BeethovenNOW Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra Perform the Nine Symphonies with Contemporary Counterpoints March 12–April 5, 2020

Posted on February 12, 2020

Four World Premieres Commissioned to Create New Context
for Beethoven’s Beloved Works 

Composer-in-Residence Gabriela Lena Frank—Pachamama Meets an Ode
To be performed with Symphonies 1 and 9

Iman Habibi—Jeder Baum spricht
To be performed with Symphonies 5 and 6

Jessica Hunt—Climb
To be performed with Symphonies 2 and 3

Carlos Simon—Fate Now Conquers
To be performed with Symphonies 4, 7, and 8

(Philadelphia, February 12, 2020)—What makes the most famous figure in classical music relevant now? Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra explore this question in celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday by performing the master’s nine symphonies alongside music by composers of today. Audiences will reconsider Beethoven with new possibilities for insight and understanding as the Orchestra presents BeethovenNOW in a concentrated four-week period, March 12–April 5, 2020. Each symphony will be paired with commissioned works by Composer-in-Residence Gabriela Lena Frank and a diverse group of composers from her Creative Academy of Music—Iman Habibi, Jessica Hunt, and Carlos Simon—who offer new pieces that challenge, inspire, and push boundaries, creating contemporary context and fresh perspectives on the relevance of Beethoven’s legacy today.

Habibi’s Jeder Baum spricht, based on a direct quote from Beethoven and imagining the composer’s response to today’s climate crisis, will be paired with Symphonies No. 5 and No. 6; Hunt’s Climb,an aural depiction of living with chronic illness, will be paired with Symphonies No. 2 and No. 3; Simon’s Fate Now Conquers, placing Beethoven’s motifs in a contemporary musical landscape, will respond to Symphonies No. 8, No. 4, and No. 7; and Frank’s Pachamama Meets an Ode, addressing climate change from the perspective of her Peruvian culture, will be heard alongside Symphonies No. 1 and No. 9. Go behind the scenes to learn what inspired the composers in this video filmed at Frank’s Creative Academy of Music: https://youtu.be/tDsp3q_jxSQ.

“Beethoven’s music was groundbreaking, original, and provocative,” said Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. “To celebrate his legacy in 2020, we must pay attention to the voices of today through music that sheds a light on contemporary struggles and aspirations.”

“I am honored that, for its inventive celebration of the nine symphonies of such a musical giant in a special year, The Philadelphia Orchestra is investing in the voices of three diverse alumni of my small school who demonstrate themselves to be Beethoven’s kindred spirits,” said Frank. “Beethoven passionately decried the forces of intolerance at play in his own lifetime, and he coded both his dismay and ardent optimism in music. Without a doubt, this is in line with the philosophical heartbeat of my Creative Academy of Music.” 

One hour prior to each concert, a special PreConcert Conversation offers patrons insight into the music and musicians they will hear on the program. Audiences are also encouraged to stay after the March 15 and 22 performances for Chamber Postludes. Created in collaboration with the musicians of the Orchestra, these intimate chamber performances offer music carefully selected to further enhance the concert experience.

 

BeethovenNOW: Symphonies 5 & 6

March 12 at 7:30 PM––Thursday evening––Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

March 14 at 8:00 PM—Saturday evening—Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

March 15 at 2:00 PM—Sunday afternoon—Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Yannick Nézet-Séguin Conductor

Habibi                          Jeder Baum spricht—World Premiere—Philadelphia Orchestra Commission

Beethoven                   Symphony No. 5

Beethoven                   Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”) 

The indelible four-note opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony lays the foundation for a truly fateful symphonic journey. Written in 1804, and on the program when The Philadelphia Orchestra gave its first concert in 1900, it's an epic tour de force that resonates in 2020. Following its rousing conclusion come the verdant valleys and sweet smells of the woods and the Austrian countryside, an exposition of Beethoven's love of nature. Composed and premiered at the same time, the “Pastoral” offers a striking contrast to the assertive Fifth. Also inspired by nature, and based on a direct quote from Beethoven, composer Iman Habibi’s Jeder Baum spricht imagines Beethoven’s response to today’s climate crisis.

Habibi on Jeder Baum spricht

Jeder Baum spricht (Every Tree Speaks) is a direct quote from Beethoven. If he were alive today, what is a topic that Beethoven would really care about? We know from Beethoven’s letters that he took frequent walks in nature and that he loved the forest. My work is a commentary on the environmental catastrophe that we’re living today. It’s too late to reverse what we’ve done to the environment, but there are things we can do to slow down that process and save the planet. The piece ends with that hope for our future.

 

BeethovenNOW: Symphonies 5 & 6 Postlude

March 15 at 4:00 PM—Sunday afternoon—Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Beethoven                   Three Equali, WoO 30, for trombone quartet

Koetsier                       Five Impromptus, Op. 55, for trombone quartet

Hough                          Was mit den Tränen geschieht, for piccolo, contrabassoon, and piano 

 

BeethovenNOW: Symphonies 2 & 3

March 19 at 7:30 PM––Thursday evening––Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

March 21 at 8:00 PM––Saturday evening––Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

March 22 at 2:00 PM––Sunday afternoon––Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

 

Yannick Nézet-Séguin Conductor

 

Beethoven                                Symphony No. 2

Hunt                                         Climb—World Premiere—Philadelphia Orchestra Commission

Beethoven                               Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”)

Beethoven was just beginning to go deaf when he wrote his Second Symphony and though he was losing his hearing, he was finding his voice. He could have composed a manifestation of despair, but instead gave the world one of his most ebullient and life-affirming works. The Third Symphony was groundbreaking, a turning point in the composer's oeuvre and a watershed in musical history. A vast ode to heroism, revolution, and freedom, the “Eroica” is considered by many to be the greatest not just of Beethoven's symphonies, but of all time. Composer Jessica Hunt draws inspiration from Beethoven’s personal struggles and relates them to her own experience living with chronic illness in the premiere of Climb

Hunt on Climb

Between composing his Second and Third symphonies, Beethoven wrote his “Heiligenstadt Testament,” a vividly compelling account of his secret physical and psychological torment as he struggled with the deterioration of his health and hearing. The first time I read that document, Beethoven’s isolation, fear, and diminishing hope leapt off the page and pierced my heart. I recognized those fears, that anguish; they resonate deeply within my own chronically ill body. Climb is a letter-through-time to Beethoven to express my gratitude for his work and to express our silent kinship. 

Climb is a letter-through-time to Beethoven to express my gratitude for his work and to express our silent kinship. 

 

BeethovenNOW: Symphonies 2 & 3 Postlude

March 22 at 4:00 PM—Sunday afternoon—Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Beethoven                   Sextet in E-flat major, Op. 81b, for two violins, viola, cello, and two horns 

 

BeethovenNOW: Symphonies 8, 4, & 7

March 27 at 2:00 PM—Friday afternoon—Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

March 28 at 8:00 PM—Saturday evening—Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

March 29 at 2:00 PM––Sunday afternoon––Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

 

Yannick Nézet-Séguin Conductor

 

Beethoven                   Symphony No. 8

Beethoven                   Symphony No. 4

Simon                          Fate Now Conquers—World Premiere—Philadelphia Orchestra Commission

Beethoven                   Symphony No. 7

Buoyant and humorous, the Eighth Symphony belies none of the composer's worsening health issues or what had to be the devastating end of a love affair, detailed in a famous letter written around the same time to his “Immortal Beloved.” Perhaps the least known, the Fourth was widely admired: Schumann compared it to “a slender Greek maiden” between the two “Norse giants” of the Third and Fifth; Berlioz insisted it was the work of an angel. And Tchaikovsky described the triumphant Seventh as “full of unrestrained joy, full of bliss and pleasure of life.” The exhilarating and familiar second movement is said to have been so inspiring at the premiere, an encore was demanded instantly. Placing Beethoven’s motifs in a contemporary musical landscape, composer Carlos Simon draws on the uncertainty that Beethoven felt and turns it into inspiration with Fate Now Conquers.

Simon on Fate Now Conquers

Using the beautifully fluid harmonic structure of the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, I have composed musical gestures that are representative of the unpredictable ways of fate: jolting stabs along with frenzied arpeggios in the strings that morph into an ambiguous cloud of free-flowing running passages depicting the uncertainty of life that hovers over us. 

 

BeethovenNOW: Symphonies 1 & 9

April 2 at 7:30 PM—Thursday evening—Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

April 4 at 8:00 PM—Saturday evening—Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

April 5 at 2:00 PM––Sunday afternoon––Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts 

Yannick Nézet-Séguin Conductor

Angel Blue Soprano

Mihoko Fujimura Mezzo-soprano

Rolando Villazón Tenor

Quinn Kelsey Baritone

Westminster Symphonic Choir

Joe Miller Director

 

Beethoven                   Symphony No. 1

Frank                           Pachamama Meets an Ode—World Premiere—Philadelphia Orchestra Commission

Beethoven                   Symphony No. 9 (“Choral”)

Beethoven was just 25 when he wrote his First Symphony. Delightful and high-spirited, floating on strains of Mozart and Haydn, it's a fascinating glimpse of the greatness and genius to come—all on full, glorious display in the climactic Ninth. Written just a few short years before his death, Beethoven's profound ode to brotherhood, salvation, and pure joy reminds us why we are here as an orchestra, says Yannick, and why we constantly try to make our world better by playing music. Today we ask, is our world better? What in this world sparks joy? Composer-in-Residence Gabriela Lena Frank draws inspiration from Beethoven, his world, and her Peruvian culture to ask these profound questions and to address issues of climate change.

Frank on Pachamama Meets an Ode

In my choral-orchestral work Pachamama Meets an Ode, Beethoven is treated to a scene of an indigenous painter plying his trade in a Spanish church with Moorish (Mudéjar) arches constructed on the remains of a demolished Inca temple. The painter hides spirits from bygone native cultures (Chavín … Moche … Huarí) amidst European figurines, equipping them with protective natural talismans (huacas) and friendly fauna. He is readying his subjects for their journeys, as paintings, into lands violently transformed by colonization. Even old indigenous myths take on new meanings as a Peruvian pistaqo is no longer simply a highland boogie man, but also an urban capitalist murdering indios for their body fat to grease factory machines.

In our modern-day global climate crisis, lands are increasingly fallow, polluted rivers astonishingly burst into flames, and animals disappear into extinction. Gifts from the past—especially odes—must be looked at with new and searching eyes. 

Pachamama asks, challenging us: What of joy?

 

About The Philadelphia Orchestra

 

 

# # #

CONTACTS:

 

Ashley Berke                                                   

215.893.1939                                                

aberke@philorch.org                                          

 

Natalie Lewis                                                   

215.893.3136                                                

nlewis@philorch.org

 

Ashley Stahmer

215.893.3142

astahmer@philorch.org

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