Beethoven’s First Symphony headlines DPO Masterworks finale

The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra presents Beethoven's First Symphony and Stravinsky's Suite from "The Firebird" May 1 at the Schuster Center.
The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra presents Beethoven's First Symphony and Stravinsky's Suite from "The Firebird" May 1 at the Schuster Center.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

“From the very first note — a dissonance — he’s announcing fresh new ideas to the old traditions,” DPO conductor Neal Gittleman said.

The symphony that broke the mold will be presented on the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s final Masterworks concert of the season Saturday, May 1 at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at the Schuster Center.

Ludwig van Beethoven’s energetic First Symphony, which premiered in Vienna in 1800, was a great departure from the works of his fellow contemporaries, including Mozart and Hadyn. By all means, his sprightly, vibrant composition heralded an arrival that would ultimately change the classical landscape forever.

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“Beethoven One is a piece where Ludwig is announcing himself to the ‘big time’ world,” said Neal Gittleman, DPO artistic director and conductor. “He’s following the prevailing symphonic model, but from the very first note — a dissonance — he’s announcing fresh new ideas to the old traditions. And the dance movement — a minuet — is a minuet in name only. Instead of the stately aristocratic dance the title implies, it’s a supercharged peasant dance. It’s like Beethoven is saying to all the aristocrats and royalty, ‘Dance a minuet to this music at your own peril!’ He’s really trying to shake things up.”

Neal Gittleman, DPO artistic director and conductor.
Neal Gittleman, DPO artistic director and conductor.

Credit: CONT

Credit: CONT

The DPO’s performance of “Symphony No. 1” brings the organization two-thirds of the way through a planned cycle of the nine Beethoven symphonies in celebration of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth in 1770. Gittleman and the DPO plan to deliver Symphonies Three, Seven and Nine in the 2021-2022 Masterworks Season. More details will be announced this summer.

For now, Gittleman is excited for audiences to hear Beethoven’s First Symphony, especially in the manner at which it teases as winningly as it astounds.

“It starts with a big ominous loud note from the full orchestra and that’s the last of that because that note is a joke,” he explained. “The rest isn’t serious at all — just fun, zippy and high-spirited.”

The concert will also feature Igor Stravinsky’s colorful “Suite from ‘The Firebird.’” Composed for the renowned Ballets Russes in 1910, this work, ripe with personality and dramatic flair, beautifully captures the storytelling spirit of its characters including a prince, captive princesses, the Firebird’s magic feather, and the evil ogre Kastchei. The piece also climaxes in grand, majestic fashion.

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“Stravinsky’s original ballet score is a little bit like Beethoven’s First Symphony — a fresh new voice announcing his presence on the scene,” Gittleman said. “The ballet was written for a massive orchestra, so big that once the war broke out, no one could afford to play it. So, for the 1919 suite, Stravinsky trimmed the piece down to a ‘normal-sized’ orchestra. But he’d learned a lot about orchestration in those intervening nine years, so the smaller orchestra of the suite actually sounds bigger and more impressive than the super-sized orchestra of the original.”

Gittleman also says it has been 18 years since the DPO last performed the Suite. In fact, it closed the organization’s first Masterworks concert in the Schuster Center in March 2003. The DPO previously performed the work on its Family Series and excerpts were featured in support of its SPARK educational program.

“‘Firebird’ has been one of my favorite pieces for many years,” Gittleman said.

The DPO offers patrons three options to enjoy the concert:

· In-Theater Performance: Two performances, performed without an intermission, will be held at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 1 at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Tickets are $50 per performance.

· Live Stream Performance: Watch the concert from the comfort of home during its live stream at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 1. Live stream ticket also provides access to on-demand viewing of the performance until June 30. Live stream access is $25.

· Virtual Stream Membership: Patrons can become a DPAA Virtual Streams member which, depending on the membership level, provides access to all DPAA Reimagined Season live and recorded performances, as well as past 2020 Autumn and Holiday Streams, Artist Q&As, Behind-The-Scenes Videos and Bonus Performances. The Premium membership level ($500) provides access to all DPAA Live Streams. The Basic ($100) and Plus ($250) membership levels provide access to all performances five days after the Live Stream premieres. All performances are available for on-demand viewing until June 30.

Tickets for In-Theater and Live Stream performances are available at Ticket Center Stage (937) 228-3630 or online at daytonperformingarts.org. DPAA Virtual Streams Memberships can be purchased at daytonperformingarts.org/streams.

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