Welcome to the new season of Symphony Sundays concerts by Festival City Symphony. How better to start the season than a concert featuring two seldom-heard masterworks by Beethoven.
By the turn of the nineteenth century, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) had moved to Vienna and established himself as a musical force both in performing and composing. While still relying on patronage from several members of the nobility, Beethoven was earning substantial profits from his compositions and self-conducted concerts of his new works in which he also was often piano soloist.
This period was not as positive as he would have liked however. He was plagued increasingly by deafness and became aware that his days as a performer were coming to an end. He moved to a suburb of Vienna, Heiligenstadt, in 1802 and there wrote the famous Heiligenstadt Testament, describing his overwhelming despondency saying, “For me, there can be no recreation in the society of my fellows, refined intercourse, mutual exchange of thought…I must live like an exile.” The quickly approaching deafness drove him to compose some of his greatest works, including the two we will play for you.
Not a bit of anguish can be heard in the Symphony No. 2. The work is joyous and teems with youthful gaiety. It was premiered in April of 1803 in a concert in Vienna that also included the Piano Concerto No. 3 and the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives. The symphony’s reception was mixed, but critics immediately saw the direction Beethoven wanted his music to take and later heard its influence in the Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) and the Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral).
The Concerto for Piano, Violin and Cello in C major, Op.56 has had perhaps the most checkered career of any of Beethoven’s orchestral works. Performances are limited by the need for three first-class artists that can perform the intimate, chamber music-like portions of the piece as well as the soloistic sections with full orchestra. It was premiered in 1807, but had no further performances during Beethoven’s lifetime. However, it had a profound influence on future works. Many critics feel that his Violin Concerto and the Fourth and Fifth Piano Concertos could not have been written without the Triple Concerto having preceded them. Designed in the concerto-grosso style of Bach with long solo sections for each instrument and the trio, as well as places where the orchestra leads and accompanies, the Triple Concerto is a remarkable and demanding work. We are extremely fortunate to have outstanding musicians play regularly with our orchestra. Our soloists today are our concertmaster, Robin Petzold; principal cellist Stefan Kartman; and frequent soloist, pianist Jeannie Yu.
Two wonderful and not often performed masterpieces by Beethoven—the season is definitely off and running.