Maestro Carl St. Clair stands in front of the capacity crowd at Bovard Auditorium. Before he begins conducting the orchestra through Beethoven's 9th, he shares a bit of wisdom about this musical masterpiece: "Every one of us will hear the symphony in a very unique and personal way. It must be received with humility, with awe, with wonder."
Beethoven's 9th, performed by the Thornton Symphony and Choral artists on March 30 for USC Visions & Voices, begins with an explosive and stormy first movement, complete with loud and jarring notes from the string section. The second movement, a scherzo–a symphonic term referring to fast-moving and light music–is relentless. Its fantastic speed allows for listeners to hear countless different sounds in rapid succession. The third movement calms the energy with long, elegant melodies, providing respite. The final, longest, and no doubt most famous movement showcases USC's Thornton's musicians and vocalists with the symphony's thrilling finale, "Ode to Joy." This final movement emphasizes sounds and excerpts from the previous three movements before springing into its famed ending, allowing the audience to appreciate the symphony as one complete, transfixing work.
Humility. Awe. Wonder. St Clair promised these – and they are real, they are felt, these emotions dominate.
Prior to the viewing of USC Thornton Symphony and Choral Artists' performance of Beethoven's 9th, wildUp composer and conductor Christopher Roundtree explained and dissected the piece. He explained that this symphony was revolutionary – even "radical" – in part, because it uses a choir as a complement to the orchestra, among other things.
Maestro St. Clair's further endorsed this sensation, telling the audience for the USC Visions & Voices concert that Beethoven wrote this symphony as, "His plea. It's his wish. It's his command, that all mankind should become brothers… that's his vision and that's his voice."
Well, brothers or not, sisters or not, with my fellow audience members, I definitely left feeling connected.