Beethoven's Ninth

This evening, Rosa and I went to the NAC for a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony by the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO). Rosa bought the tickets after I had expressed how much I enjoy the symphony; it is one of the few classical pieces I think I understand.

I can feel the emotions, the opening up of the soul to joy. It is one of the most powerful expressions I have experienced of pure joy.

The evening started with a shorter piece by Canadian composer Malcolm Forsyth. It was the world premier of his “A Ballad of Canada”. It was a special performance by the NACO as Malcolm’s daughter Amanda Forsyth is the Principal Cello, and the conductor is her husband (and thus Malcolm’s son-in-law) Pinchas Zukerman. It was an emotional moment, as Malcolm has been ill for some time. At the end of the performance, Malcolm was in one of the box seats and weakly stood up to acknowledge the applause.

NACO standing to take the applause
NACO standing to take the applause

After the intermission, the “Ode to Joy” began. The symphony is about 65 minutes long in four parts. One of the major innovations of the piece is the use of voice as one of the instruments.

One of my favourite sections is the start of the second movement. I feel it is so openly and energetically joyful. It gives me goose bumps.

The final movement brings in the full chorus. The sound of the wall of vocal power of a chorus full-on song is amazing. One of the four soloists was soprano Arianna Zukerman, daughter of Pinchas Zukerman.

With such emotions and power, I cannot imagine that it was created by someone who at the time was completely deaf. It is heartbreaking to the point of tears that although Beethoven conducted the first public performance, he was unable to hear the standing ovation of the audience at the conclusion.

Sadly, I heard three cell phones go off during the performance at the NAC.

[Updated Oct 3, 2011: Malcolm Forsyth passed away July 5, 2011, just over a month after this concert]

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