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Beethoven's Ninth at UC San Diego Epstein Family Amphitheater

Michael Francis - Image by Ken Jacques
Michael Francis

“...Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Mainly Mozart Music Director Michael Francis incorporated this quote by Winston Churchill during his opening comments about Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Beethoven’s celebration of joy was the closing piece of the 2023 Mainly Mozart Festival. The concert was held at UC San Diego’s Epstein Family Amphitheater on Saturday, June 24.

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As Francis mapped out Beethoven’s struggle and ultimate triumph, I found myself becoming emotionally involved. I was not alone. After the concert, audience members confirmed that they too had become teary-eyed during the opening talk. It was, by far, the most impactful talk I’ve ever heard about a concert. When Francis concluded his thoughts, an audience member shouted, “Bravo”!

The performance that followed fulfilled the potential of the speech Francis had delivered. The players had heard the speech as well and appeared to have found their own internal inspiration as did the chorus and soloists.

As the performance concluded, the audience leapt to its feet and roared. It was not a loud applause, it was a bonafide roar of the kind one might expect to hear in an Italian opera house. Had this concert been performed indoors the audience might still be there applauding even now.

Francis tapped into a baseline human experience, one that Beethoven was all too familiar with. That experience is a hard fact of life. Struggle. To face adversity and to overcome it is the essence of living the lives we have all been blessed with.

Beethoven’s music is dripping with this phenomenon. We all know about Beethoven’s deafness but unless one has read The Heiligenstadt Testament then the depths of Beethoven’s distress remain a bit unexplored.

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Immortal Beloved: Ode to Joy scene

The testament was written in 1802 and discovered after Beethoven’s death in 1827. In it, Beethoven laments the loss of his hearing and confirms his commitment to his art.

“But what a humiliation for me when someone standing next to me heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard a shepherd singing and again I heard nothing. Such incidents drove me almost to despair, a little more of that and I would have ended my life...It was only my art that held me back. Oh, it seemed impossible to me to leave this world before I had produced all that I felt capable of producing, and so I prolonged this wretched existence — truly wretched for so susceptible a body that a sudden change can plunge me from the best into the worst of states.”

That Beethoven was capable of producing the “Ode to Joy” at the conclusion of The Ninth is a miracle. Miraculous is the exact word I would use to describe the performance turned in by Francis, The Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra, the quartet of soloists, and the San Diego Master Chorale.

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Michael Francis - Image by Ken Jacques
Michael Francis

“...Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Mainly Mozart Music Director Michael Francis incorporated this quote by Winston Churchill during his opening comments about Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Beethoven’s celebration of joy was the closing piece of the 2023 Mainly Mozart Festival. The concert was held at UC San Diego’s Epstein Family Amphitheater on Saturday, June 24.

Sponsored
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As Francis mapped out Beethoven’s struggle and ultimate triumph, I found myself becoming emotionally involved. I was not alone. After the concert, audience members confirmed that they too had become teary-eyed during the opening talk. It was, by far, the most impactful talk I’ve ever heard about a concert. When Francis concluded his thoughts, an audience member shouted, “Bravo”!

The performance that followed fulfilled the potential of the speech Francis had delivered. The players had heard the speech as well and appeared to have found their own internal inspiration as did the chorus and soloists.

As the performance concluded, the audience leapt to its feet and roared. It was not a loud applause, it was a bonafide roar of the kind one might expect to hear in an Italian opera house. Had this concert been performed indoors the audience might still be there applauding even now.

Francis tapped into a baseline human experience, one that Beethoven was all too familiar with. That experience is a hard fact of life. Struggle. To face adversity and to overcome it is the essence of living the lives we have all been blessed with.

Beethoven’s music is dripping with this phenomenon. We all know about Beethoven’s deafness but unless one has read The Heiligenstadt Testament then the depths of Beethoven’s distress remain a bit unexplored.

Video:

Immortal Beloved: Ode to Joy scene

The testament was written in 1802 and discovered after Beethoven’s death in 1827. In it, Beethoven laments the loss of his hearing and confirms his commitment to his art.

“But what a humiliation for me when someone standing next to me heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard a shepherd singing and again I heard nothing. Such incidents drove me almost to despair, a little more of that and I would have ended my life...It was only my art that held me back. Oh, it seemed impossible to me to leave this world before I had produced all that I felt capable of producing, and so I prolonged this wretched existence — truly wretched for so susceptible a body that a sudden change can plunge me from the best into the worst of states.”

That Beethoven was capable of producing the “Ode to Joy” at the conclusion of The Ninth is a miracle. Miraculous is the exact word I would use to describe the performance turned in by Francis, The Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra, the quartet of soloists, and the San Diego Master Chorale.

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