Symphonies Five, Six and Seven provide musical “comfort food”
By Peter Alexander Feb. 24 at 10:56 p.m.
The Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and their conductor Elliot Moore continue their ongoing cycle of the nine Beethoven symphonies with their next two concert programs.
Symphonies Five and Six will be performed Saturday, Feb. 26 (7:30 p.m., Vance Brand Auditorium), and the Seventh Symphony will be performed alongside works by Haydn and Mozart Saturday and Sunday, March 12 and 13 (7 p.m. and 4 p.m. respectively, Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum; full programs below).
While Beethoven is just about the most frequently performed classical composer in the world, Moore points out that his symphonies have not often been performed in Longmont. When he first announced plans for the full cycle of all nine symphonies, he said “particularly the earlier symphonies of Beethoven have been underperformed here in Longmont.
“I think it’s important to understand how the Beethoven symphonies helped bring the symphony into its current form.”
He has always been clear that this is part of the educational mission of the LSO as a community-based orchestra. He has named two groups that will benefit: “One is the orchestra, the other is the audience,” he says. “I want (both groups) to experience the freshness of the classical style.”
First up in this next round of the cycle will be Symphonies Five and Six, performed Saturday, Feb. 26, as part of a program titled “Beethoven: A Portrait.” The Fifth Symphony, with its progression from the ominous opening four-note motive to the triumphant finale, has been taken as a symbolic expression of the composer’s own triumph over his deafness.
Because of the uplifting narrative, it has become one of the most familiar orchestral works for audiences everywhere. It has been recorded countless times, by all the great orchestras and conductors, but Moore has no hesitation in having the LSO bring the symphony to its local audience.
“I think it’s important that we know how to play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony,” he says of the orchestra. And of his opportunity to conduct a work that so may have led before him, he says “What allows me to feel OK is that I’ve spent so much time studying the score. That’s the only reason I have any right to get up in front of those people (in the orchestra).”
The Sixth Symphony is known as the “Pastoral” because it describes a day in the country, as the composer often experienced in his walks outside Vienna. The movement titles are “Awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside,” “Scene by the brook,” “Merry gathering of country folk,” “Thunderstorm,” and “Shepherd’s song: Cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm.”
Some literal details are embedded in the music, including the sounds of bird songs and the rumbling of the thunder. But Moore sees more than a series of picturesque scenes in the score. “I think that it’s religious music,” he says.
“Beethoven believed in a higher power, which he found in nature, which the ‘Pastoral Symphony’ reflects. How we are rehearsing, how we are bringing out a sound that matches the intent of the work—that is proving very meaningful for the musicians, and hopefully will be meaningful for the audience.”
The program scheduled for March 12 and 13 is titled ““The First Viennese School,” which refers to the three great composers who lived in Vienna just before and after 1800: Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Opening the program is Haydn’s Sinfonia, or Overture, to his opera L’incontro improvviso (The unexpected encounter).
Moore expects this to be a fun piece to perform, because it is an example of a popular musical genre of the late 18th century, “Janissary music.” Based on the music of the Turkish military, Janissary music typically included drums, bells, cymbals, triangles and other percussion, which was not always fully written out.
“The conductor gets to work with the principal percussionist on what instruments are appropriate,” Moore says. “You have some freedom built in, so I think its going to be a lot of fun to come up with what’s in the style.”
Mozart is represented on the program with his Symphony No. 31 in D major, which was written in 1788 for the Concert Spirituel, a prominent concert series in Paris. At the time Mozart was hoping for a job in Paris, and so he made every effort to please the local audience. He incorporated a number of brilliant orchestral gestures that he knew would please the listeners.
“The audience was quite carried away,” he wrote afterwards to his father. “There was a great outburst of applause!”
The program concludes with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, a work filled with driving rhythms that is one of the most energized works of the time. Among other things, Moore says, it includes “the first time a triple fortissimo arrives in the orchestral repertoire—certainly in Beethoven’s symphonies.”
He believes that moment, near the end of the finale, should be the high point of the entire work. “You have to keep something in reserve for that moment,” he says.
Moore talks about another facet of the symphony that is not often described. “Beethoven wrote 179 British Isle folk tunes,” he points out. “I think that the folk songs played a pretty large role, especially for the finale of the Seventh Symphony. It sounds like a Scottish reel! I think that is reason that it has energy. It’s an extension of all the things that he had been doing.”
Moore has one more thought about performing so much music by a composer as familiar as Beethoven at this particular time. “There’s been so much trauma in the world in the past two years that I think there’s something about being comfortable,” he says.
“There’s a thing called comfort food, and I think that Beethoven is comforting.”
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“Beethoven: A Portrait”
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
- Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F major (“Pastoral”)
- Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26
Vance Brand Auditorium
“The First Viennese School”
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
- Haydn: Sinfonia from L’incontro improvviso (The unexpected encounter)
- Mozart: Symphony No. 31 in D major (“Paris”)
- Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A major
7 p.m. Saturday, March 12
4 p.m. Sunday, March 13
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum
Live stream with ticket purchase, beginning Saturday, March 19