Reunion: Beethoven3 Review – The Chicago Philharmonic at 30

The Chicago Philharmonic, Photo: Elliott Mandel

The Chicago Philharmonic is thirty years old. A celebration of this anniversary along with that of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday came together in a program entitled, “Reunion: Beethoven3” on Sunday, November 17 2019, at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Skokie that featured Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61 and Symphony No. 3 in E flat Major, Op 55 (Eroica).

The harpist greeted attendees, Photo: B. Keer

There was an upbeat, festive atmosphere.  As audience members entered the lobby, they were greeted by lovely harp music and posters which provided a walk down the Chicago Philharmonic “memory lane”. 

The orchestra began with:

Scott Speck conductor David Perry violin

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61

I. Allegro ma non troppo II. Rondo. Allegro III. Larghetto

David Perry, Scott Speck and the Chicago Philharmonic, Photo: Elliott Mandel

This work is familiar, exquisite and Beethoven’s only violin concerto. The almost choreographic movements of David Perry and his violin and Scott Speck leading the orchestra were both inspiring and beautiful.  This work of Beethoven was written quickly and received mixed reviews when it was introduced and then tucked away until 1844.  The is when Felix Mendelssohn reintroduced the piece as he conducted the Philharmonic Society of London and twelve-year-old violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim.  This work has since been considered one of the “great concertos of the 19th century, requiring a soloist with both intense technical skill and musical intelligence”. David Perry was perfect with his clear and sweet tones, beautiful and moving, and blended perfectly with the orchestra. The extended solos were ethereal. At the conclusion, the audience rose in appreciation with enthusiastic applause.

Scott Speck and the Chicago Philharmonic, Photo: Elliot Mandel

As the the second half of the program began, Scott Speck provided insight on the 280-year reunion- 250 of which belonged to Beethoven. He suggested a “walk along memory lane” in the foyer where highlights of the 30-year history could be seen.  He also invited the audience to a reception and the chance to visit with orchestra members following the concert.

David Perry at the reception, Photo: B. Keer

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) Symphony No. 3 in E flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)

I.Allegro con brio
II. Marcia funebre. Adagio assai III. Scherzo. Allegro vivace
IV. Finale. Allegro molto


Scott Speck shared that it was Beethoven’s Third Symphony, Eroica that moved musical composition from Classical to Romantic, introducing music that was less structured and conveyed emotion. I find this a powerful and even amazing concept. Because if found the program’s description so fascinating, I am quoting it “When Beethoven’s third symphony premiered in 1805, it sounded like nothing the world had heard before. Audiences at that time, like those today, had specific expectations regarding orchestral concerts; the average length and sound level were particularly important. Eroica was twice as long as any symphony by Beethoven’s predecessors; the first movement alone is nearly 20 minutes long. It was the loudest, most bold, dramatic, in-your-face music in the classical music canon. Eroica changed the notion of what a symphony can and should be; many music historians view it as the turning point between the Classical and Romantic eras. Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner, Strauss, Mahler, and many more composed their life’s work on the shoulders of Beethoven’s symphonies, starting with Eroica. “ and “the composer shows the extraordinary depth of his skill as the orchestra moves seamlessly between virtuosic solos, a dance section, a bass-line fugue, and even a hymn. The piece ends with a magnificent coda and a triumphant burst from the horns.”

It was sheer delight to watch Scott Speck in motion as he conducted with apparent energy and passion bring forth from the orchestra music that seemed to expand and contract. At times the power of the music felt like it would escape the boundaries of the hall.

The reception, Photo: B. Keer

You have an opportunity to enjoy this wonderful orchestra soon. Additional information.

Sunday December 1
South Shore Cultural Center
7059 S South Shore Drive
Rehearsal 1:15-3:15pm
Free concert 4pm

Leroy Anderson
Sleigh Ride
Lucas Richman Hanukkah Festival Overture
Christmas Eve/Sarajevo
as performed by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Felix Bernard Winter Wonderland
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Selections from The Nutcracker Suite
Leroy Anderson A Christmas Festival

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