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Beethoven Symphony 5 & Choral Fantasy

Where: St Mary's Pro Cathedral, 373 Manchester St, Christchurch

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Admission: Free

Listed by: Don Whelan

The CBS Choir and Orchestra will present another free all-Beethoven concert on Sunday, 16 August, at 2 pm in the Catholic Pro-Cathedral, 373 Manchester Street. His favourite Fifth Symphony will be preceded by the Hallelujah Chorus from his only oratorio, and followed by his Choral Fantasy, for which the piano soloist will be Anna Maksymova. The CBS Orchestra will be led by Natalia M. Lomeiko and Musical Director will be Don Whelan.

The oratorio, Christ on the Mount of Olives, dates from 1803, while Beethoven was confronting his impending deafness. In it, he vividly depicts anguish and ultimate resignation. But its Hallelujah Chorus (Welten singen in the original German) concludes the oratorio first with a stately angelic chorus offering (from all the world) thanks and honour for the gift of God’s son, and ultimately a vigorous and triumphant fugal finale. For a young and challenging composer, the premiere also became a marathon presentation of his first two symphonies and third piano concerto to an exhausted Viennese audience.

Five years later, in the same Viennese theatre (unheated in mid-winter), Beethoven made his last public appearance as piano soloist in another huge concert, lasting several hours, which introduced his fourth piano concerto, parts of the C Major Mass, and both the fifth and sixth symphonies. The original audience was apparently not greatly impressed with the evening’s entertainment, but the Fifth Symphony in particular has achieved musical immortality. From its opening “knock of fate” to its radiant end, it exemplifies Beethoven’s commitment to the heroic ideal of “victory through struggle”.

Carl Czerny records that it was only at the last moment the Beethoven hit on the idea of “writing a brilliant piece to round off the concert. He chose a song motif that he had composed many years earlier and drafted a set of variations, a chorus, and so forth. The Choral Fantasy was finished so late that there was hardly time to rehearse it properly.” After an improvisatory piano solo, a tune emerges which anticipates the much later Hymn of Joy from the finale of the Ninth Symphony, and all ends optimistically declaiming the glory of Humanity and Art.

This year CBS Music places a special focus on Beethoven for the 250th anniversary year. They presented his Eroica Symphony No. 3 on 8 March, and will feature his Mass in C Major at the Christmas Midnight Mass. Their regular performance of Handel’s Messiah will be on 6 December, and their annual Haydn concert 2 pm, Sunday 11 October will include the London Symphony 104 and Harmoniemesse.

The cathedral musicians maintain an extensive repertoire of masses and motets, sung each Sunday at the 11 a.m. Solemn Choral Mass. New members are welcome to the 7.30 pm Wednesday evening rehearsal at the CBS Music Centre. Sight reading ability is expected. Opportunities exist for choral leaders, who enjoy unique opportunities to perform solo roles in significant Mass and motet settings with the orchestra and choir. Leadership awards, and other scholarships are available to suitable applicants. Those interested are invited to contact the CBS Musical Director, Don Whelan, phone 358-5873.

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