Symphoria returns to large orchestra performances, featuring Steven Heyman in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, and Mozart’s well-known Symphony No. 40 in G minor.
BEETHOVEN: Concerto, Piano, No.3, op.37, C minor
MOZART: Symphony No. 40
All programs and artists subject to change.
But while it was uniformly appreciated, it was not uniformly interpreted. For some listeners—despite its minor key—the symphony’s beauty, impeccable fluency, and balance took priority. Schubert reportedly heard the voices of angels in the third movement trio; and Robert Schumann (who will be featured on our next concert) described the Fortieth more generally as “a work in which every note is gold,” one that incorporated “floating Grecian grace.” For others, the work reflected the despair of the young composer as he faced ill-health and diminishing financial stability. Of course, it’s risky to make easy translations between composers’ states of mind and their music (especially in this case, where the symphony that followed was suffused in C-Major self-confidence). Still, over the years, the view that the symphony is fundamentally dark has become dominant.
Yet to capture the true complexity of this work, we probably need to hold both positions at once. Surely, compared to roiling drama of Mozart’s earlier D-Minor piano Concerto, much less the fire and brimstone that rend his opera Don Giovanni, the outward appearance of the G-Minor Symphony seems relatively benign. In its formal structures, for instance, it’s not only clear but also surprisingly economical (especially compared to the profligacy of the “Jupiter Symphony”). Its basic building blocks are limited; but as conductor Larry Loh says, “It’s astounding how he’s able to create so much from so little.” At the same time, the work is full of grinding dissonances, surprising modulations, and shocking juxtapositions. The last two movements are especially striking in this regard. The rhythmic and canonic overlapping, says Larry, make the Minuet sound “satirical.” He also points to the “Jekyll and Hyde” quality of the opening of the finale, with its back and forth between quiet arpeggios and subito forte outbursts—and there’s a more disruptive passage later on, at the beginning of the finale’s development, where Mozart tosses out, seemingly at random, eleven of the twelve chromatic pitches (everything, in fact, but the work’s anchoring pitch, G) before it settles down. Then, too, while most minor-key works of the period resolve into the major at the end, this one stays resolutely in the minor. Even when the G-Minor Symphony is at its most wrenching, though, you can’t dismiss Schumann’s insistence on its grace. In sum, it’s a work of profound (or should we say sublime?) contradictions.
One editorial point: After Mozart finished the symphony, he revised the orchestration to include clarinets. That’s the version we’ll be hearing tonight.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) was one of the great admirers of the G-Minor Symphony (he even copied out part of it in his sketchbooks), as well as of Mozart’s D-Minor Piano Concerto (which he performed and wrote cadenzas for). But the inspiration for tonight’s concerto, the Piano Concerto No. 3 (1803), comes more directly from Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491 (in fact, as our soloist Steven Heyman points out, Beethoven gives an explicit “nod” to the Mozart in the cadenza). Yet the Beethoven Third is not a Mozartian concerto: if Mozart’s Fortieth Symphony anticipates the romantic period, this is one of those works (like the contemporary Eroica Symphony) that throws open the doors. As Steve puts it, Beethoven, having already given us two “lighter-textured concertos in the Haydn tradition,” now offers a “beefier” work that “kicks off his middle period, his heroic phrase.” No surprise, then, that the Beethoven Third Concerto, like the Mozart Fortieth Symphony, was rapturously admired by later composers. In fact, it was such a magnetic draw that Liszt, Clara Schumann, Charles Valentin Alkan, Busoni, Amy Beach, the young Fauré, and many others wrote cadenzas for the first movement, even though Beethoven had already written his own (which Steve will be playing tonight).
The Third Concerto is a dramatic work, its drama heightened by Beethoven’s use of the latest in piano technology, expanding the range of the solo part to take advantage of the expanded keyboards of the newest instruments. Yet despite the drama, Steve notes, it’s still “melody-driven.” Steve is attracted in particular to the middle movement, a Largo that’s “transcendent, lyrical, almost bel canto—very operatic with incredibly beautiful ornamentation.” There are moments, too, where the pedaling crosses harmonies in a way that makes it “sound as if you’re in a cloud or a bit of a fog. This glorious music is heartfelt and deeply inspirational. ” In typical Beethoven fashion, though, he upsets your expectations in the Largo’s final measures—in part, by interrupting the quiet music with a forte chord, in part by opening the finale in a way that leaves you somewhat confused as to “where it’s heading.” In the end, though, we soon find ourselves in a rollicking, highly syncopated rondo that rounds out the concerto in high spirits.
Peter J. Rabinowitz
Have any comments or questions? Please write to me at prabinowitz@ExperienceSymphoria.org
Mr. Loh’s previous positions include: Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Syracuse Opera; Resident Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; Music Director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra; Associate Conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra; Associate Conductor of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Denver Young Artists Orchestra.
Having a particular affinity for pops programming, Mr. Loh has been engaged for repeat performances with Chris Botti, Idina Menzel, Ann Hampton Callaway, the Texas Tenors and more. He has assisted John Williams on multiple occasions and conducted numerous sold-out John Williams tribute concerts. He is particularly adept at conducting concerts synchronizing live orchestral music with film, and he is has lead Star Wars, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Pixar in Concert, Disney in Concert, The Wizard of Oz and Singin’ in the Rain, among other concert productions.
Mr. Loh is active as a guest conductor, both in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to annual concerts in Pittsburgh and Dallas, his recent engagements include the Boston Pops (Tanglewood); Detroit Symphony; San Diego Symphony; Seattle Symphony; Buffalo Philharmonic; and the Cathedral Choral Society at the Washington National Cathedral. Past engagements include the National (Washington D.C.), Indianapolis, Tacoma, Utah, Naples, Knoxville, Florida, El Paso, San Luis Obispo, Edmonton, Colorado, Charleston (SC), Malaysia, Daejeon (South Korea) and Greater Bridgeport Orchestras. His summer appearances include the festivals of Sun Valley, Bravo Vail Valley, Aspen (CO), Mann Center in Philadelphia, Breckenridge, Las Vegas, Hot Springs (AR), the Kinhaven Music School (VT) and the Performing Arts Institute (PA). In the summer of 2016, he made his debut at Tanglewood, conducting Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony with the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Young Artists Orchestra and returned in 2017 to conduct the Boston Pops.
Mr. Loh received his Artist Diploma in Orchestral Conducting from Yale, his Masters in Choral Conducting from Indiana University and his BA, and Certificate of Management Studies, from the University of Rochester. Lawrence Loh was born in southern California of Korean parentage and raised in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He and his wife Jennifer have a son, Charlie, and a daughter, Hilary. Follow him on instagram @conductorlarryloh or twitter @lawrenceloh or visit his website, www.lawrenceloh.com.
An active performer, he can be heard on nine commercial CD recordings. Two of these received SAMMY Awards, a Central New York area music award for excellence in recorded music. The first, on the Innova label, includes works written for and dedicated to Mr. Heyman, and the most recent SAMMY was given for Echoes, a work on the Centaur label, is a CD of new works for viola and piano. In addition, he appeared on another CD (all Corigliano on the Black Box label) that was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Chamber Music Performance, and this recording was also listed in BBC Magazine as their North American record of the month. Very active in new music, he has been involved in dozens of premieres, including premieres throughout the U.S., and in Mexico, Europe and China. Several composers have written for and dedicated music to Mr. Heyman. He played with the Society for New Music for over 25 years and received a special tribute from this organization in 2008. In the Central New York area, he has an active performing career including being the soloist with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra (Symphoria) 28 times over a 47 year period. His first performance as soloist was at age 13, and his last appearance as soloist with Symphoria was on March 6, 2016 in a performance of the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488.
Mr. Heyman is an Associate Professor in Piano at Syracuse University where he is also the Chair of the Department of Applied Music and Performance, and has been on the faculty for 30 years. At Syracuse University, among dozens of concerts in Setnor Auditorium, he has performed multiple concertos with the SUSO, including a Beethoven Concerto under the baton of Leon Fleisher. In the summer of 2007, Mr. Heyman gave concerts and classes in Beijing and Shenyang China. At the conclusion of a residency at the Shenyang Conservatory of Music, he was appointed a Full Visiting Professor. He currently also serves as the Artist-in-Residence at Colgate University, where he frequently performs in solo recital, chamber music, and has appeared as soloist with the Colgate Orchestra 9 times.
Mr. Heyman is a Steinway Artist.