Bravo! opens with Intimidating Ninth
But it certainly does not intimidate Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Colorado Symphony Chorus, star performers of Saturday’s opening concert of Bravo! Music Festival.
The concert starts at 6 p.m., Saturday, in the Gerald R.Ford Amphitheater. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony first saw daylight in 1824 at Vienna’s Karthnerthan Theater, where it turned out to be a mixed success. The audience was enthusiastic; the critics, on the other hand, found the composer’s ideas too novel and daring.
One reviewer panned the great work.
“The whole orchestral part of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony I found very wearing indeed. Several times I had great difficulty in keeping awake… It was a great relief when the choral part was arrived at, of which I had great expectations. It opened with eight bars of a common-place theme, very much like Yankee Doodle… As for this part of the famous symphony, I regret to say that it appeared to be made up of the strange, the ludicrous, the abrupt and the ferocious, with the slightest possible mixture, here and there, of an intelligible melody… The general impression it left on me is that of a concert made up of Indian wawhoops and angry wildcats,” wrote one of them after a concert featuring the symphony.
This piece, which boldly broke all established conventions and traditions, was Beethoven’s last composition.
Born in Bonn, Germany in 1770, as one of seven children in the family, Beethoven showed signs of musical potential at a very early age. When he was seven, he was advanced enough to appear in public. Trained by Mozart and Haydn, he soon became Vienna’s leading concert pianist. From 1798, Beethoven was aware of a continual humming in his ear that gradually grew until he went practically deaf. Determined not to be ruined by deafness, by 1812 he had completed symphonies 2, 3 “Eroica”, 4, 5, 6 “Pastoral”, 7 and 8. During the next 12 years he composed the Hammerklavier Sonata, the last three piano sonatas, the Diabelli Variations, The Missa Solemnis and the Ninth Symphony. He died in 1826. The Ninth is considered today “the Mount Everest of choral composition.” It built the bridge between symphonic classicism, which emphasised traditional standards of simplicity, restraint and proportion, and romanticism, which stressed individual expression and intensity of emotion.
“I would say the Ninth is probably the hammer that finally killed classicism,” said William Brown, a classical tenor and professor of music at the University of North Florida.
The work was the first to introduce chorale voices into the symphony. Among professional singers it is famous for its unusual vocal lines.
“I often tell people I don’t need to gamble because I do enough risk-taking just attempting Beethoven’s Ninth,”said Julie Newell, a classically trained, world-class soprano.
Some believe this vocal difficulty may be the result of Beethoven’s indifference. Being a compositional genius, he simply did not care that players and singers would consider his piece a technical nightmare.
Others speculate that because he was almost completely deaf at the time he completed it, he wasn’t aware that singing the symphony was nearly impossible.
In addition to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Saturday evening’s Bravo! opening event will also feature Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman by Joan Towen, Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland and Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture.
“The whole event consists of two parts,” said Katie Campbell the Marketing Director of Bravo! Music Festival. “One of them is reserved for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony since it is one of these longer pieces. The other one will include works of Towen, Copland and Brahms.”
The works will be brought to life by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, led by Marin Aslop, one of very few world-renowned female conductors, and the Colorado Symphony Chorus, an internationally recognized all-volunteer group composed of singers from Denver and Boulder areas.