Houston Symphony to Present Three Weeks of Beethoven

Now in its second year, the three-season cycle of all Beethoven symphonies resumes as Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada leads the orchestra in a performance of the composer's second and eighth symphonies at 8 p.m. March 4 and 5 and 2:30 p.m. March 6. The first concert in this year's Three Weeks of Beethoven will also feature an orchestral interpretation of La Llorona, a ghost-inspired work by Composer-in-Residence Gabriela Lena Frank.

The program will begin with Beethoven's Symphony No. 2, one of the last works of his early period. Composed during a deep emotional battle as he began to accept his worsening hearing loss, Beethoven's Symphony No. 2 challenged the prevailing orchestral tradition, ultimately transforming the classical genre into something bigger, bolder and more extravagant. Despite the unrest in his personal life, Beethoven was able to produce this playful four-movement work that is highlighted through the contrasting intensity of the strings and members of the woodwinds.

Next on the program is Frank's La Llorona, a tone poem for viola and orchestra dedicated to Houston Symphony Principal Viola Wayne Brooks. Originally commissioned by the Houston Symphony in 2007, this piece is inspired by the numerous mythical incarnations across Latin America of the "weeping woman," a mother who is struck by tragedy and spends all of eternity seeking solace, haunting those that hear her cry. Frank will join Andrés at the podium for On-Stage Insights with Andrés to provide cultural context about the tone poem for viola and orchestra.

Beethoven's energetic Symphony No. 8, the shortest of all his symphonies, will be the focus of the second half of the program. Beethoven's Eighth Symphony was written during another period of great turmoil in his life as he was dealing with the dissolution of his romantic relationship with a woman, now known as the "Immortal Beloved," while also trying to split up his brother's relationship with a live-in mistress. Yet, in the midst of these personal conflicts, Beethoven managed once again to write a cheerful, exuberant masterpiece.

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