7 May 2013
May 7 also holds a special place in history as the date on which Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 was first heard in Vienna in 1824. We perform the work under Alan Gilbert this October (paired with the U.S. Premiere of a Philharmonic Co-Commission, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Frieze), but in the meantime we’re revisiting Leonard Bernstein’s performance of the work in Berlin on Christmas, 1989. In honor of the Berlin Wall falling less than two months prior, Beethoven’s famous “Ode to Joy” (freude) was rechristened the “Ode to Freedom” (freiheit). If you look closely, you can even spot some still-current Philharmonic musicians in this orchestra.
Meanwhile, this Saturday we revisit the Berlin Konzerthaus for the first time since 1988, when it was still part of East Berlin, with Alan and the Orchestra serving up Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, Pathétique.
11 April 2013
Sunny Music, Composed During a Time of Despair
When the 32-year-old Beethoven was composing his Symphony No. 2 in 1802 (also the year that the above portrait of him was painted), he was going though an excruciating time as he faced and concealed the increasing loss of his hearing. Still, the work he created included — according to Philharmonic V.P. of Education Theodore Wiprud — an opening movement full of “good feeling”; then, “perhaps the most beautiful second movement he ever composed”; a scherzo (which aptly means, in italian, a “joke”); and a finale that is “almost like a Burlesque show.”
25 March 2013
Madness in Great Ones
March 25 also marks the birthday of former Philharmonic Music Director Arturo Toscanini, who was at the helm of the Orchestra from 1928 to 1936 (and in that time gave more than 30 world premieres and 40 American premieres, including that of Ravel’s Boléro, which will be a part of our 2013–14 season opener).
One of the oldest scores in our Digital Archives is that of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. The page represents a dialogue in markings between two of our former Music Directors, with Toscanini taking on Gustav Mahler, the latter of whom had notated some changes to the score for one of his Phil performances. His changes, dictated to and notated by Philharmonic librarian Henry G. Boewig, incited the wrath of Toscanini, who replied by scrawling that they were “unworthy of such a musician.” An anonymous third party later added “nomina stultorum sunt ubique locorum,” which in Latin means “the words of fools appear everywhere.”
20 March 2013
Spring in Our Step
A very happy first day of Spring to you all (even if the weather hasn’t quite caught up with the season, at least not in New York)! As the Orchestra has been rehearsing the perpetually-sunny music of Bach, we’re exploring other seasonal works, from Copland and Vivaldi to Stravinsky and Beethoven. It’s the latter’s Symphony No. 6, Pastoral, that is currently in our heads; and it’s hard to imagine the music without the stunning animation that accompanied it in Disney’s Fantasia. And, in keeping with the Fantasia theme, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (which Alan and the Phil performed as part of this season’s opening night) is also in our queue.
4 February 2013
“The stately opening chords were played with such body, color and character that you were immediately engaged.”
—The New York Times’s reviews of the last week’s Philharmonic all-Beethoven program, led by Christoph von Dohnányi, which including the Overture to the The Creatures of Prometheus, a rare foray into ballet by the composer.
Kudos also for guest artist Radu Lupu’s account of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2, “revealing to us all the coy charms and inventive touches in the music.”
(Photo, Jennifer Taylor for The New York Times)
23 January 2013
“ It’s a Shepherd sandwich with Beethoven bread. ”
Sean Shepherd on becoming the 2012 Kravis Emerging Composer and his 2014 World Premiere with the New York Philharmonic, which is indeed bookended by two Beethoven works: the Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3.
That’s one tasty-sounding sandwich.
23 January 2013
“ It was a special wish of his to do all five Beethoven piano concertos. ”
Alan Gilbert, on 2013-14 Artist-in-Residence Yefim Bronfman, who will play the entire cycle with the Orchestra.
“To hear one pianist and one orchestra traverse the entire span really tells you something about the artist, and something about Beethoven.”
23 January 2013
2013-14 Season: Rolling with Beethoven
We love the French for many reasons (Ravel, the Salle Pleyel, Beaujolais, really good cheese), but chief among them as we look forward to The Beethoven Piano Concertos: A Philharmonic Festival in our 2013-14 season is this wild rendition of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, from the 1996 film La Belle Verte (which features a very young Marion Cotillard).
Will our Artist-in-Residence Yefim Bronfman take inspiration from this performance? You’ll have to see for yourself…
5 November 2012
A Fifth of Awareness
Music Director Alan Gilbert says the real cliché about Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is that very idea that it’s a cliché: ”When you hear Beethoven 5 … you’re completely swept away.”
Alan was on hand for WQXR’s marathon of Beethoven symphonies Sunday, as part of Beethoven Awareness Month.