“Sweet sounds, oh, beautiful music, do not cease!
Reject me not into the world again.
With you alone is excellence and peace,
Mankind made plausible, his purpose plain.
Enchanted in your air benign and shrewd,
With limbs a-sprawl and empty faces pale,
The spiteful and the stingy and the rude
Sleep like the scullions in the fairy-tale.
This moment is the best the world can give:
The tranquil blossom on the tortured stem.
Reject me not, sweet sounds; oh, let me live,
Till Doom espy my towers and scatter them,
A city spell-bound under the aging sun.
Music my rampart, and my only one.
— Edna St. Vincent Millay, “On Hearing a Symphony of Beethoven”
Ludwig Beethoven turns 250 on Dec. 16. The Santa Barbara Symphony will honor the occasion with “Beethoven @ 250,” a chamber music performance of some of the best-known works by the composer as well as some newly created arrangements of Beethoven classics.
The program will be recorded live on stage from the Music Academy of the West and delivered straight to audiences through the symphony’s new digital streaming format at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22, after which the concert will be available on-demand to ticket holders for 30 days.
“Now more than ever, this is the time for collaboration, and we believe that our arts community grows stronger, together,” said the symphony’s music and artistic director, Nir Kabaretti. “We are very honored to be welcomed to the stages at the Music Academy of the West, offering our viewers an intimate acoustic and visual experience.
“Our synergistic relationship with the Music Academy is special in many ways; we’re tremendously proud to have so many of our past and present symphony members that are alumni of the academy. Currently, we have 11 academy graduates on our roster.
“We’re so lucky to have such a treasure in the performing arts right here in Santa Barbara, and we’re thrilled to be able to perform safely on their stages during this reimagined season.”
The symphony’s presentation, called From Our Hearts to Your Ears! offers “a new, personal take on the composer’s music and arrangements. Through state-of-the-art audio recording and multi-camera work, this intimate performance will create an up-close-and-personal” experience with symphony musicians, including concertmaster Jessica Guideri, principal trumpet Jon Lewis, clarinetist Juan Gallego, and principal cellist, Trevor Handy.
These symphony all-stars will be joined by guest performers including pianist Robert Koenig, chair of the UCSB Department of Music, and soprano Julia Metzler, who is both an alumna of the Music Academy of the West, and an Opera Santa Barbara Chrisman Studio Artist for the 2019-20 season.
Audiences will experience musical chemistry as new adaptations of Beethoven’s music is presented in unaccompanied solos and together in duos, trios and quartets, in an intimate setting, hear Beethoven’s homage to Mozart, and enjoy personal reflections about Beethoven — his music and legacy — in the context of our time.
I will not (further) offend my Bach-o-mane readers by proclaiming Beethoven the greatest of all composers. I will not even say he is the greatest composer I have ever heard (Ooops! I just said it!) What I can say, without fear of contradiction, is that no greater composer ever wrote music.
Ordinarily, I am pretty strict about not finding literary or philosophical messages in music. Beethoven himself said that “all a piece of music tells you is what was going on in the composer’s mind when he wrote it.”
Yet, I can’t help agreeing with Edna St. Vincent Millay when she finds Beethoven’s music to be “mankind made plausible.” And Beethoven also said: “No one who truly understands my music can ever know unhappiness again.”
That’s something to shoot for, eh? I mean, truly understanding his music.
To kick off the evening, guests are invited to tune in at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday for a pre-show featuring behind-the-scenes interviews and more.
The symphony again has partnered with DUO Catering, which will offer a symphony-inspired dinner menu and Signature Symphony cocktail, available for delivery and takeout, for guests to enjoy that evening from home while listening to the performance.
Virtual tickets to Beethoven @ 250 start at just $43 per household with a series subscription and includes a one-time link that provides access to both the livestream and on-demand access for 30 days after the premiere broadcast. Click here for details and to purchase tickets.
— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.