Seattle pairs 9 Beethoven symphonies with new commissions

That’s the plan of incoming music director Thomas Dausgaard:

In celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, Thomas Dausgaard invites diverse community members to the stage as artists, composers and performers. Beethoven’s nine symphonies will be heard alongside commissioned world premieres by Charles Corey, Janice Giteck, Angelique Poteat and Tyshawn Sorey.



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  • How many of the audience members go for those “cool” pairings? Some will want Beethoven only and skip the premieres, and other will do the exact opposite. It happens.

    • “How many of the audience members go for those “cool” pairings? 98% of them will want Beethoven only and skip the premieres, and the other 2% will do the exact opposite. It happens.”

      I hope you don’t mind, but I fixed it for you.

      • You are making me think.

        I suppose that 2% of the audience will include the critics, who will devote 98% of their review space waxing lyrical about the cool new works, 1.5 % complaining about too much Beethoven being programmed, and 0.5% about the Beethoven performance.

          • It depends on the quality of the performance. There is definitely no news value in another routine Beethoven performance. An insightful interpretation is another matter.

      • I think audiences are more open-minded than we give them credit for: they’re willing to experiment — or be experimented on — but if the pieces foisted on them are not chosen with care, then hearing new music will become a pointless and unpleasant experience. I think the real problem is the quality of programming, not the quality of the music being written today.

        If you program something by, say, Takemitsu and follow it with Mozart, then the Takemitsu is going to sound pretty much like bad music. But if you play something by Debussy and follow it with Takemitsu, then you’ve created a bit of context to show how this sound-world grew out of that one. An audience member who’s interested and willing to learn will stand a better chance of appreciating new music if it’s presented in a way like this rather than the usual “eat your veggies and then you can have dessert” approach.

        Of course there will always be people who want only Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms and nothing else. (I read an article long ago describing how some people are in search of an anaesthetic experience rather than an aesthetic one.) We still get occasional letters from people threatening to cancel their subscriptions if we insist on continuing to play such ugly modern garbage as “Rite of Spring.”

  • I hope each symphony will be paired by a new commissioned work. In truth Beethoven is the only composer who does not need an anniversary year, as he is celebrated throughout the world every year. Unlike, say, Mozart or JS Bach there are no neglected masterpieces out there. We should celebrate Beethoven year in innovative ways.

  • “Cool” if the music is any good. Not so “cool” if this is your run of the mill pandering to “diverse community members” just to score some virtue signaling points.

  • On the whole Seattle’s program next year looks to me only second to LA in terms of original and interesting programming. I’d sooner put all those pieces paired with the Beethoven symphonies on their own program, though.

  • Dausgaard is phenomenal.

    To me, it speaks volumes that the three big West coast symphony orchestras will have such talented leaders. Big 5? Outmoded. The action appears to be in the West.

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