Saturday, November 30, 2013

Beethoven and Strauss

In my quest to hear all the Beethoven symphonies live, I attended the Toronto Symphony concert that included Symphony #4 on Nov. 20.  That was what I went for, but as usual found some other hidden gems.  The conductor for the occasion was Sir Andrew Davis, conductor laureate of the TSO.

The program opened with "Overture to The Consecration of the House".  The title struck me as familiar, yet I can't say I recognized any of the music.  Doing a bit of research I discovered I'd heard it as part of Jorma Elo's ballet Pur ti Miro performed by the National Ballet of Canada in 2010.  It's one of the few overtures Beethoven wrote that was meant to be a stand alone piece and is pretty impressive, not to mention great ballet music.

I can understand why Beethoven's 4th symphony doesn't seem to be performed all that often.   It doesn't have the same draw of #5 or scope of #9.  It's good music, but I think I needed to read more of the notes or know more about the form to deeply appreciate it.  I did like the opening where the rich chords jump keys and don't give you any idea where it's going.

Guest soprano Erin Wall joined the orchestra for "Seven Early Songs", by Alban Berg.  The songs had a nice variety with a love theme throughout.  The English translations were a welcome addition to the program.  I'm not usually a poetry person, but this series I actually read again.
Erin Wall (photo by Josh Clavir)

The evening ended with "Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche" (or "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks") by Richard Strauss.  This was probably my favourite of the evening.  Till Eulenspiegel was a quick witted prankster, and apparently a real German peasant who died around 1350.  What jumped out at me  was the horn solo which I'm familiar with from its use in one of my favourite versions of the "12 Days of Christmas" by the Indianapolis Symphony.  There's a story in this piece of music as well that I should have read the notes for in advance to fully appreciate.  Lessons learned for the next concert.

Professional review of the concert can be found here.

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