Hartford Symphony Orchestra to Perform Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, November 13-16

Program features powerful themes of human existence by Brahms, Strauss and Beethoven

Hartford Symphony Orchestra conducted by Music Director Carolyn Kuan (photo: Alan Grant)
Hartford Symphony Orchestra conducted by Music Director Carolyn Kuan (photo: Alan Grant)

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra will present Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto as the second concert of its 2014-2015 Masterworks Series on Thursday, November 13 through Sunday, November 16 in Belding Theater at The Bushnell in Hartford.  The piano concerto will feature guest artist Martina Filjak, hailed as a “musician of unusual sophistication, discipline and personality” by The Cleveland Plain Dealer.  The program to be conducted by HSO Music Director Carolyn Kuan will also include Brahms’ Tragic Overture and R. Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration.

“In this concert, we will invite our audience to discover powerful themes of human existence,” says Kuan.  “The bravura notes of Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto express why it is known as the “Emperor.”  Brahms’ heart-wrenching Tragic Overture has a turbulent, tormented character to it, while Strauss’ transcendent Death and Transfiguration explores earthly struggle resulting in heavenly bliss,” she explained.

Johannes Brahms’ Tragic Overture is somber and darkly heroic. Though Brahms wrote the two orchestral overtures Academic Festival and Tragic in tandem during the year 1880, the works have more of a complementary balance than a continuity. “Having composed this jolly Academic Festival Overture, I could not refuse my melancholy nature the satisfaction of composing an overture for a tragedy,” Brahms wrote to his biographer Max Kalbeck, “One overture laughs, the other weeps.”

The literary inspiration for Richard Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration (1888-1889) originated with Strauss himself, as he noted in a letter to his friend Friedrich von Hausegger.  “The idea came to me to write a tone poem describing the last hours of a man who had striven for the highest ideals, presumably an artist.  The fatal hour arrives. The soul leaves his body, to discover in the eternal cosmos the magnificent realization of the ideal which could not be fulfilled here below.”

Martina Filjak, guest pianist (photo: Roger Mastroianni)
Martina Filjak, guest pianist (photo: Roger Mastroianni)

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor” is the largest in scale of all the composer’s concertos.  The year 1809 had been a difficult one for Vienna and for Beethoven. Napoleon invaded the city with enough firepower to send the residents scurrying and Beethoven into the basement of his brother’s house. He wrote to his publisher Breitkopf und Härtel, “The whole course of events has affected me body and soul.  What a disturbing, wild life around me; nothing but drums, cannons, men, misery of all sorts.” He additionally bellowed his frustration at a French officer he chanced to meet: “If I were a general and knew as much about strategy as I do about counterpoint, I’d give you fellows something to think about.”  The “Emperor” Concerto was written with fully textured chords and wide dynamic range.  The piano technique is remarkable, considering that the modern, steel-frame concert grand was not perfected until 1825.  In this work, written sixteen years earlier, Beethoven envisioned the possibilities that this later, improved instrument would offer.

Guest pianist Martina Filjak is praised for her poetic passion and technical mastery at the keyboard, as well as for her charismatic personality and magnetic stage presence.  She came to international attention by winning the Gold Medal, the First Prize and the Beethoven Prize at the Cleveland International Piano Competition in 2009, which brought her numerous engagements in United States and internationally. Prior to that, she won First Prize awards at the Maria Canals Piano Competition (Barcelona, Spain) and the Viotti Piano Competition (Vercelli, Italy).

Calendar Listing:
Hartford Symphony Orchestra Masterworks Series
Thursday – Sunday, November 13-16, 2014
Belding Theater at The Bushnell
Thursday 7:30pm?Friday & Saturday 8pm?Sunday 3pm
A pre-concert talk will take place one hour prior to each performance.
Carolyn Kuan conductor
Martina Filjak piano
Brahms Tragic Overture, Op. 81
R. Strauss Death and Transfiguration, TrV 158, Op. 24
Beethoven Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat Major, Op. 73, “Emperor”

Ticket Information: Tickets to this concert range in price from $35.50-$67.50. Student tickets are $10. On Saturday, October 18, $25 tickets are available for patrons age 40 and under. To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact HSO ticket services at (860) 987-5900 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org.

Season Sponsor: Travelers
Masterworks Series Sponsors:
MetLife Foundation and The Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation
POPS! Series Presenting Sponsor: United Technologies
The Sunday Serenades Chamber Music Series is made possible, in part, by the Helen M.
Saunders Charitable Foundation Music endowment at the Wadsworth Atheneum.
HSO programs are funded in part by the Greater Hartford Arts Council, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, and with support from the Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts, which also receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Upcoming HSO concerts in December 2014

Hartford Symphony Orchestra Masterworks Series
Thursday – Sunday, December 4-7, 2014
Belding Theater at The Bushnell
Thursday 7:30pm?Friday & Saturday 8pm?Sunday 3pm
Tickets starting at $35.00; $10.00 for students with ID
860-987-5900 or www.hartfordsymphony.org
William Eddins conductor and piano
Françaix Hommage à l’ami Papageno
Mozart Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major, K. 453
Dvo?ák Symphony No.7 in D minor, Op. 70, B. 141
Celebrate musical inspiration, as our guest conductor plays and conducts at the same time!  William Eddins is music director of the Edmonton Symphony and was principal guest conductor of the RTÉ National Symphony in Dublin, Ireland.  Françaix’s Hommage was written with excerpts from Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute – while Mozart wrote the G Major concerto especially for a gifted student.  Dvo?ák’s Seventh is a tribute to the perseverance of his Czech nation.
Concert Benefactor: The Cly-Del Manufacturing Company

Hartford Symphony Orchestra POPS! Series
Saturday, December 20, 2014 at 3pm and 7:30pm
Mortensen Hall at The Bushnell
Tickets starting at $20.00; $10.00 for students with ID
860-987-5900 or www.hartfordsymphony.org
Celebrate the spirit of the season at this holiday extravaganza.  Carolyn Kuan will conduct the HSO in a spectacular program of seasonal favorites, while Cirque de la Symphonie surrounds the stage with awe-inspiring aerialists, mind-boggling contortionists and breathtaking juggling acts.
Concert Sponsor: Prudential

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The Bushnell: 166 Capitol Ave. Hartford, CT 06106