Beethoven 7 Program Notes
An American Port of Call
Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941)
Born in Rochester, New York, Hailstork studied at Howard University, the Manhattan School of Music, the American Institute at Fontainebleau, and Michigan State University. His teachers were H. Owen Reed, Vittorio Giannini, David Diamond, and Nadia Boulanger. He is currently Professor of Music and Eminent Scholar at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.
An American Port of Call was written for the Virginia Symphony Orchestra in 1985. Hailstork describes the work as “a concert overture, in sonata-allegro form (which) captures the strident (and occasionally tender and even mysterious) energy of a busy American port city. The great port of Norfolk, Virginia, where I live, was the direct inspiration.”
Double Bass Concerto No. 1
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Martín is a composer and bassist who studied with Ciro Buono and others before moving to Tijuana, Mexico. In 2002 he joined the Baja California Orchestra. He also founded a Double Bass Academy, which presents an annual double bass festival and chamber music course. He founded “Cuatro para Tango,” his Tango quartet, in 2004. As a bass soloist, Martín has performed with orchestras and chamber ensembles in central and south America, Europe and the United States.
Martín’s Double Bass Concerto No. 1 was written in 2012 and has since been performed in more than 25 countries around the world. It was chosen as a test piece by the Bradetich Foundation International Double Bass Competition, the One World Symphonic Festival Camerata, and the Sphinx Strings Competition.
Symphony No. 7
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony was completed in the late spring or early summer of 1812. It wasn’t performed publicly until December 8, 1813 at a concert in Vienna to benefit wounded Austrian and Bavarian soldiers. Also on the program was Beethoven’s Wellington’s Victory.
Beethoven himself conducted. The composer Ludwig Spohr described the scene: “The execution was quite masterly, despite the uncertain and often ridiculous conducting of Beethoven…. It is a sad misfortune for anyone to be deaf; how then should a musician endure it without despair? Beethoven’s almost continual melancholy was no longer a riddle to me.”
A review of the concert reported that the Symphony “deserved the loud applause and the exceptionally good performance it received…. This symphony…is the richest melodically and the most pleasing and comprehensible of all Beethoven symphonies.” Beethoven regarded the Seventh as “among my best works.”
Not everyone shared Beethoven’s opinion. After a performance in Leipzig, Clara Schumann’s father suggested that the music could only have been written by someone who was very, very drunk. When the Seventh was played before the Congress of Vienna in 1814, Carl Maria von Weber remarked that Beethoven was “now quite ripe for the madhouse.” Twelve years later, Weber conducted the London Philharmonic’s performance of the Beethoven Seventh. Apparently Weber had changed his mind about the piece.
It was Wagner who dubbed the Seventh “the apotheosis of the dance, the dance in its highest condition, the happiest realization of the movements of the body in ideal form.” He wrote: “If anyone plays the Seventh, tables and benches, cans and cups, the grandmother, the blind and the lame, aye, the children in the cradle, fall to dancing!” Wagner once demonstrated his theory by dancing to the Seventh Symphony, accompanied by Franz Liszt at the piano.
“It would require more than a technical yardstick to measure the true proportion of this Symphony–the sense of immensity which it conveys,” writes John N. Burk. “Beethoven seems to have built up this impression by willfully driving a single rhythmic figure through each movement, until the music attains (particularly in the body of the first movement, and in the Finale) a swift propulsion, an effect of cumulative growth which is akin to extraordinary size.”
After a long introduction, the opening movement launches into a persistent rhythmic propulsion that Ernest Walker found virtually unparalleled elsewhere. The second movement, according to Marion M. Scott, is “marvelous…full of melancholy beauty.” Beethoven’s biographer Alexander Thayer says the trio of the third movement is based on an Austrian pilgrims’ hymn. In the Finale, George Grove discovered “a vein of rough, hard, personal boisterousness, the same feeling which inspired the strange jests, puns and nicknames which abound in his letters.”
~ Program Notes by Charley Samson, copyright 2022.