Orchestra Offers Beethoven

Violin and blue sky with white clouds

Violin and blue sky with white clouds

The LG&E Music Without Borders Series, which brings the Louisville Orchestra to neighborhood venues, kicks off with an “All Beethoven” blowout spotlighting Ludwig’s lesser-heard tunes on Thursday, September 29 at the Ursuline Arts Center.

“One thing that is important to [Music Director] Teddy [Abrams] and me is that we’re not making people always come to us, and that we’re taking the Orchestra out into the community so that it becomes more associated with the community in general instead of just The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts,” says Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt, who will be conducting the “All Beethoven” show. “It’s both outreach and beautiful entertainment.”

The 10-concert series continues through April, with the music of Prokofiev, Vivaldi, Copland and many more masters at seven locations including the Jeffersontown Community Center, The Temple and Valley High School.

Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt. Photo by Brad Cansler

Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt. Photo by Brad Cansler

The Ogle Neighborhood Series, which takes place at Indiana University Southeast’s Paul W. Ogle Center, is also on its way. The four-concert series runs from October through April.

“The musicians really enjoy connecting with these audiences in a very direct way,” says LO Executive Director Andrew Kipe. “That separation that happens in the big concert hall is completely gone. The audiences can almost reach out and touch them.”

This will be Music Without Borders’ third year at the Jeffersontown Community Center.

On Friday, November 11, Abrams will conduct a performance at the Center featuring Prokofiev’s “Classical Symphony” and concertos performed by different sections of the Orchestra, which lets them showcase their skills in a way they don’t always get to when they’re playing all together.

Jeffersontown Arts Manager Rhonda Rowland says the series has been a smashing success so far.

“The fact that the community can see the Orchestra up close and personal has gone over very well,” she says. “We get people from Middletown, the Highlands and all over. The public loves that they can really see what was going on with the different musicians. Some maybe are seeing the Orchestra for the first time, but I think we also get a lot of Orchestra-goers … I love Teddy. He tells stories and makes classical music really interesting and fun.”

BeethovenAbrams will conduct every Music Without Borders show except for the three performances of the “All Beethoven” concert.

Rowland is spicing things up a bit this year by bookending the performance with an art, wine, cheese and dessert reception. Multimedia work from local artists will be on display and for sale, along with free libations and sophisticated munchies. There will also be chances to win local artwork and other prizes like restaurant gift certificates.

But back to Bernhardt and Beethoven.

“We don’t have a lot of Beethoven in our traditional season this year, so this will be a great way to make sure we’re highlighting Beethoven,” Kipe says.

In addition to enjoying lots of Ludwig von, concert-goers will also be helping celebrate Bernhardt’s 20th season as the LO’s principal pops conductor and 35 total years with the Orchestra.

Bernhardt put a lot of thought into programming his fascinating smorgasbord of pieces and selected works that don’t get as much play as the Fifth Symphony and other ubiquitous favorites.

“What I like to do when I start programming is put together a list of too much music, look at it all and whittle it down,” he says. “This show is a little of this and a little of that, with one exception. The centerpiece of the concert is the complete Eighth Symphony. I wanted to do one complete symphony and the Eighth is the sunniest of the Beethoven symphonies.”

It’s also among the shortest, clocking in at just under a half hour.

Adds Bernhardt, “It has an exuberant first movement and a really clever second movement that’s actually a tribute to the metronome, which was invented at about the time he wrote this symphony.”

Beethoven composed the symphony in 1812.

Bernhardt said the second movement echoes the steady pulse of a metronome, a ticking device used to measure beats and help the musician maintain a consistent tempo.

The symphony continues with a gentle minuet-like third movement Bernhardt describes as “happy and beautiful,” and concludes with a fiery fourth movement.

“The last movement is a barn-burner, really fun and really fast,” Bernhardt says.  “It’s just a thrilling finale, which will be a great way to end the concert.”

The show opens with the overture to “Coriolan,” a tragic 1804 play by Heinrich Joseph Von Collins about the ancient Roman leader Gaius Marcius Coriolanus. Most people are more familiar with Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus,” about the same subject.

The overture, which Bernhardt calls “extremely dramatic,” was written as a prelude to Collins’ play.

Also on the roster is the overture to a rarely-to never performed 1801 ballet called “The Creatures of Prometheus.”

“‘The Creatures of Prometheus’ happens to be Beethoven’s only full-length ballet and this overture is only about five minutes long,” Bernhardt says. “It’s an effervescent, absolute charmer of an overture.”

That’s just a taste of the Beethoven buffet. Bernhardt will also serve up the jovial and lively “Turkish March,” the first movement of the Sixth Symphony, known as the “Pastoral,” and the second movement of the First Symphony.

The LO is eager to get the Music Without Borders shows on the road.

“This is just a really important part of the vision of the Louisville Orchestra,” Kipe says. “Being out and about is just as important as playing a great concert at Whitney Hall. VT

The LG&E Music Without Borders concerts and the Neighborhood Series at the Ogle Center in New Albany run from September 29 through April 21. Single tickets are $20 and available by calling the Kentucky Center box office at 502.584.7777 or the Ogle Center box office at 812.941.2525 or by visiting louisvilleorchestra.org.

Story by Tamara Ikenberg