Celebrating Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

By Beacon Staff

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is one of the most-performed and well-known pieces of classical music in the world. It is performed in countries all over the planet each year, and this week, it’s headed to the Flathead.

The Glacier Symphony and Chorale will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor “Choral” and his Symphony No. 1 during the “Ode to Joy” concerts, taking place at the Flathead High School performance hall on Nov. 17 and 18. It’s part of the GSC’s 30th season, which it is dedicating to the master composer.

By starting with Beethoven’s first symphony and rounding out the concert with his most-powerful composition, the audience should get a solid idea of how the composer’s talent and style progressed during his life, GSC executive director Alan Satterlee said.

The Ninth’s famous fourth movement has been used countless times in modern culture, playing as the crescendo in commercials and movies as well as during church services.

“Beethoven’s Ninth is probably the most recognizable piece of classical music for the general public,” Satterlee said.

The fourth movement is often combined with Friederich Schiller’s poem, “Ode to Joy,” allowing the orchestra and the chorale to effectively perform the transformative work on several levels.

Composer Leonard Bernstein once said, “we cannot listen to the Ninth Symphony without emerging from it changed and encouraged. It’s almost like celebrating the birthday of music itself.”

One of the most interesting aspects of the Ninth is that Beethoven was completely deaf when he wrote it. It’s a triumph of humanity as much as it is of music, which likely adds to its magnetism.

It’s a piece that evokes intense emotion, and is suggested to be performed with as many singers as possible for the ultimate impact. With this in mind, the GSC added a nine-foot extension to the Flathead High School performance hall stage, allowing for more choral singers.

In total, Satterlee said the chorale expanded from about 70 singers to more than 90, under the direction of James Stanard. Add that to the orchestra – sitting at about 70 musicians directed – and the audience can expect a phenomenal performance. GSC music director John Zoltek will conduct the performances.

Amy Johnson

Raul Melo

Jennifer Feinstein

Stephen Morscheck

“We had to give up two rows of seats in the front but it’ll make the sound better,” Satterlee said.

In addition to the already impressive symphony and chorale, audiences will also be treated to four guest soloists during the final movement: soprano Amy Johnson; mezzo soprano Jennifer Feinstein; tenor Raul Melo; and baritone Stephen Morscheck.

All of the soloists are acclaimed in their own right, Satterlee said, and sing with various opera companies and symphonies throughout the nation. And while they’re in town, the soloists will visit Whitefish Middle School and high school, Flathead High School, Glacier High School and Stillwater Christian School for master classes.

One of these classes, taking place on Nov. 16, will be open to the public. From 10:10 a.m. to 11 a.m., Morscheck, who performs with opera companies in the U.S. and Europe, will teach at Glacier High School. Members of the public are invited to attend, but must sign in at the school office first.

There will also be a free, pre-concert talk given about 45 minutes before each GSC performance, led by Paul Faessel, a longtime GSC double bassist.

As of Nov. 12, neither show was yet sold out, but Satterlee said the Sunday show is close to capacity. For tickets, visit www.gscmusic.org or call 406-257-3241. Prices range from $15 to $39.

The Symphony Express Bus, a free bus ride from Whitefish to Kalispell, will leave the Whitefish Mountain Mall at 6:15 p.m., Nov. 17 and arrive in time for the pre-performance discussion at 6:45 p.m. Call the GSC to reserve a seat.

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