Program Notes for March 24 & 26

Beethoven Mar 2017 Poster.jpg

Beethoven & Sibelius Concerts

Symphony No. 4 in B opus 60 (1806)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

This is considered one of the good-humored even-numbered symphonies of Beethoven, yet this composer whom we never outgrow toys with us wickedly in the symphony's slow introduction: dark, snaking melodies, groaning bass sonorities, doubt after doubt expressed with no resolution offered, not a glimpse of a major chord...and in a flash, four movements emerge exploring worlds of untrammeled joy and freedom. Personally, I hear brilliance and romping playfulness in the first movement (once the gloomy introduction is brushed aside); serenity and generous acceptance in the slow movement; the capacity to laugh without mockery in the Scherzo; and self-acceptance, ease with the whole world, and everything in it, in the finale.

Those are my words and interpretations, and I look forward to taking myself by surprise in our rehearsals and performances together, and discover vistas and details I have never before encountered. 

Concerto in D minor for Violin and Orchestra opus 47 (1905)
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

I. Allegro moderato

Jayna Leach, violin. Winner of Windham Orchestra Concerto Competition

Jayna Leach from Keene, the winner of our Windham Orchestra Concerto Competition, plays a substantial single movement by Sibelius, Finland's most celebrated composer. It is easy to associate Sibelius' music with a very particular northern, or Nordic, aesthetic of beauty, embracing darkness, introspection, and cold. The last Sibelius we played portrayed a wild, exhausting storm.

Now, as we embark on our rehearsals, I am struck by the warm, sunny richness (Mediterranean even!) of major passages of the violin concerto.

Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Sinfonia Eroica (1804)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

A memoir of Ferdinand Ries in 1804, visiting Beethoven:

"In writing this symphony Beethoven had been thinking of Buonaparte, but Buonaparte while he was First Consul. At that time Beethoven had the highest esteem for him and compared him to the greatest consuls of ancient Rome. Not only I, but many of Beethoven¹s closer friends, saw this symphony on his table, beautifully copied in manuscript, with the word "Buonaparte" inscribed at the very top of the title-page and "Luigi van Beethoven" at the very bottom. ...I was the first to tell him the

news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, "So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!" Beethoven went to the table, seized the top of the title-page, tore it in half and threw it on the floor. The page had to be re-copied and it was only now that the symphony received the title "Sinfonia Eroica."

Only one French horn is added to a standard classical orchestra, and awestruck, we enter a world of sonic richness and complexity un-inferrable from CPE Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven's two preceding symphonies.

Two declamatory chords open the vast first movement, miraculously these two moments of fission cause an expansion of formal engagement—time—that is without precedent. The movement is not just long, it has the quality of traveling without knowing where borders might be; we dwell for noticeable periods in realms greatly distant from our starting point of those two chords. Known experiences offer no stability or insight.

I find myself faced with limited resources in finding words for the Eroica, so just some questions. Where in the music, if anywhere, can 'heroic' be found?

Do you find a quality of 'joke' anywhere? If so, is there any incongruity?

Who, or what, do you experience as having died in the second movement Funeral March? Not as a matter of knowing the development of Beethoven's relationship Napoleon Buonaparte, but your reactions as you listen deeply, and encounter the music at its essence.