Bicknell Center to offer symphonic work 42 years in the making

When Pittsburg resident H. John Hartmann died Dec. 1, 2020, he left behind a legacy: a symphonic work called “Genesis: A Symphonic Arche,” that he spent 42 years conceptualizing and writing, section by section, for a full orchestra. 

That work will come to life at 7 p.m. on Nov. 13 in the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, where he and his wife were active volunteers and patrons. 

It was Hartmann’s wish to have the work premiered at the Bicknell Center. His widow, Dr. Mickey Xun, M.D., commissioned her husband’s friend, PSU Associate Professor of Music Raul Munguia, to assemble an orchestra of some of the most talented musicians from across the Four State Area. The concert will be a free gift to the public. 

The work will then go “on tour” across the U.S. to be performed by other orchestras. 

The concert, which will be 90 minutes and will include a 15-minute intermission, will feature performances by the Treble Clef Club, the Bells of the Balkans, and members of the Our Lady of Lourdes Choir. 

“I am forever grateful to Dr. Munguia and the Bicknell Center for helping carry on John’s legacy,” said his widow, who is planning his funeral mass and celebration of life the day prior to the concert. 

But most importantly, she sees it as a beautiful gift that will be etched in the minds and hearts of all who attend. 

“This composition depicts musically what I have seen are the primary stages in the development of Earth from its earliest beginnings through the present time and beyond into the New Dawn of the future,” her husband wrote in his program notes. “An awareness of this journey is hidden in the inmost depths of us human beings, but which must be brought out through love if we are to realize our greatest potential as individuals and as a species. The overall evolution of the earth can also be seen reflected in the evolution of each of us humans. The pattern has great similarities, especially when we look at our overall individual life experiences.” 

The concert will be comprised of 11 sections: In the Beginning, Fire, Air, Festivity, The Great Battle in the Heavens, Water, Earth, Spinning Wheel, Recapitulation, Transfiguration, and New Dawn. Each section will be accompanied by visual elements. 

Musicians were chosen this summer and have begun learning their music; rehearsals will begin next month, said Munguia, who considered Hartmann a dear friend. 

“As a conductor, it is always exciting to create that first version of any work that will somehow serve as a reference for the future,” he said. “John and I spent many sessions talking about the music and it was fascinating to me to get the creator's own words when referring to his music." 

Munguia’s regret was that Hartmann couldn’t hear it with a live orchestra before his death. 

"I am happy Mickey has decided to materialize this project and it is definitely an honor to be the one responsible to make it happen,” he said. 

Learn more about the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts

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