Program Notes





Happy Birthday Beethoven

Sunday, February 9, 2020, at 3 pm

James Judd, Guest Conductor

Elissa Lee Koljonen, Violin Soloist

Yumi Kendall, Cello Soloist




Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43                              Ludwig van Beethoven

Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra                                            Ellen Taaffe Zwilich

Elissa Lee Koljonen, Violin Soloist

Yumi Kendall, Cello Soloist




Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67                                                  Ludwig van Beethoven

Allegro con brio

Andante con moto





by Dr. Eve R. Meyer


Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

In 1801 Beethoven received an important commission from the famous ballet master Salvatore Viganò for a ballet based on the myth of Prometheus. The playbill for the first performance provides this synopsis: “The Greek philosophers…depict Prometheus as a lofty spirit who, finding the human beings of his time in a state of ignorance, refined them through art and knowledge and gave them laws of right conduct.” Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity, and for that, he was severely punished, but the ballet celebrates his heroism.

Heroic themes were popular at that time in Europe and were often associated with Napoleon, who later inspired Beethoven in his “Eroica” Symphony. The ballet consists of an overture and 17 numbers. It was very successful with 28 performances in Vienna, but today, only the overture is performed. The overture is symphonic in style and structure, and it begins with bold, dissonant gestures followed by a slow, meditative introduction. The main body of the work presents two contrasting themes. The principal theme begins softly in the strings but soon becomes rhythmic and energetic. The second theme is gentle and features a flute duo. Both themes return and the movement concludes with a brilliant coda.

Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (b. 1939)

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, a native of Florida, is currently the Francis Eppes Distinguished Professor at Florida State University. She was honored in 1983 when her Symphony No.1, “Three Movements for Orchestra,” received the coveted Pulitzer Prize for music. She was the first woman composer to receive the award. She has received many other major awards as well as six honorary doctorates, and she is regarded as “one of America’s most frequently played living composers.” In her early works, she explored a dissonant, atonal style, but by the late 1980s she turned to a neo-romantic style that is more accessible to audiences. Her two-movement Concerto for Violin and Cello from 1991 is a good example. The work is atmospheric and expressive with moderate dissonance and subtle lyricism, and it presents a variety of moods ranging from the serene to the joyful. Her music has been praised for its “superb craftsmanship” and for its “sheer beauty.”

Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Even those who do not know the Fifth Symphony are familiar with the distinctive opening four-note motif, which became the symbol for victory in World War II and which appears in every movement as a unifying device. One of Beethoven’s early biographers titled it “Fate knocking at the door.” The motive permeates the first movement as it builds increasing tension and suspense. The second movement is unusual because it presents variations on two themes that alternate: the first is a lyrical, flowing melody while the second, based on the motif, is majestic. The third movement, Scherzo/Trio/Scherzo, begins with a very soft question, which is answered forcefully by the martial-sounding motif. The central section features complex fugal writing for the strings. A very effective transition leads directly into the finale in which the full orchestra, now including trombones for the first time in a symphony, provides a triumphant conclusion to this monumental work.

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