Acclaimed violinist headlines DPO season opener saluting heroes

‘This is a piece which will always make us think and always make us feel,’ says DPO music director Neal Gittleman on Beethoven’s Third Symphony



The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra opens its 2021-22 Masterworks Series with “Beethoven’s Eroica: A Salute to Heroes” Friday, Oct. 1 and Saturday, Oct. 2 at the Schuster Center.



The evening’s theme centers on the heroes of the pandemic – the first responders, medical personnel, delivery drivers, and all those whose jobs carried great risk.

Local composer Austin Jacquith, a Cedarville University music professor, has created a new work titled “Heldenleben 2020” or “Heroic Life 2020.” The piece has two themes, each representing heroism, which is the foundation of the work. The first is a quotation from the work’s titular inspiration, “Ein Heldenleben,” and represents ancient heroes. The second reflects modern heroes, musically driven with both pulsating and restrained sensibilities.

“(It’s) a wonderful piece dedicated to all the heroes of the COVID era – all the folks who kept us going when things were really dark,” said DPO music director Neal Gittleman. “(There are) wonderful instrumental colors that Austin creates in his writing. We will be playing a bigger, fuller version of the (piece).”

The program also includes Felix Mendelssohn’s beautiful “Violin Concerto in E minor,” his most famous concerto. Multi Grammy-nominated violinist Philippe Quint returns to the DPO to take the spotlight for this masterful work. Quint, bringing impressive dexterity and fluidity to his artistry, is internationally recognized for his unique and insightful approach to standard repertoire. In fact, “BBC Music Magazine” recently described him as “truly phenomenal.”

“Philippe Quint was a wonderful collaborator years ago when he joined us to play Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Serenade,’” Gittleman said. “The concerto has plenty of intensity and plenty of emotion. The concerto is, quite simply, a beautiful piece of music designed to enchant us no matter what is going on in the world. And I very much look forward to that experience.”

The concert concludes with Beethoven’s striking Third Symphony, which was previously scheduled to be the finale of the DPO’s 2019-20 season prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. Originally dedicated to Napoleon in 1805 before he crowned himself emperor, the dramatic, majestic piece was retitled “Sinfonia eroica, Composed to Celebrate the Memory of a Great Man.”

“Beethoven’s Third in June 2020, with no pandemic, would have been joyful and triumphant, perhaps with a tinge of sadness from the second movement Funeral March, (but) the same piece in October 2021, with Delta, will be joyful and triumphant, with a for-sure tinge of sadness,” Gittleman said. “A great symphony like the ‘Eroica’ is always the same notes through the years, but how we respond to it when we play it or when we hear it constantly changes with the times. That’s one reason why Beethoven’s music, so pregnant with possibilities and meanings, continues to resonate down through the ages. But when you think about it, this symphony had that going on from the beginning, starting off as a hero-worshipping tribute to Napoleon, then suddenly changing to Beethoven’s ‘heroic symphony in memory of a great man,’ the great man still being alive, but having betrayed Beethoven’s aspirations for him. This is a piece which will always make us think and always make us feel. So, now is the perfect time to play it and to hear it.”

Gittleman also finds an artistic kinship between Beethoven’s “Eroica” and Jacquith’s “Heldenleben 2020.”

“Both Austin’s piece and Beethoven’s are very intense, emotional works,” he said. “(They) are very much statements and connected to vital events of their day.”

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What: “Beethoven’s Eroica: A Salute to Heroes”

Where: Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Cost: Tickets start at $14

Tickets: Call 937-228-3630 or visit

FYI: Beginning Oct. 1, in partnership with Dayton Performing Arts Alliance’s venue partner Dayton Live, the following new health and safety protocols will be in place at all performances and events until further notice: Proof of vaccination along with a valid ID must be presented or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the performance; Masks will be required for all patrons over the age of 2; and children under the age of 12 are exempt from providing proof of a COVID-19 test in order to attend.

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