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Electrifying young conductor Nimrod David Pfeffer leads the SF Symphony in the masterworks of history’s greatest classical icon: Big. Bold. Beethoven. Experience Beethoven’s triumphant Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor, a work of incomparable beauty that was written in the midst of Vienna’s Napoleonic invasion. Then in the grandest finale of all, witness the most recognizable opening in music history with Beethoven’s legendary Symphony No. 5.
Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor
At A Glance
Music of Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) produced a body of music that ranks among the great achievements of Western civilization and that has been embraced by audiences around the world, people of all cultures and all backgrounds. In the most genuine sense, Beethoven is universal. While his technical innovations and groundbreaking artistic achievements can appeal to the connoisseur, the sheer human drama he conveys so passionately can leave even new listeners delighted, thrilled, and moved.
Egmont Overture, Opus 84
Beethoven endured a tortured relationship with the stage. He aspired relentlessly to conquer the genre of opera but in the end he managed to complete only one—Fidelio. But there was more to the stage than opera, and in other theatrical genres Beethoven scored better success. Beethoven's 1810 overture for Goethe’s play Egmont is like a victory symphony in miniature, establishing a striking contrast of musical characters.
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Opus 73, Emperor
The Emperor Concerto is a magnificent affirmation made in terrible times. In 1809 Austria was again at war with France and in May, Napoleon’s artillery began its terrifying assault on Beethoven’s adopted hometown, Vienna. Late in the summer, Beethoven regained his ability to concentrate, and by year’s end he had completed this concerto—a masterpiece that serves as the culmination of Beethoven’s “heroic” period. He begins in a striking and original style, and the entire first movement—the longest Beethoven ever wrote—is continually inventive in its flourishes and manner. The music of the slow movement chorale is both interestingly fresh and reassuringly tied to where we began. In the ingenious lead in to the finale, Beethoven quietly projects the outline of a new theme before bursting forth in a robust German dance.
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Opus 67
Beethoven made his mark as a frank and uninhibited revolutionary, who some argue almost single-handedly created an entirely new sound in music. Imagine how wild this Fifth Symphony must have sounded to listeners at its 1808 premiere who, unlike us, did not hear it as the most familiar of classical masterpieces! In the first movement, the famous ta-ta-ta-TA pattern is hardly ever absent, generating music that feels faster, more impacted and compressed, than any music heard before. After those storms, the second movement is an oasis of pure and lovely music making. The drama returns in the grotesque and threatening scherzo. All in all, this was a brand new kind of symphony, and Beethoven’s invention here of a path from strife to triumph became a model for symphonic writing to the present day. Of note: In the final movement we hear the sound of trombones—heard in a symphony for the first time ever at this work’s premiere.
From notes by James M. Keller and Michael Steinberg