September 2015: We open our 70th Anniversary Season with a musical marathon. This first weekend of concerts is really a mini-festival, exploring all five of Beethoven’s piano concertos, played by the great Canadian pianist (and my old friend) Stewart Goodyear. Stewart is a pianist of astonishing technical ability and deep focus, and in recent years he has turned his attention to Beethoven, playing marathon performances of all his piano sonatas. I asked him to continue this “deep immersion” experience with the concertos and our orchestra, and he quickly agreed. You’ll hear completely different music on all three programs, and I hope you will join us for the complete journey!
The first two piano concertos are clear descendants of Mozart and Haydn, full of wit and charm, but there are hints of what is to come. The minimal, ultra-simple theme that opens the first piano concerto is a hint of how Beethoven will use motivic “building blocks” in the future. The second movement is meditative and contemplative, and hints at Beethoven’s increasing desire to share his inner life in music. By the 3rd concerto, Beethoven’s ambitions increase, and from here on out these pieces feel completely new and original: the expansive minor-key humor of the 3rd, the absolute sublime and intimate quality of the 4th, and the epic scope of the 5th, the “Emperor” concerto. The orchestra and I have performed all of these works many times, but never at the same time! We’re excited, and know we’re going to learn a lot along the way.
Along with the concertos, we play the famous Coriolan and King Stephen overtures. They couldn’t be more different. Coriolan has a tremendous amount in common with the first movement of the 5th Symphony, with it’s unrelenting focus, and sense of battle. The King Stephen Overture is full of humor and allusions to folk music. The humor streak continues this weekend with Beethoven’s compact and witty 8th Symphony. This is a work of unbridled creativity, and somehow Beethoven packs an amazing amount of material into this relatively brief work. It is full of humor, but the musical jokes are rough, almost manic, at times. There’s an undercurrent of violent energy in this work that is both peculiar and mysterious.
To open the festival, we are joined by the Grand Philharmonic Choir for Calm Seas and Prosperous Voyage, as we set sail on our anniversary season. It’s only fitting that they sing these first notes with us, for it was from this choir that the KW Symphony emerged as an independent entity seventy years ago.
- Edwin Outwater