Ode to joy

By Darby Shawchuk

Few students pranced like proud and pretentious
peacocks through the Jack Singer Concert Hall last Sunday night,
but they should have. Everyone should have. Everyone deserves
to feel the deep, internal excitement aroused by Beethoven’s
Ninth Symphony.

The celebrated symphony was performed by the Calgary
Philharmonic Orchestra
as part of their first Beethoven Festival.
The Ninth Symphony was the first instalment in a trilogy of evenings
featuring Beethoven’s music and it inaugurated the festival brilliantly.

Under Hans Graf’s direction, the symphony began quietly, but
soon burst into life, taxing the players. The CPO, however, was
up to the challenge. Keeping pace with Beethoven’s thematic variations
and developments, the orchestra performed admirably; the first
chair violinist flailed so vigourously and frenetically, he looked
as though he was on the verge of launching himself from his seat.

The powerful first and second movements yielded to the slower
harmonies of the third. The fourth movement then knotted the
loose ends of the first three.

Here, the orchestra engages in a conversation. Different melodic
themes are suggested, attempted, then finally developed into
the towering and famous melody soon chanted gloriously by the
soloists and the choir.

The four soloists: (Theodore Baerg, baritone; Benjamin Butterfield,
tenor; Laura Pudwell, mezzo soprano; and Linda Miller, soprano),
sang powerfully for the most part. Butterfield’s occasional inability
to rise distinctly above the

chorus was perhaps the only noticeable imperfection.

No conspicuous errors greeted the audience in this moving performance.
The choir dynamically switched from lilting to booming sounds
while the orchestra battled the complexity of Beethoven’s "oeuvre"
and won.

To begin the evening, the cpo treated the crowd to Beethoven’s
serene and stirring Elegy and the Alberta premier of "Meeresstille
Und Gluckliche Fahrt"; the latter rarely-performed, stormy
piece was a treat for Beethoven aficionados.

Although the performance came with the weighty price tag customary
for classical music, it was well worth the money. Hopefully,
the people wealthy enough to attend recognize just what a privilege
it is to witness such art.

Many of us, if we can afford it at all, can only infrequently
attend such an event. But if Sunday’s presentation is indicative
of the rest of the festival’s productions, it’s time to start
counting the pennies in your piggy bank.

Beethoven will reward those fortunate enough to attend. With
the strong performance of the cpo, Beethoven’s music provides
an emotional experience which surpasses most forms of entertainment.

The Beethoven Festival continues on Thurs. June 10 with Rolf
Bertsch conducting the second and third symphonies and then on
Sat., June 12, with Christof Perick conducting the first and
fourth symphonies. Tickets are available from Ticketmaster
and cost $28-$43.

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