellar year for the world-famous conductor, who is not only the new music director of the German Symphony Orchestra but also accepted the position of principal conductor of the Los Angeles Opera in June.

Nagano wanted to do something special for his inaugural performance with the Symphony (officially the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester und Kammerchor), and called his former teacher to discuss ideas.

The result is a unique concert featuring Mahler's "Ninth Symphony" and a Renaissance mass that Houghton researched and translated into modern musical notation for this performance, which will be performed October 8 and 9, featuring the Tallis Scholars.

"Kent has chosen a masterwork from the 15th century and one from the 20th century," Houghton said. "He's creating a lot of excitement in Berlin and Europe with his imaginative opening program."

The 15th-century piece is Houghton's edition of Johannes Ockeghem's Missa Au travail suis. The mass is one of 40 works (known all together as the Chigi Codex) that Houghton has been preparing for publication by the University of Chicago Press.

Because the works are very old, the musical notation is quite different from modern notation--Houghton says that the difference between the notation in the Chigi Codex and modern notation is somewhat comparable to the difference between Latin and modern French. Houghton has conducted meticulous research to recreate the ancient works so that they can be revived by modern performers.

Although the bulk of his work was done before the performance, Houghton isn't completely off the hook. Nagano decided that he wanted to hold an academic symposium, at the National Institute for Music Research, in conjunction with the concert series. And, of course, Houghton will be a featured speaker.

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