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The highlight of LNSO’s 90th anniversary concert series is Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
The piece is one of Beethoven’s final significant works, written in 1822-1824, and premiered on May 7, 1824. After completing the symphony, Beethoven wrote six string quartets, amidst which are true masterpieces, a few one-movement pieces for the piano, and some canons.
Allegedly, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 is a dedication to the mankind, the affirmation of principles of his music, the triumph of humanism and so on. From a certain perspective, it may be true, as the message of the symphony manifests not only in the music, but also clearly in the lyrics. Beethoven used several stanzas of Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy, which was inspired by Christian Gottfried Körner, member of Dresden’s Masonic lodge Zu den drei Schwertern (Among the Three Swords). Körner proposed the ode to be written for a ceremonial feast at the lodge. At times, the lyrics are solemn as an anthem, at times lively as a toast. The stanzas that Beethoven chose emphasize a global, united brotherhood of the humanity – millions are embraced, a loving father dwells above the canopy of stars, joy brings together what custom has divided, and so on.
It is known that Beethoven was almost completely deaf when he wrote the symphony, and he conducted the premiere without being able to navigate in the flow of music. In addition to joy and jubilance, exaggerated pathos can be heard – almost on the verge of the impossible.
Paavo Järvi, a notable interpreter of Beethoven’s symphonies, explains: “It is a mannequin of an idea. Several moments therein make me believe we should give up the idea of performing the movement in the key of Wagnerian pathos. In my view, it was rather a battle for Beethoven, a desperate desire. At the same time, he wholly realised he would not fool anyone; the world was not like that at all. He wished it were, but it wasn’t.”
Thus, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 can be perceived in different ways, and it is always interesting to see which kind of interpretation is chosen by each conductor. Conductor Andris Poga has invited the State Choir Latvija, soloists Elīna Šimkus, Ieva Prudnikovaitė, Andris Ludvigs and Priit Volmer to participate in the performance. Indirectly, he inspires an idea of united Baltic states, if not the entire world.
In the same concert, we will also hear a Latvian piece – Pie baznīcas (By the Church), a brilliant miniature by Jānis Mediņš, LNSO’s former principal conductor (1928–1944). Attempts have been made to find a musical connection with No baznīcas (After Church), a well-known painting by Latvian artist Janis Rozentāls. Appealing as the theory might be, it is probably not true. It is more likely that the piece is linked with Ar māti pie baznīcas (With Mother by the Church), a poem by Latvian poet Jānis Poruks. It includes the lines:
“You, who is facing the sky,
You, the pallid church,
As if you were praying for many.
Do pray for me, too!”
19.00 / Friday / Riga, The Great Guild
Elīna Šimkus - soprāns