EMV Hosts 50th Anniversary Gala & Celebration Of Beethoven's 250th Birthday

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EMV Hosts 50th Anniversary Gala & Celebration Of Beethoven's 250th Birthday

Early Music Vancouver (EMV) proudly hosts its 50th Anniversary Gala, featuring the music of Beethoven, Mozart, & Haydn, on April 5, 2020 at 3pm at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts. The concert marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth, the 50th anniversary of EMV, and the 30th anniversary of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra (PBO). Acclaimed Music Director Alexander Weimann will lead the PBO in dazzling performances of Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 and Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G Minor. The PBO will then be joined by the Vancouver Chamber Choir, the Vancouver Cantata Singers, and the Vancouver Bach Choir for a magnificent finale featuring the Gloria from Haydn's Creation Mass.

Hosted by Sheryl MacKay of CBC Radio's North by Northwest, this concert features the largest period instrument performance ever assembled in Vancouver - demonstrating the extent to which the regional early music scene has grown and flourished on the West Coast in recent years.

"It's not often that EMV has the opportunity to celebrate so many wonderful milestones at once. To honour this special occasion, we have invited more than 175 artists to perform large-scale masterworks by three of history's greatest composers of the classical period," says EMV's Executive and Artistic Director Matthew White. "Audiences can expect some exciting differences in how this early symphonic repertoire is experienced when played on period instruments. They will be surprised to hear more clarity and distinction in the individual parts, as well as more transparent and rhythmic dynamism as these original instruments are stretched to their absolute limits. As EMV looks to the future, this large-scale repertoire reaffirms the next stage in our evolution, and our commitment to presenting audiences with engaging and historically informed period performances."

The celebratory event is an attempt to recreate some of the excitement surrounding the debut of Beethoven's first symphony on April 2,1800 at the Royal Imperial Court Theatre in Vienna. In homage to the original makeup of the programme, this concert will also include a Mozart symphony and an excerpt from a major work by Haydn. Beethoven's symphony was immediately acclaimed as a testament to the composer's groundbreaking genius, and set the stage for the rapid evolution of symphonic composition.


EMV's gala concert begins with esteemed conductor Alexander Weimann leading 35 musicians of the PBO in a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 1. The use of PBO's historical instruments, which are similar to those that Beethoven, Mozart, and Haydn would have known, have a dramatic effect on how this music is experienced, for both musicians and audiences. Those used to hearing these well-known pieces played by a modern symphony orchestra will be thrilled to hear how different they sound when performed on period instruments.

Beethoven's Symphony No. 1, which is often compared to the symphonic works of his immediate predecessors Mozart and Haydn, was composed in the spring of 1797 when he was studying counterpoint under Johann Georg Albrechtsberger. Despite being clearly rooted in the 18th century, Beethoven was already demonstrating elements of his unique and innovative voice. For example, though Symphony No. 1 is composed in the key of C Major, which is normally associated with simplicity, purity, and the fanfare of trumpets and drums, Beethoven takes things in a new direction, evoking an air of mystery and query by beginning the first movement on a dissonant chord that resolves into F Major, or the "wrong" key. Beethoven further strays from the expected path by incorporating woodwinds and pizzicato strings, rather than employing the solidity of trumpets and timpani. He cleverly takes his time finding his way to C Major, and along the way delights in dramatic changes of dynamics, sharp accents, and sudden modulations to distant keys. When he finally reaches home, he does so with a wink, resolving the first movement with a coda of 22 measures of C Major played fortissimo.

Full of youthful energy, all of the movements of Symphony No. 1 are given tempo markings that are unexpectedly fast for their commonly understood characters. For example, the third movement is a "Menuetto" that is marked "Allegro molto e vivace." When played at this faster tempo, the minuet loses all of the aristocratic grace of its 18th century predecessor and becomes virtually undanceable. In the fourth and final movement Beethoven is at his most playful and pays tribute to Haydn, his composition teacher and the one who enabled him to move to Vienna.

Beethoven's subtle deviance from expectations and established musical forms became more extreme as time went on. Even though Symphony No. 1 has its feet firmly planted in the Classical period, Beethoven's small adjustments to this work demonstrate he was about to take the form in new directions, and become the champion of the Early Romantic period.

Next on the programme is Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor. The masterwork shares some brilliant characteristics of Beethoven's Symphony No.1, including abrupt modulations, a strikingly undanceable minuet, and musical enigma. Composed in 1788, it is widely known as one of Mozart's greatest works. Twentieth century pianist and writer Charles Rosen said that he heard "passionate violence and grief" in this work, while Hector Berlioz believed it was a "model of delicacy and naiveté." Beethoven copied out 29 bars of the Symphony No. 40 in G minor in his notebook amid sketches of his own Symphony No. 5, demonstrating how the masterpiece served to inspire his imagination.

EMV's 50th Anniversary Gala comes to a spectacular conclusion with the Gloria from Haydn's Creation Mass. This rousing and majestic chorus features the combined forces of the Vancouver Chamber Choir, the Vancouver Cantata Singers, the Vancouver Bach Choir, and the PBO, all under the musical leadership of Alexander Weimann. Pulsing with energy and resounding joy, the Gloria is the perfect end to this celebratory concert. The work also serves as a performance practice nod to the late 18th- and early 19th-century tradition of ending orchestral concerts with a magnificent choral excerpt involving hundreds of singers drawn from large choral societies.

In addition to sharing these extraordinary performances of major works by Beethoven, Mozart, and Haydn, EMV looks forward to announcing its captivating 2020-21 Season. Following the concert, there will be a dinner at Sage Bistro in celebration of EMV's 50th anniversary, and to raise funds for the commissioning of an exquisite copy of an 1819 fortepiano. For details about the dinner, click here.


For more information visit earlymusic.bc.ca or call 604.822.2697.



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