Beethoven Has Died, But His Music is Fresh After Two Centuries 

Sam Black

As many of you know, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra is a very flexible collection of musicians. Since Dirk Meyer came to Duluth, they have performed movie scores live while we watch the movie; they play several sparkling Pops! concerts each year; they perform at least seven classical concerts per season. The majority of the players - strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion - play all of the programs, and enjoy the variety of the musical fare.
On Saturday, January 23, we were treated to three quite different classical compositions, all written by Ludwig van Beethoven between 1801 and 1803. He was in his early 30s, full of the sudden changes of mood he expresses in his music, and just beginning to understand that his hearing was on the way out. Yet, deafness notwithstanding, Beethoven continued to compose magnificent music for the next 25 years. Music director Meyer refers to Immortal Beethoven, and conducts his music very convincingly.
 The Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus represents five very crisp minutes in the creative mind of the composer. As we heard, however, a dance motif from the Overture caught Beethoven’s attention, and reappears later as the main theme of the fourth movement of the Symphony # 3.
 This Eroica Symphony is nearly fifty minutes in length, quite an epic for 1803, when most symphonies were half that length. I really enjoyed watching Meyer bring this work into Duluth. For the first time in my memory, I did not doze during the second movement funeral march, because Meyer kept varying the accents, and encouraging the lovely rainbow melodies from the oboe of Darci Gamerl and the clarinet of Jennifer Gerth. Meyer recognized them both in the applause that followed.
The spontaneity of the third and fourth movements went zipping along, with more brass and French horn alternating with the strings. Everyone on stage seemed focused on sharing Meyer’s enthusiasm, and it certainly worked.
Again, in celebration of DSSO talent, Concertmaster Erin Aldridge and Principal Cellist Betsy Husby powered their respective instruments through the intricate and lofty passages of Beethoven’s Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano, Op. 56. They were joined by pianist Christopher Atzinger, a St. Olaf faculty member, in sharing this work with the DSSO audience for the first time since March,1957.
The piano part is not as flashy as the two string parts, but that was Beethoven’s choice to gain favor with a piano-playing Archduke. Husby attacked with lots of Beethoven explosiveness, as he wrote the cello part incredibly high, as well as frequently blazing fast. Husby and Aldridge were obviously enjoying their imitative passages, and audience members who were front and center got to see the sparksleaping off the strings.

Celebrate the first presentation from the DSSO Bridge Sessions

Next up for the DSSO is the February 6 Amore! program featuring the four Twin Ports Tenors along with the local band Space Carpet, in a new composition created because of their winning the first DSSO Bridge Sessions competition. I think tickets will disappear, so do plan ahead.

Intimacy Expressed at The Underground

From October, 2009, at The Playground to January, 2016, at The Underground represents a little more than the last six years of intimate productions from the world of The Duluth Playhouse. So it seems amusing to me that Adam Sippola and Carolyn LePine will revisit Jason R. Brown’s The Last FIve Years, running from January 28 through February 6. I hope you join me in this melodic flirtation/separation.

Why New York City seems like Local Arts to me

Finally, my rationale for including The Metropolitan Opera in a column about Local Arts is this:  I can drive (or walk) about 24 blocks to the Duluth 10 Marcus Theaters; I can easily park, then get reimbursed for my parking when I buy my $20 admission ticket; I can sit and watch singer/actors sharing a 100% live performance on stage at The Metropolitan Opera House in New York City; I can return to my own cozy house in less than five minutes. I feel pretty spoiled. Puccini’s final opera, Turandot, begins at 12:00 noon this coming Saturday, January 30, and ends about 3:40. My Saturday afternoon doesn’t get much more local than this, right here in the very center of Duluth, USA.