The Albuquerque Journal
October 21, 2014
Review by D.S. Crafts
The New Mexico Philharmonic chose to begin its new Classics
season with a study of contrasts in similarity. Two Symphonies
No. 9 — by Haydn and the Choral Symphony of Beethoven.
For Haydn it was an early work (9 of 104 symphonies), while
for Beethoven the culmination of a lifetime's work. The two
pieces document the span of the symphony from light court entertainment
to music that probes the depths of Hegelian philosophy. But
Haydn was no mere entertainer and throughout the compass of
his symphonies he took the form as far as his world view would
allow. It was for the revolutionary tendencies of Beethoven
to take it beyond.
With its small ensemble Haydn's symphony seemed almost a desert
flower blooming in the spacious landscape of Popejoy Auditorium.
To our classically-trained ears its three movements lacks a
finale. It ends, rather, with the Menuetto, the usual penultimate
movement in later times. Even in this early work, Haydn's genius
shows sensitivity to orchestral contrast and instrumental differentiations.
The slow movement is the highlight with guest conductor Grant
Cooper[cq] giving it an ease and grace almost in intentional
sharp contrast to the violence and rough hue of the Beethoven.
The Menuetto featured a beautiful solo oboe (Kevin Vigneau)
in the trio.
The opening to Beethoven's 9th Symphony is gigantic, the most
expansive and powerful introduction to any musical work that
had yet been heard. It would take Wagner's cinematic opening
to the Ring cycle to surpass it in scope. Yet for the enormity
of size the work remains sonata form of the most pure, and
ironically it also serves as model for later works that intentionally
eschewed the Classical form, redefining the time-scale of music
by its very act of compression.
Though it seems bewildering to us today, Beethoven originally
conceived the final movement to be instrumental, and even once
despaired that the choral finale was wrong and should be replaced.
He had intended to use the music which became the finale of
his String Quartet in a minor. Yet for whatever the composer's
misgivings (and they mustn't be taken too seriously), the choral
ending clarifies the meaning of the entire work.
The final movement begins quite literally with a summing up
as if to say, as in a TV serial, "Previously in the 9th
Symphony. . ." The cellos and basses described vehemently
in recitative why none of the music thus far is fully sufficient
to the greater purpose, then in octaves stated for the first
time what the entire work had been building to, the Ode to
The production featured a strong quartet of singers, especially
baritone Edmund Connolly with his stentorian cry of "O
Freunde" followed by the initial vocal iteration of the
theme. Tenor Robert Allen sang powerfully in the military
march segment. The huge chorus, called the New Mexico Philharmonic
Collaborative Choir was impeccably prepared by Maxine Thévenot,
her own Polyphony chorus crowning the ensemble.
The evening began with Grant Cooper's Akademedie 1824, virtually
a pre-concert lecture with orchestral and chorus examples,
developed for an audience c. 1824.