Sunday, March 13, 2016

Beethoven in the Big City

Last Wednesday's concert in Edmonton with the ESO was noteworthy for many reasons and one I had been looking forward to for some time.  Beyond the obvious of including one of my favourite Beethoven piano concertos, it was to be played by a Canadian pianist, Janina Fialkowska, whom I had seen in concert before, back in my university days.  It was also the first time I had chance to see the Edmonton Symphony led by its regular conductor, William Eddins, as well.  My previous two concerts involved guest conductors.  This was also to be the last of the three ESO concerts that I will be able to fit in to my days off this concert season.  Interestingly, the featured piece, Beethoven's 4th piano concerto, was also the last piece that he performed in public.  The piece was premiered in 1808 along with his 5th and 6th symphonies.  What a concert THAT would have been.

In keeping with Beethoven's revolutionary-like composing,  this concerto features some unique harmonies and an opening that has the piano state the opening theme by itself rather than behaving like a typical concerto where the orchestra starts with the main idea to be picked up later by the soloist when it enters.  Absolutely loved it and Fialkowska plays Beethoven wonderfully.

Also on the program was Beethoven's Egmont Overture, a piece I've known forever it seems but had never heard performed live.  It's one of my favourite orchestral pieces by Beethoven that isn't either a symphony or a concerto.  This piece, based on a Schiller play revolving around a 16th century Flemish resistance leader was intended to be part of an opera Beethoven had planned.  Unfortunately, Beethoven's timing with this work was a bit off.  It probably isn't a good idea to debut a piece calling for resistance against tyranny a few days after your city is occupied by Napoleon.

There was a also a Haydn Symphony on the program.  His Symphony 101 "The Clock".  The nickname comes from some pizzicato accompaniment in the strings during the symphony's second movement.   It's hard to go wrong with Haydn because.....well, it just is.  Every symphony is different and has some unique feature or innovation.  In his own words, "Cut off from the rest of the world, I was forced to become an original."

As I mentioned earlier, this was my last ESO concert of the season but I was able to get a taste of next season's offerings and very much look forward to returning in the fall.  Hopefully my work schedule syncs up well with the concert season and I get an opportunity to see some more nice little gems.

I followed this concert up with a second one in Calgary (which I will be posting about shortly) a couple days later.  With an empty day between my two concerts I was only in Edmonton for one night before heading off to Calgary.  I did have a bit of time the morning before I left to take a nice morning walk down to the river valley and the legislature.

A couple photos from my hotel window.

The Alberta legislature was very quiet.  I was hard to believe that there had been a very noisy protest here just 24 hours before.

While the weather was pretty decent temperature-wise, the overcast skies made it seem a bit gloomier than it was.  I took a few photos of the river valley though it was pretty dark.  These two were the best of the bunch.

If I'm not mistaken, that would be the 105 St bridge on the left and the High Level Bridge on the right.

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