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‘Immerse Yourself in Beethoven’ on Saturday with the Great Falls Symphony

Johnson: "This will surely be quite a memorable evening"

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The Great Falls Symphony Orchestra this Saturday gives the community a chance to take in an evening of musical excellence from one of the greatest composers of all time.

The symphony’s “Immerse Yourself in Beethoven” show starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Mansfield Center for the Performing Arts theater. They will perform a variety pieces that span Beethoven’s career, with the centerpiece being his Symphony No. 7.

Throughout the ages, Beethoven’s seventh has been considered one of his most successful pieces he’s ever written. German composer Richard Wagner once described it as, ” the Apotheosis of the Dance itself: it is Dance in its highest aspect, the loftiest deed of bodily motion, incorporated into an ideal mold of tone.”

Great Falls Symphony conductor Gordon Johnson said not only does Beethoven have one or two great pieces, though, lest anyone forgets, he has many.

Johnson said said it’s possible to play an entire evening of Beethoven without it feeling repetitive due to his remarkable diversity.

“There’s not a lot of composers where you can do that,” he said. “It’s been done with  Mozart, with Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, but very rarely does any composer of any era have such a broad of range. But, Beethoven does, for sure.”

The show will open with his “Grand Overture” in C Major “Namesfeir.”

Members of the Great Falls Symphony Orchestra.
Members of the Great Falls Symphony Orchestra.

Johnson said this piece, along with all of the pieces the orchestra is performing, are some of the musicains’ favorite to perform, which isn’t always the case.

“This symphony itself is a real players’ piece. I saw in the rehearsal last night they were really digging it, they just love playing these,” he said. “A lot of times these pieces are not necessarily for the players but more for the audience but this show really lends itself to seeing the orchestra reaching for more uplifting layers in the music, and it’s really been very gratifying to be a part of this process over the past week.”

Johnson called Beethoven’s Seventh, “one of the more remarkable of his nine symphonies.”

“Each of the nine have their own personalities, but the seventh is probably the most energetic just because of the intensity of the utilization of the rhythm in each of the four sections,” he said. “It’s very vibrant and energetic.”

The concert will also feature the Symphony’s resident quartet, the Cascade Quartet in a Beethoven string quartet and will introduce the newest member of the group, violist Maria Ritzenthaler, who joined the quartet this fall. You can read our interview with Ritzenhaler and new clarinetist Chris Mothersole here.

The concert continues with “Wellington’s Victory,” (the Battle Symphony) featuring orchestration which is unique to Beethoven, In addition to the expected strings and enhanced brass,  he adds  muskets, cannon and other hardware create the sounds of warfare. Additional brass and percussion will be provided by members of the Great Falls Symphony Youth Orchestra.  The music simulates opposing armies and contains extended passages depicting battle scenes.

Johnson said while “Wellington’s Victory” might no have the same “genius of craftsmanship” as Beethoven’s Seventh, it has a different lasting appeal that has proven to be just as memorable.

“It’s very choreographic and it depicts this battle  between the French and he English between Napoleon Bonaparte and Wellington,” he said. “To help with that choreographic setting we’ll have 10 youth orchestra kids assisting us in the process. They’ll be doing some neat stuff on the stage standing left to right. (Wellington’s Victory) is not only an aural piece, but it also has some visual effects that will take us through that period of history.”

Johnson said he’s particularly excited to present this concert to Great Falls and that it’s not one you’ll want to miss, saying, “I think if people are looking to have a ‘jump-out-of-your-chair experience this is definitely it. I think this will surely be quite a memorable evening, no doubt.”

Admission to the concert is by Symphony season ticket, or by single admission tickets available at the Civic Center Mansfield Box Office, by phone at 406-455-8514 thru 3:00 pm on Friday  or online 24-hours at http://ticketing.greatfallsmt.net .

Concert goers will also have an opportunity to take advantage of the final Early Bird Drawing in the Symphony’s current Trip Raffle.

All tickets purchased before the end of intermission will be eligible to win $250 or six tickets deposited into the raffle.  The Grand Prize drawing will take place at the Symphony Holiday Concert on Dec. 6.

The Trip Raffle is a special fundraising project of the Great Falls Symphony which supports the Symphony’s Educational Programming and will afford the Grand Prize winner  a choice of an eleven day trip to Italy for 2 people or a 5-day Disney Cruise for a family of four.  Cash prizes are also available of $5,000, $2,500 and $1,500.  Call the Symphony for purchase prior to the concert or pick up tickets at the lobby raffle sales table before the concert or during intermission.

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