Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 3, 2010

A Night of Beethoven

Springfield Symphony Orchestra
Symphony Hall, Springfield, MA
May 1, 2010
by Debra Tinkham

The closing of the 66th classical season of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra began with Ludwig v. Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 in C Major. Working on this composition at a young age, Beethoven did not complete or perform it until he was age 30.

Melodically flowing and beautiful, this short Adagio moved into the second movement with impressive dynamics. Next, the Menueto went off at a rapid tempo, with musical complexity, and certainly not your typical waltz style. The fourth and final movement sounded very Vienna-like. After all, that was Beethoven's favorite place. The orchestra seemed to be having too much fun and it was a movement with codas that didn't want to end.

Symphony No. 9, Beethoven's last, was completed with many changes throughout its evolution, and finally performed shortly before the composer's death. This symphony was inclusive of the Springfield Symphony Chorus and the Springfield College Singers -- a culmination of over 150 voices. The stage was full. In addition, the four featured soloists: Mary Wilson, soprano; Stacey Rishoi, mezzo-soprano; Alan Schneider, tenor and Gustav Andreassen, bass, made their entrances to Ode To Joy in the fourth movement, resulting in a very full, robust, beautiful sound.

This five movement symphony is very complex and as Maestro Kevin Rhodes said, "…is one of those rare pieces that only gets better and more meaningful with each hearing." The Allegro was pastoral and, at times, march-like. It appeared that Rhodes was asking the orchestra for more - something he doesn't usually need to do. The lower/larger strings had a nice ascending/descending pizzicato run, with several recapitulations. Molto vivace gave the strings a good finger workout, accompanied by strong, persistent tympani. Adagio molto e cantabile began with brass and, true to its name, was very pastoral and spiritual. The violas had a nice solo turn during this third movement.

Finally, the fourth movement featured cellos, starting this very familiar Ode To Joy tune, then added bass, chorus, soloists and percussion, making for a very dynamic crescendo. Each performer gave his/her all, and Rhodes seemed to emit love from every beat.