Written by Ray Oberly
On October 20, the Northern Dutchess Symphony Orchestra (NDSO) began its fourteenth season. The concert entitled Mozart & Beethoven was held in the Rhinebeck High School Auditorium. Kathleen Beckmann, NDSO’s Conductor, conducted the concert with a symphonic theme. Jennifer Henion, NDSO Board of Directors Vice President, welcomed the attendees and mentioned the Rhinebeck High School Interact Club was selling desserts to support a polio cure. She also mentioned keeping informed on social media and on their web page www.ndsorchestra.org about future activities of the Friends of NDSO.
The concert opened with W.A. Mozart’s (1756-1791) Overture to The Magic Flute. The Magic Flute, written in 1791, was one of Mozart’s final works. He had written most of the opera in May and June but wrote the Overture in September after the birth of his child, Franz Xavier. Composing the Overture to an opera was always last for Mozart and the score was completed on September 28. The premier performance of the opera was just two days later with Mozart conducting. The Overture opens with three 18 solemn chords which are associated with the ceremonies of the priests. The main body of the piece, the allegro section, is lighthearted and fugal in form. Mozart had an interest in the music of Bach and Handel and there are many Baroque moments in the Overture. The Overture was played mostly by string instruments with an occasional percussion and brass.
Next performed was W.A. Mozart’s (1756-1791) Flute Concerto in G. Marcia Gates, Principal Flutist with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic since 1986, was the flute solist for this piece. Marcia is an active performer in many venues in the Hudson Valley, and is recorded on the Soundspells and Parnassus record labels. She has recorded a CD of music for flute and harp entitled “Angel’s Serenade.” She retired from teaching instrumental music for many years in the Hyde Park Central School District, and Marcia lives in Gardiner, NY. She commented that Mozart’s Concerto in G is an old friend, a part of her musical life since studying it as a high school student. It has remained an important piece throughout her life as she prepared it for college auditions, performed it for orchestral auditions, helped many students learn this piece, listened to it performed at master classes, and now is coming full circle performing it with the NDSO. Marcia was the flute soloist playing alone and playing with the orchestra in the background. There were three movements with very lyrical flute passages. At the end of her performance, Marcia received a loud standing ovation while receiving a large bouquet of flowers.
The last piece was Ludwig van Beethoven’s (1790-1827) Symphony No. 5 in C Minor with four movements; I. Allegro con brio, II. Andante con moto, III. Allegro, and IV. Allegro. Ludwig van Beethoven conducted the premier of his Symphony No. 5 on December 22, 1808 at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna. It was an amazing feat of endurance for both the musicians and for the audience. The concert lasted over five hours and included not only both Symphony No. 5 and Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral), but also two movements from his Mass in C Major, his Fourth Piano Concerto (played by Beethoven) and his entire Choral Fantasy! His Symphony No. 5 was the last piece of the first half before the intermission. The first movement of the Symphony opens with the familiar “three short, one long” theme played fortissimo. It is repeated a step lower with the long note held even longer for dramatic effect. The second violins lead off after the fermata and we are “off to the races.” It seems impossible that so much music can come from these four notes as they echo back and forth through the sections of the orchestra. In the second movement (Andante con moto), Beethoven alternates two themes with the first one sweet and lyrical and the second more forceful.
As you might expect, the first theme is played by the strings, usually the viola and cello sections. The French horns and trumpets take ownership of the second theme. There is a brief digression near the end and the tempo moves forward with a bassoon solo. The strings answer the bassoon, it returns to the original tempo and fortissimo triplets played by the entire orchestra announce the end of the movement. The third movement uses a traditional ABA form with a Scherzo, a Trio, and then a return to the Scherzo. Once again the low strings introduce the first theme in the Scherzo but this time it has a mysterious quality and flows quickly to a fermata before repeating. The horns fortissimo response is three short notes followed by a long note. This time they are the same pitch, but the four note pattern neatly ties the Scherzo movement to the familiar da-da-da-dum of the first movement. The trio uses a heavy dance like theme which contrasts the Scherzo section. The return to the Scherzo ultimately develops into the transition to the fourth movement.
The third and fourth movements are played without a pause between them. How does the listener know that the third movement has transitioned to the fourth? First of all, the tonality changes from C minor to C major and the meter changes from three to two. However, the most striking way is to notice that the trombones who have patiently waited for more than a thousand measures have made their entrance. Previously, trombones had been used in theatrical works but Beethoven is the first composer to use them in a symphony. Can you imagine the conversations at intermission with this surprise at the premiere concert in 1808? The addition of trombones to the final movement creates a triumphant and spectacular ending to this masterful work and without question, the symphony has concluded. At the end of the concert there was again another standing ovation for the conductor and orchestra.
The next concert called “Sounds of the Season: Santa at the Movies” will be held at the F.D. Roosevelt High School on December 7 at 3 p.m..