Pam Frazier, of Lake Geneva, plays May 20 with the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra. (Tom Ganser photo)

By Tom Ganser

Correspondent

On May 20, the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra concluded its 2016-17 concert series “Sound in Motion” with a performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1.

However, orchestra Music Director David Anderson’s opening comments to the audience at Calvary Community Church in Williams Bay made it clear this was to be no ordinary concert.

“If you arrived this evening expecting a standard concert format, I’m afraid you’ll be a little surprised,” he said. “Yes, we will be playing Beethoven Symphony No. 1 in full, but not until after the intermission.”

Anderson described the first half of the evening, “Beethoven 1: Pathway to Genius,” as a guided tour of Beethoven’s first symphony and his revolutionary role as a composer.

Anderson’s presentation included projected images and brief excerpts from several Beethoven compositions played by the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra, all aimed at giving the audience a context to “experience this piece of music in a way that is incredibly meaningful.”

Anderson also led the orchestra in playing portions of the last symphony of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (No. 41, “Jupiter Symphony,” first performed in 1788) and Joseph Haydn (No. 104, 1795), to show why the audience attending the premier of Beethoven’s first symphony on April 2, 1800, would have found the music “very, very strange” compared to their expectations.

Anderson started his presentation with the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra performing the beginning to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and brief excerpts of several other familiar Beethoven orchestra and piano compositions popular, Anderson suggested, not just in concert settings but also in movies, commercials and even cartoons.

In shaping the development of music in Beethoven’s first symphony, Anderson said, it was evident that he was a “revolutionary, a game-changer” like Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs and Frank Lloyd Wright.

“Beethoven certainly belongs in the same category as other monumental figures that helped define their fields,” Anderson stated, then adding with a little pause, “or, more accurately, these other figures belong in the same category as Beethoven.”

“Beethoven wasn’t a rules kind of guy,” Anderson said. “Beethoven knew that he wanted to make a statement. It’s almost as though he’s saying, ‘I am now here. You’ve got to pay attention. Things are going to be different.’”

In discussing the structure of the symphony and with the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra offering examples, Anderson described the three-part sonata form present in the composition by way of analogy to the Parable of the Prodigal Son: “Starts at home, wanders away and then comes back.”

Anderson had the audience sing “Row, row, row your boat” as an example of a melody, or “theme,” a technique used to connect the movements of a composition, adding that Beethoven used a “motivic” – a small musical idea of just a few notes – in place of a more extensive “theme” that his audience would have expected.

In considering the instrumentation for Beethoven’s First Symphony, Anderson noted the innovative way in which the woodwinds complemented the strings, and how the motivic is passed around among the different instruments “in rapid fired succession, kind of like ’Whack-a-Mole’ Beethoven style.”              Anderson concluded his presentation by remarking, “It seems like we’ve only scratched the surface of the many interesting themes about this piece. The truth is we could do about 10 of these presentations for every piece we play and still not discover everything that our composers have in store for us.

“On the one hand, it is so rich and full of extremely interesting details, but on the other, it is possible to enjoy without any background knowledge at all.”

The orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s First Symphony was the latest installment in the orchestra’s performance of all nine Beethoven symphonies over as many seasons, with the fifth symphony scheduled for the 2017-18 season and the monumental ninth symphony planned for the 2018-19 season.

At 4 p.m. Sunday, the orchestra will be take the stage at the George Williams College of Aurora University Ferro Pavillion in Williams Bay, kicking off the university’s “Sundays at 4” series, with a concert titled “An American Celebration.”

The concert will include the music of popular American composers of the 20th century such as Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, John Williams and Duke Ellington, as well as patriotic tunes in the American orchestral performance.

More information can be obtained or tickets purchased for $15 by calling (262) 245-8501 or emailing gwcevents@gwc.aurora.edu.

 
 

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