Last Thursday night, audience members in a nearly packed Woolsey Hall experienced Ludwig van Beethoven’s genius in the New Haven Symphony Orchestra’s all-Beethoven program.
In his final season as music director, William Boughton, led the orchestra. The program was comprised of 18th- and 19th-century German composer Beethoven’s epic Symphony No. 3 and his Piano Concerto No. 4 performed by Yale School of Music Sylvia and Leonard Marx Professor of Piano Boris Berman. The evening was dedicated to the memory of Gordon MacKay Ambach, who passed away last May and who was a dedicated board member of the NHSO board for nine years.
“The Beethoven [Symphony] is one of my favorite pieces and I think William Boughton has just transformed this symphony into … something that’s really wonderful,” said audience member and Guilford resident Howard Brown ARC ’70.
The program opened with Berman’s performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major Opus 58. This three-movement work, composed between the years 1805 and 1806, premiered in 1808 with Beethoven himself as the solo pianist. This 35-minute concerto is widely performed and recorded and is considered a notable work in the piano concerto repertoire.
“There was a part during the piece when [Berman’s] eyes just travelled upward, like he was in his own place — it was really lovely to see that,” said audience member Rayne Kim SPH’19, a graduate student in the Yale School of Public Health. “I grew up playing violin, so it’s always great to come here. I think Yale has an amazing art scene, so I want to take advantage of that.”
In addition to audience members with Yale affiliations, the concert attracted several residents of the greater New Haven area.
“I don’t go to many classical music concerts often, so I listen to it a lot or play it myself on the piano or hear my kids too, but seeing it in person is a whole other thing — it seems alive,” said audience member Heather Jacobsen, a resident of Madison, a town east of New Haven. “Beethoven in particular is very passionate: You can’t help but be moved.”
Rafael Gottlieb, a senior at ACES Educational Center for the Arts, thought Berman was “very technically skilled” and considered his performance to be “delicate and very strong at the same time.”
The final piece of the evening was Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Opus 55, titled “Eroica.” Composed between 1803 and 1804, this four-movement symphony is one of the composer’s most celebrated works, marking the groundbreaking middle period of Beethoven’s composition career.
Milford resident Frances Gaier enjoyed watching the musicians and noted “how intimately involved they are in the music — you can tell [that] when they’re playing their instruments, their whole bodies respond.”
The New Haven Symphony Orchestra will perform their annual “Holiday Extravaganza” concerts on Dec. 15 in Hamden and Dec. 16 in Shelton, both featuring guest conductor Chelsea Tipton. The Christmas-themed program of Handel’s “Messiah,” led by Boughton, will take place on Dec. 20 in Woolsey Hall.
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