Beethoven & Blue Jeans

Our annual Beethoven & Blue Jeans includes his Fidelio Overture and Symphony No. 2, along with Emotive Transformations by contemporary American composer, James Lee III.

Saturday

April 24, 2021
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Program

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Beethoven: Fidelio Overture, op. 72c                           

James Lee III: Emotive Transformations                          

Beethoven: Symphony No. 2 in D Major op. 36    

Program Notes

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Ludwig van Beethoven
Fidelio Overture, op. 72c

The work has a long and complicated history of composition: it went through three versions during Beethoven's career, and some of the music was first written as part of an earlier, never-completed opera.

The distant origin of Fidelio dates from 1803, when the librettist and impresario Emanuel Schikaneder worked out a contract with Beethoven to write an opera.

Fidelio itself, which Beethoven began in 1804 immediately after giving up on Vestas Feuer, was first performed in 1805 and was extensively revised by the composer for subsequent performances in 1806 and 1814. Although Beethoven used the title Leonore, oder Der Triumph der ehelichen Liebe ("Leonore, or The Triumph of Married Love"), the 1805 performances were billed as Fidelio at the theatre's insistence, to avoid confusion with the 1798 opera Léonore, ou L’amour conjugal by Pierre Gaveaux, and the 1804 opera Leonora by Ferdinando Paer (a score of which was owned by Beethoven). Beethoven published the 1806 libretto and, in 1810, a vocal score under the title Leonore, and the current convention is to use the name Leonore for both the 1805 (three-act) and 1806 (two-act) versions and Fidelio only for the final 1814 revision.


James Lee III
Emotive Transformations

One does not really understand how others experience grief until they, too, lose a loved one. Since 2016, I have lost other friends and family and, most poignantly, a young couple’s nearly six month-old baby in November 2018.  Emotive Transformations conveys the various stages of grief, including shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance. In addition, this work also addresses the strong emotional transformations that one undergoes in life as a result of various circumstances.

Two principal ideas course through Emotive Transformations: a two-note ascending motive and a rhythmic figure of two notes functioning as a musical sigh. Both ideas undergo various developments. These two musical building blocks are contained within a structure that loosely suggests a first movement sonata form. There are suggestions of two contrasting themes connected by a transition; a closing theme, development, and recapitulation. Near the end of the piece, the two themes are combined, moving to a climactic and exuberant moment in which one celebrates the strong desire to see their loved one in a future resurrection that will result in an eternal life of bliss.


Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 2 in D Major op. 36

Beethoven's Second Symphony was mostly written during Beethoven's stay at Heiligenstadt in 1802, at a time when his deafness was becoming more pronounced and he began to realize that it might be incurable. The work was premiered in the Theater an der Wien in Vienna on 5 April 1803, and was conducted by the composer. During that same concert, the Third Piano Concerto and the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives were also debuted. It is one of the last works of Beethoven's early period.

Beethoven wrote the Second Symphony without a standard minuet; instead, a scherzo took its place, giving the composition even greater scope and energy. The scherzo and the finale are filled with Beethovenian musical jokes, which shocked the sensibilities of many contemporary critics. One Viennese critic for the Zeitung fuer die elegante Welt (Newspaper for the Elegant World) famously wrote of the Symphony that it was "a hideously writhing, wounded dragon that refuses to die, but writhing in its last agonies and, in the fourth movement, bleeding to death."