CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In the summer of 1802, Ludwig van Beethoven felt depressed. The famed German composer was going deaf, and, overcome by this reality, he isolated himself in the spa town of Heiligenstadt. He tried to distract himself by working on a new symphony, but by October, he still felt miserable.
“Little more and I would have put an end to my life – only art it was that withheld me,” he wrote in a gloomy letter to his brothers. “It seemed impossible to leave the world until I had produced all that I felt called upon me to produce, and so I endured this wretched existence.”
That letter, known as “The Heiligenstadt Testament,” presents the picture of a man paralyzed by anguish, but as Beethoven wrote those lines, he was in the midst of creating one of his seminal works – his “Second Symphony.”
“He has these dark emotions, and from that comes a type of music that had never existed before,” Dr. Gregory Wolynec, conductor and musical director of the Gateway Chamber Orchestra (GCO), said. “It’s a composer essentially representing subjective emotion through music.”
At 3 p.m. on March 30, the GCO will perform the emotional symphony during its “Historic Seconds” concert at the Austin Peay State University Mabry Concert Hall. That concert will conclude the orchestra’s 2013-2014 season.
“This year has been based around the campaign, get to know the GCO,” Wolynec, said. “We started with a full orchestra, then we had a program of a string orchestra and a program of a wind orchestra, and now we’re gong to be putting everybody back together.”
The concert will follow the orchestra’s now famous “three-legged stool” approach to programming, with the performance featuring an established masterwork, an overlooked masterwork and a piece by a contemporary American composer. The evening will begin with American composer Henry Brant’s tone-poem, “On the Nature of Things.” Brant, fascinated by spatial music, decided to spread out the orchestra for this composition.
“We're used to the orchestra being on stage,” Wolynec said. “A portion of the orchestra will be on stage. The rest of the orchestra will be scattered in different groups around the hall. We’re going to capitalize on the beautiful acoustics of the venue. It’s a really beautiful work and very accessible. I think it’s very moving, having these different sounds.”
The GCO will then perform Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg’s underperformed “Second Chamber Symphony.”
“The piece is lively and emotional,” Wolynec said. “It starts with a beautiful foreboding flute solo, and it takes us on a ride with its incredible, virtuosic writing. The piece is very colorful. He makes use of the different colors of the orchestra.”
The evening will conclude with the performance of Beethoven’s “Second Symphony.” The pierce incorporates much of the emotional content that was later used in his seminal work, the “Third Symphony” (Eroica).
“It has a lot of weight, and a wide range of emotion,” Wolynec said. “It moves from very dark to uplifting. Of all his symphonies, it’s one of my favorites.”
For more information on the “Historic Seconds” concert, the GCO 2013-14 season or to purchase tickets, visit the orchestra’s website, www.gatewaychamberorchestra.com.