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Four fateful notes begin what has become one of the most important and popular works in classical music – Beethoven's stormy and victorious Fifth Symphony. And this year, those notes will also help to open the North Carolina Symphony's 2018/19 Classical Season in Raleigh on September 21 and 22 at Meymandi Concert Hall.
Beethoven's Fifth is now so ubiquitous in classical music and in popular culture that it is difficult to think of it as innovative – but it truly was revolutionary in its time. A four-note rhythm became the basis for an entire symphony, with Beethoven finding endless ways to spin new material out of that one small musical motive – initially appearing as an insistent demand, expanding into a melody, serving as an underlying throbbing accompaniment in the bass and timpani, and transformed and augmented in the second and third movements.
Beethoven's Fifth is also notable for its representation of a struggle from darkness to light – often interpreted as an expression of Beethoven's own personal triumph. This is perhaps most obvious with the shift from the stormy and ominous key of C minor to the sunny key of C major.
"In Beethoven's Fifth Symphony the trombones do not play until the triumphant C major chords which herald the beginning of the fourth movement," says Principal Trombone John Ilika. "It is a glorious moment which never grows old to play or listen to."
The symphony took Beethoven four years to complete, and it paved the way for symphonic writing of the future – including his own Ninth Symphony.
Beethoven's Choral Fantasy also seems to have carved a pathway for his Ninth. The Choral Fantasy combines the orchestra with a full chorus, which enters toward the very end of the work – just as in the Ninth – and the main theme is reminiscent of the finale in the Ninth, as well. The Symphony will be joined by its resident chorus, the North Carolina Master Chorale.
"The first time we played the Choral Fantasy, early in my career, I wasn't familiar with it," says Principal Flute Anne Whaley Laney. "I remember being surprised by how many places sound like hints of what was to come later."
But unlike the Ninth, the Choral Fantasy features a free-wheeling solo piano part – almost sounding improvisational at times – which will be performed by Andrew Tyson. A soloist in demand throughout the United States and Europe, Tyson's previous performances with NCS include concerts in New Bern, Southern Pines, and Wilmington. On this program, Tyson is also featured on Beethoven's perky Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in B-flat Major, which was likely originally intended to be the final movement of his Piano Concerto No. 2, but later was published on its own.
The all-Beethoven program opens with the Overture to Fidelio. Beethoven composed three other overtures (which all remain popular concert pieces in their own right) for his only opera, before arriving at this fourth and final one.
From the playful to the dramatic, each work on this program brings to light a different facet of one of music history's most revered composers—and altogether they reveal Beethoven at his best: bold, expressive, and brilliant. This concert, conducted by Music Director Grant Llewellyn, is the first of NCS's 2018/19 Classical Season; season-ticket subscriptions and individual tickets are available at ncsymphony.org.
The September 21 concert is made possible in part by Dr. Bennett A. and Elaine Bryant Hayes.
The North Carolina Symphony expresses its appreciation to Saturday Concert Sponsor Mr. and Mrs. Edward O. Woolner for their generous support.
North Carolina Symphony Beethoven's Fifth
Friday & Saturday, September 21-22 at 8 pm
Meymandi Concert Hall
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
North Carolina Symphony
Grant Llewellyn, conductor
Andrew Tyson, piano
North Carolina Master Chorale
Alfred E. Sturgis, music director
TICKETS start at $47
About the North Carolina Symphony
Founded in 1932, the North Carolina Symphony (NCS) is a vital and honored component of North Carolina's cultural life. Its 180+ concerts and 120+ community engagement and small-ensemble education events annually are greeted with enthusiasm by adults and schoolchildren in more than 90 North Carolina counties – in communities large and small, and in concert halls, auditoriums, gymnasiums, restaurants, clubs, and outdoor settings. The Symphony's full-time professional musicians perform under the artistic leadership of Music Director Grant Llewellyn.
NCS's state headquarters venue is the spectacular Meymandi Concert Hall at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh. The Symphony's service across the state includes series in Chapel Hill, Fayetteville, New Bern, Southern Pines, and Wilmington, as well as the Summerfest series at its summer home, the outdoor Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. NCS brings some of the world's greatest talents to North Carolina and embraces home-state artists from classical musicians to bluegrass bands, creating live music experiences distinctive to North Carolina.
Committed to engaging students of all ages across North Carolina, NCS leads the most extensive education program of any symphony orchestra – serving nearly 70,000 students each year. In alignment with the curriculum set by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the Symphony provides training and resources for teachers, sends small ensembles into classrooms, and presents full-orchestra Education Concerts that bring the fundamentals of music to life. Music Discovery for preschoolers combines music with storytelling, and at the middle and high school levels, students have opportunities to work directly with NCS artists and perform for NCS audiences.
NCS is dedicated to giving voice to new art, and has presented 48 U.S. or world premieres in its history. In 2017, NCS appeared at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., as one of four orchestras chosen for the inaugural year of SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras – an honor that recognized the Symphony's creative programming and innovative community partnerships.
The first state-supported symphony in the country, NCS performs under the auspices of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. To learn more, visit ncsymphony.org.