Lemi Music Festival 2020: Beethoven 250
Updated: Aug 27, 2020
Concert at the Lemi Church on July 30th 2020 and August 1st 2020. James Salomon Kahane, conductor. Tickets available here.
The Lemi Music Festival celebrates the 250th anniversary jubilee of Beethoven.
The Lemi Music Festival is organized by the Lemi Music Association, founded in 1985 to promote classical music in Lemi and South Karelia. For the 250th anniversary jubilee year of Ludwig van Beethoven, the festival will host the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra for 2 concerts at the Lemi Church, in a program centered around the composers that impacted Beethoven the most and of course, Beethoven himself. Indeed, the rise of Beethoven as one of the most well known composers of all times, is itself a culminating point of all the developments in western classical music, brought by Haydn and Mozart, who greatly contributed to the symphonic genre and paved the way for the writing of Beethoven. The 3 composers also had direct connections between them; Beethoven studied with Haydn, who also mentored Mozart in a minor capacity. Thus, their musical universes are also linked by the direct influence that the teacher has on his students, while in this case, each of the students also forged his own unique, recognizable and long-lasting language. As a result, this program showcases not only Beethoven's music, but also the various connections, whether material - like the theme of the "Eroica" Symphony - or more general - like the teacher-student link between Haydn and Beethoven - that contributed to make the composer the figure he is today.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven: Mass in C major
Ludwig van Beethoven: Mass in C major
Each year, in honor of his wife's name-day (September 8), Prince Nikolaus Esterházy II commissioned a new mass setting to be sung at his residence in Eisenstadt, Austria. In 1807, the commission fell to Beethoven, whose fame, already firmly established in Vienna, had begun to spread throughout Europe. Still, the commission caused the composer some anxiety, for between 1796 and 1802, his former teacher, Franz Joseph Haydn, had composed six such masses for Esterházy, and Beethoven dreaded the inevitable comparison between his efforts and those of the older master. Nevertheless, he spent part of the summer working on the mass in Baden, and completed it in Heiligenstadt at the same time that he worked on his Fifth and Sixth symphonies. The Mass in C Major was first performed on September 13, 1807, under the composer's direction. While Beethoven seems to have been quite pleased with the work, his first effort in the genre, Prince Esterházy was not, describing it as "unbearably ridiculous and detestable." The composer was undeterred, however, and the mass received a more positive response after an 1812 performance at Prince Karl Lichnowsky's residence near Troppau. (Sections had also been performed at Beethoven's legendary Akademie concert on December 22, 1808.) At the time of the work's publication, Beethoven considered dedicating it to Napoleon, but finally decided upon Prince Ferdinand Kinsky - possibly as an intentional snub to the ungrateful Esterházy. That Beethoven wished to set the mass text "in a manner in which it has rarely been treated" is evident right from the opening of the Kyrie, which begins with unaccompanied bass voices. A passage in the Sanctus, scored for voices and tympani only, must have been equally startling to contemporary audiences. Much like Haydn before him, Beethoven further divided main sections of the mass into smaller units, allowing for a symphonic progression of keys and tempi. Beethoven reduces the choral texture to unison or octave singing for particularly profound passages of text, including "Quoniam tu solus sanctus" (Thou alone are holy), "Deum verum de Deo vero" (True God from true God) and "sub Pontio Pilato" (under Pontius Pilate). As in the Fifth Symphony, the contrast between C major and C minor is a salient feature. The texts associated with these keys imbue the contrast with particular meaning: C minor implies anguish, C major, relief. This is especially evident in the Agnus Dei, where the C minor of "miserere nobis" (Have mercy on us) gives way to a "dona nobis pacem" (Grant us peace) in C major.