Binge on the best of Beethoven with the NZSO in August

Published: Tue 23 Jul 2019 04:17 PM
It’s back-to-back Beethoven in August when the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra performs all nine of the great composer’s symphonies in Auckland and Wellington.
Led by NZSO Music Director Edo de Waart, a world authority on Beethoven, the NZSO Beethoven Festival in Association with The New Zealand Herald, gives audiences an extraordinary opportunity to enjoy the orchestral brilliance of the composer from his exquisite First Symphony to his majestic Ninth, featuring the choral spectacular Ode to Joy.
“Beethoven was enormously popular in his lifetime and still is today because he speaks directly to the human condition. He speaks from the heart,” says Maestro de Waart.
“I have always felt that you are a richer person after hearing all of Beethoven’s nine symphonies. You gain a little bit more insight and you have been touched by greatness. It is an incredible high for me, the musicians and the audience.”
The Beethoven Festival is also a milestone for Maestro de Waart, as 2019 is his last year as NZSO Music Director. From 2020, the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, Maestro de Waart will take up the position of NZSO Conductor Laureate. Over the past four years, critics have praised his Beethoven concerts with the NZSO.
“Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony was another revelation, from the high suspense of its stealthy introduction to a finale that shouted its welcome to a new Romantic Age.” – William Dart, The New Zealand Herald
“Beethoven’s [Sixth Symphony] Pastoral … de Waart’s approach was relaxed and unforced and what transpired was beautiful playing.” – Patrick Shepherd, The Press
“The vastly experienced Edo de Waart guided the Ninth Symphony with great skill … things moved brilliantly.” – John Button, The Dominion Post
The Beethoven Festival will spread the nine symphonies over four concerts each in Auckland and Wellington. Heroic features Beethoven’s First, Second and Third symphonies, Destiny his Fourth and Fifth, Pastoral his Sixth and Seventh, and Joy his Eighth and Ninth. Audiences can choose their favourites or attend all four concerts to experience 346 minutes of some of the greatest music ever written.
Beethoven’s First Symphony premiered in 1800 and echoes past masters Mozart and Haydn. His infectious and energetic Second Symphony performed three years later, has the composer breaking new ground and recognised as a great symphonist, even as he battled increasing deafness. His triumphant Third Symphony – known as the Eroica – was revolutionary and changed perceptions of what could be achieved with orchestral music.
Beethoven’s Fourth and Fifth symphonies, composed at the same time, are ideal companions in one concert. The Fourth is joyful and breezy, while the Fifth opens with the famous four-note motif ta-ta-ta-TUM, often covered in popular culture, including disco and rock ‘n’ roll versions.
The glorious Symphony No. 6 – Pastoral – a favourite of Maestro de Waart’s, evokes the splendour and power of nature. The Seventh, completed four years later, has the beloved ‘Allegretto’ second movement used in several films, such as The King’s Speech and X-Men: Apocalypse.
The dazzling Eighth Symphony takes listeners on a journey from elegant dances to a witty finale. His Ninth Symphony, his best known, will be performed by a full-strength NZSO with four internationally-renowned singers – Slovenian soprano Sabina Cvilak, New Zealand mezzo-soprano Kristin Darragh, English tenor Oliver Johnston, New Zealand bass Anthony Robin Schneider – and the Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir for the chorale finale of Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy.

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