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NZSO performs nine Beethoven symphonies in four days

NZSO performs nine Beethoven symphonies in four days

Next month, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra takes on all nine Beethoven symphonies, in order.

This exceptional opportunity to hear Ludwig van Beethoven’s entire symphonic output - that’s 346 minutes of orchestral brilliance - is the highlight of the 2014 NZSO Season.

Over four days, the Orchestra will embark on a thrilling exploration of these popular symphonies, each offering a different portrait of the composer, from his classical beginnings to the heroism of his middle period to the complexity of his last works.

With this extraordinary life journey we also celebrate the remarkable talents of our Music Director Pietari Inkinen, who received rave reviews for conducting Wagner’s 15-hour opera epic Der Ring des Nibelungen (the ‘Melbourne Ring’) for Opera Australia late last year.

“Performing Beethoven’s symphonies in order is a truly unique experience for New Zealanders,” says NZSO Music Director Pietari Inkinen. “Momentum builds with each symphony, allowing the listener to experience these remarkable works in an entirely new way, all within four days. This is a modern symphony orchestra performing all 346 minutes of Beethoven’s symphonies at full-strength – an unmissable event,” he says.

Arguably the greatest symphonist, Beethoven began his revolutionary career by looking back to past masters Mozart and Haydn. His Symphony No. 1, first performed in 1800, is filled with the grace and balance of the 18th Century. His second symphony, first performed three years later, is a step forward – self-assured and confident, with an infectious energy. By this stage, Beethoven had hit his 30s and was facing the reality of his increasing deafness. Devoting his life to art, he carved out a new, heroic path that inspired one of the most magnificent symphonies in the repertoire. The triumphant Symphony No. 3 – known as the Eroica – is a revolutionary work that set forth a new credo for instrumental music. Nothing would ever be the same again.

“The significance of Beethoven is insurmountable,” says Inkinen. “He reinvented the symphony, redefined piano sonatas and reshaped string quartets. Combining the full-strength of the NZSO with the brilliance of Beethoven’s symphonies is a memory I have wanted to create for some time. This is Beethoven at its best.”

Beethoven’s fourth and fifth symphonies were composed simultaneously, and they are ideal companions. The breezy joyfulness of Symphony No. 4 heightens the drama of his Symphony No. 5. Opening with four of the most famous notes in music history – the fateful ta-ta-ta-TUM – this symphony occupies a special place in the orchestral repertoire. Wild, uncompromising and bold, it is little wonder that the fifth symphony is perhaps Beethoven’s most famous work. Nothing beats hearing this iconic piece performed live in concert.

Beethoven’s glorious Symphony No. 6 - Pastorale - recreates the comfort and calm one feels when immersed in nature with its chattering birdcalls and storms. His seventh symphony is something different again. Completed four years afterwards, it features Beethoven’s beloved ‘Allegretto’ second movement which famously features in the 2010 blockbuster, The King’s Speech, as George VI makes his address to the nation.

The fourth and final concert features Beethoven’s last two symphonies. The eighth is a sophisticated work that takes us on a dazzling journey from elegant dances to a witty finale before the genius of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Featuring Friedrich Schiller’s famous Ode to Joy, the Ninth emerges from darkness to light and brings the orchestra and vocalists together in an impressive chorale finale that continues to influence composers world-wide. Featuring stunning soprano Tiffany Speight, mezzo-soprano Annely Peebo, bass Peter Coleman-Wright, New Zealand’s own tenor superstar Simon O’Neill and the vocal power of Orpheus Choir (Wellington) and Auckland Choral (Auckland), this finale to our Beethoven cycle will be a definitive, once-in-a-lifetime event.

“A chance to hear all of these works in succession comes along once, maybe twice in a lifetime.” – David Larsen, ‘Five for 2014’, Metro.

“Inkinen then jollied the [Beethoven 7] Presto along with youthful giocoso ambience and passion, before the energy of the opening movement returned, relentlessly driving an exhilarating finale allegro con brio with its exciting and energised rhythmic focus. It is easy to see why the composer referred to his seventh symphony as ‘one of my best works’.” Otago Daily Times, Nov 2012.

Don’t miss this exceptional opportunity to hear Beethoven’s entire symphonic output performed in order by your national orchestra, in association with Newstalk ZB.

FUN FACTS:
• Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany in December 1770 but no one is sure of the exact date. He was baptised on 17 December, so he was probably born the day before.
• The NZSO will prepare all nine Beethoven symphonies in eight days and perform them over four days - that’s 346 minutes of music and almost six hours of symphonic music!
• Symphonies No. 1 and 2 are the shortest symphonies (at approximately 26 minutes) and the ninth is the longest, at approximately 67 minutes.
• Beethoven was 30 when his first symphony premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna. Then, symphonies were seen to be pretty light-hearted works, but Beethoven took this one step further with the introduction, which sounds so musically off-beam that it’s often considered to be a joke.
• Beethoven dedicated his third symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte as he admired the ideals of the French Revolution - that is until Napoleon declared himself emperor. Then, Beethoven sprung into a rage, ripped the front page from his manuscript and scrubbed out Napoleon’s name. Some modern reproductions of the original title page even scrub out Napoleon’s name to create a hole for authenticity’s sake.
• Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 features in the 2010 blockbuster, The King’s Speech, as George VI makes his address to the nation. You’ll also find hints of his fifth symphony in unexpected places - Saturday Night Fever for instance.
• Beethoven only composed one opera Fidelio, which he reworked over a 10-year period, creating the two-act version performed today - the older version is sometimes known as Leonore.
• Beethoven reportedly dipped his head in cold water before he composed.
• Beethoven was temperamental and would, on occasion, end a performance if he was aware of any audience members talking.
• Beethoven was only 1.62m tall. Interestingly, Mozart was a mere cm taller.
• In 2003, Annely Peebo sang Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of John Paul II at the Vatican. In 2002, she represented her home country, Estonia, by hosting the Eurovision Song Contest in Tallinn in front of a multi-billion television audience.
• Beethoven’s loss of hearing was possibly the result of lead poisoning, which was one of the factors that led to his death in 1827 at the age of 57. However following his death, his autopsy also revealed a shrunken liver due to cirrhosis (the great composer was reportedly more partial to a pint than most) so the exact cause of his death is still unclear.

ENDS

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