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Beethoven’s 5th Program at a Glance

Jan 20 2024

Sunday, January 28, 2024
Tuesday, January 30, 2024

For these concerts, PSO Music Director Eckart Preu has chosen an especially wide range of music, anchored by Ludwig van Beethoven’s instantly recognizable and sublime Symphony Number 5. Franco-Belgian cellist Camille Thomas makes her PSO début with Never Give Up, a concerto written for her in 2017 by Turkish composer Fazil Say. Two brief works by Ukrainian composers open the program.

What ties all this music together? It could be nationalistic or folk music influences, but except in very broad terms, that leaves out the Beethoven. Likewise, a transcendent passage from despair to hope outlines some of these works, but not all. Instead, you may consider that the concert as a whole leads listeners in a deepening process from nationalistic optimism (Lysenko), through profound, almost blinding grief (Silvestrov), to a struggle with evil (Say), and finally-in the Beethoven- to a closely reasoned argument in favor of the powers of reason and hope.

All three composers heard on the first half would of course have known Beethoven’s work intimately, so that even if it’s not possible to hear direct influences, we know they looked up to the symphony with some mix of respect and despair, as did all composers who followed Beethoven. That these composers found their own voices testifies to the strength of their individual spirits; that Beethoven found in the midst of his tragic life a path beyond even optimism to sheer exultation is a continual astonishment, as well as a great blessing for a troubled world. This symphony, or indeed any symphony by Beethoven, is a supreme logical and artistic achievement, a reminder of the power of human reliance, and a testament to the ability of great music to lead us to a place outside our daily lives where we glimpse the ideal.

– Martin Webster

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