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Celebrating Beethoven's 250th Birthday

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO) is celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday with a series of concerts and events from Sunday 15 March to Sunday 29 March, at the Auckland Town Hall.

“The APO’s Beethoven 250 concert season is part of Auckland Arts Festival 2020,” says Auckland Arts Festival Artistic Director Jonathan Bielski. “It’s a festival within a festival, celebrating one of the most loved composers of all time.”

2pm, Sunday 15 March: Beethoven’s Big Birthday Bash, Auckland Town Hall

“Beethoven 250 begins with Beethoven’s Big Birthday Bash,” says APO Chief Executive Barbara Glaser.

“The concert will feature amateur musicians and singers, performing with Auckland’s only professional orchestra, at the Auckland Town Hall.”

This community orchestra and choir will perform the ‘Ode to Joy’, from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and passages from his Fifth Symphony. The music has been specially arranged by APO Communities Composer Ryan Youens.

“The arrangement will enable musicians of all ages and skill levels to experience the joy of performing Beethoven,” says APO Music Director Giordano Bellincampi, who will conduct the performance.

“The ‘Big Birthday Bash’ is a fun way to kick off Beethoven 250, which features something the APO has never done before, perform a full Beethoven symphony cycle.”

“This is a huge challenge and we’re excited about sharing the genius of Beethoven with Auckland.”
Admission to Beethoven’s Big Birthday Bash is free. The performance can also be seen live, for free, on the Auckland Live Digital Stage in Aotea Square, next to the Auckland Town Hall.

Sunday 21 March to Sunday 29 March: Beethoven’s nine symphonies, Auckland Town Hall

7.30pm, Sunday 21 March: The Classicist – Symphonies No.1, No.2, & No.3 ‘Eroica’
Beethoven begins his First Symphony with a chord never heard at the start of a symphony. Something new is coming, but not yet. His first two symphonies fit within the mould created by Haydn and Mozart. Then, in Symphony No.3, Beethoven shatters the mould, with a symphony on a scale never heard before. This is where Beethoven begins to reshape music.

7.30pm, Tuesday 24 March: The Romantic – Symphonies No.4 & No.5
After the ‘Eroica’, Beethoven returns to his classical roots with his cheerful and energetic Fourth Symphony. He follows this with the powerful and intense Fifth Symphony, beginning with one of the most famous pieces of music ever written.

7.30pm, Thursday 26 March: The Revolutionary – Symphonies No.6 ‘Pastoral’ & No.7
As Beethoven became deaf, the music he missed most was birdsong. His Sixth Symphony is an affectionate picture of the countryside and nature, known as the ‘Pastoral Symphony.’ His Seventh Symphony is about rhythm. This symphony skips and springs like a dance.

5pm, Sunday 29 March: The Radical – Symphonies No.8 & No.9
Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony was his shortest, full of life and humour. It’s followed by his epic final symphony, considered one of the supreme achievements in western music.
The APO is joined by four great singers for the performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – soprano Madeleine Pierard, mezzo Kristin Darragh, tenor Amitai Pati and bass-baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes. They will sing with an ensemble choir that includes members of the NZ Chamber Choir, NZ Youth Choir and the NZ Secondary Students’ Choir.

The Radical concert will be livestreamed on the APO website and Facebook page. It will also be screened LIVE, and free, on the Auckland Live Digital Stage in Aotea Square, next to the Auckland Town Hall.

Monday 23 March to Friday 27 March: Ludwig Reflected, Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall 

APO has commissioned new music, inspired by Beethoven, to be played by the APO Young Achievers – aspiring young musicians. These new works, by New Zealand composers, will be performed on days between the Beethoven symphony concerts. Ludwig Reflected events are free and include a guest speaker talking about the fascinating life and times of Beethoven.

6pm, Monday 23 March: Ludwig Reflected #1
Guest Speaker: Rod Oram

Gillian Whitehead Weaving time and distance, in response to Beethoven’s late string quarters.
Beethoven String Quartet in D Major Op.18 No.3 (movements I & II)

Rod Oram will speak about three key aspects of Beethoven’s life and music: his intense involvement with nature; politics and revolution; and ageing. He will weave these together with his musings on Beethoven’s and Gillian Whitehead’s music.

Dame Gillian Whitehead – Ngāi Terangi / DNZM, MNZM – Gillian’s continuous stream of works includes operas, orchestral works, choral pieces, vocal and instrumental chamber compositions, solo works, pieces involving taonga puoro and compositions including improvisation.

Rod Oram – Rod has 40 years’ experience as an international business journalist. He’s a regular broadcaster on radio and television and a frequent public speaker on sustainability, business, economics, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship in New Zealand and global contexts.

6pm, Wednesday 25 March: Ludwig Reflected #2
Guest Speaker: Suzanne Purdy
Chris Gendall Disquiet, in response to Beethoven’s Piano Trio Op.70 No.2
Beethoven Piano Trio Op.70 No.2

Suzanne will investigate Beethoven’s progressive hearing loss in relation to his music, how he transitioned from a hearing person to a hearing-impaired person, trying to access sound through various means and the act of composing music in a late phase of deafness. What if cochlear implant technology had been around in Beethoven’s time?

Chris Gendall – Chris’s works have been performed in Europe, Asia, North and South America. New York’s New Juilliard Ensemble and Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart have performed his compositions, as have the NZSO, Stroma, NZTrio and the New Zealand String Quartet.

Professor Suzanne Purdy – Te Rarawa, Ngāi Takoto – Suzanne Purdy is Professor and Head of Speech Science in the School of Psychology at the University of Auckland and Principal Investigator in the University of Auckland Centre for Brain Research (CBR) and the Brain Research New Zealand – Rangahau Roro Aotearoa (BRNZ) Centre of Research Excellence.

Suzanne will investigate Beethoven’s progressive hearing loss in relation to his music, how he transitioned from a hearing person to a hearing-impaired person, trying to access sound through various means and the act of composing music in a late phase of deafness. What if cochlear implant technology had been around in Beethoven’s time?

6pm, Friday 27 March: Ludwig Reflected #3
Guest Speaker: Paula Morris
Celeste Oram and Alex Taylor The Paihia Piano Party, in response to Beethoven’s complete oeuvre and legacy.

Paula will speak about Beethoven from the perspective of literature, from those writing around the time of Beethoven to how Beethoven’s legacy has impacted contemporary writers. Her talk will explore the Vienna of Beethoven’s day and reflect upon him as a social being embroiled in various professional friendships, rivalries, collaborations and feuds.

Celeste Oram – Celeste’s scored works investigate new media and strategies for musical notation, namely, video and audio scores. Her works have been performed and recorded by Boston’s Consort, wasteLAnd in Los Angeles and the Karlheinz Company and Intrepid Music Project, in Auckland.

Alex Taylor – Alex is a composer and musician. His works have been commissioned and performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Enso Quartet, NZTrio, the New Zealand Youth Choir and the Taipei Chamber Singers.

Paula Morris - Paula is an award-winning author of short stories, essays and novels. She worked in the classical music record business for a decade in London and New York and now teaches creative writing at the University of Auckland.

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