Beethoven’s Fifth

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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 the composer’s soulful side glow in the elegance, triumph, and wit of his Piano Concerto No. 3, a work that helped welcome in the Romantic era. Then in the grandest finale of all, witness the most recognizable opening in music history with Beethoven’s legendary Symphony No. 5.

Rodolfo Leone has withdrawn from the July 25 All Beethoven Concert. Pianist Andrew von Oeyen will now perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in place of the originally scheduled Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor.


San Francisco Symphony



Egmont Overture


Piano Concerto No. 3


Symphony No. 5

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. 3 in C minor, Opus 37
At least on a professional level, things were going well for Beethoven as the old century yielded to the new. (His personal life was more troubled, with the onset of hearing problems.) He had gained renown in Vienna as a pianist, and aristocrats were beginning to seek him out as a piano teacher. He had composed much and was already embarked on his earliest works in large-scale genres. Many believe this piece (which premiered in 1803) is the first of his five piano concertos really to sound like the mature Beethoven. The Third Piano Concerto manages to look back to Mozart’s similarly brooding Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K.491, while also prefiguring in some sense the more thunderous C minor emotions of the Fifth Symphony, which lay several years in the future. 

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

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  1. Thu, Jul 25, 2019 at 7:30pm

    Davies Symphony Hall

If you would like assistance purchasing tickets for patrons with disabilities, please call the box office at 415-864-6000.