Program Notes

Beethoven’s Eroica

November 18th, 2021

First, celebrate the entire orchestra with us in the six-minute journey that is Julia Perry’s A Short Piece for Small Orchestra. Then, Carlos Simon’s Portrait of a Queen, narrated by Tarriona “Tank” Ball, traces the evolution of black people in America through the lens of one figurative black woman who represents strength, courage, and selflessness. The evening will conclude with the unforgettable grandeur of Beethoven’s Eroica! In his third symphony, one of his most celebrated works, Beethoven began to tell us how he felt and what being alive meant to him.

Conductor

Joseph Young

Guest Artists

Tarriona “Tank” Ball (Narrator)

LPO Musicians

Guest Artist Bios

Tarriona “Tank” Ball

Hailing from New Orleans, Tarriona “Tank” Ball is the frontwoman of the Grammy-nominated group Tank and The Bangas.

The four-piece group has a rare knack for combining various musical styles – fiery soul, deft hip-hop, deep-drove R&B, and subtle jazz – into one dazzling, cohesive whole that evokes the scope of New Orleans music while retaining a distinctive feel all its own.

Tank and The Bangas released their major-label debut album “Green Balloon” in May 2019, and most recently released the band’s follow-up EP “Friend Goals” with a host of features included PJ Morton, CHIKA, Pell, and Duckwrth to name a few.

Tarriona “Tank” Ball has collaborated with acts like Mikey Hart, Norah Jones, Tayla Parx, and Jacob Collier to name a few. She’s also had the opportunity to her stunning vocals to Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) on the track “I’ll Be Seeing You” and One Night In Miami on the track “Howlin Wolf”

Joseph Young

Praised for his suavely adventurous programing, Joseph Young is increasingly recognized as “one of the most gifted conductors of his generation.”  Joseph is Music Director of the Berkeley Symphony, Artistic Director of Ensembles for the Peabody Conservatory, and Resident Conductor of the National Youth Orchestra–USA at Carnegie Hall.   In recent years, he has made appearances with the Saint Louis Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Colorado Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, Bamberger Symphoniker,  New World Symphony Orchestra, Spoleto Festival Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Música, and the Orquesta Sinfonica y Coro de RTVE (Madrid); among others in the U.S. and Europe.

In his most recent role, Joseph served as the Assistant Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony where he conducted more than 50 concerts per season  Mr. Young also served as the Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, where he was the driving force behind the ensemble’s artistic growth.  Previous appointments have included Resident Conductor of the Phoenix Symphony and the League of American Orchestras Conducting Fellow with Buffalo Philharmonic and Baltimore Symphony.

Joseph is a recipient of the 2015 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award for young conductors, an award he also won in 2008, and 2014.  In 2013, Joseph was a Semi-finalist in the Gustav Mahler International Conducting Competition (Bamberg, Germany). In 2011, he was one out of six conductors featured in the League of American Orchestras’ prestigious Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview.

Joseph completed graduate studies with Gustav Meier and Markand Thakar at the Peabody Conservatory in 2009, earning an artist’s diploma in conducting.  He has been mentored by many world-renowned conductors including Jorma Panula, Robert Spano, and Marin Alsop whom he continues to maintain a close relationship.

Composers

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) — Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, Opus 55 (“Eroica”) (1805)

Composed for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, three horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings.

Performance length: Approximately 45 minutes

First performed by the LPO in April 1992

Most recently performed in February 2016

Beethoven originally dedicated his third symphony to the French military leader Napolean, who embodied many of the humanistic ideals that Beethoven believed in. However, when Napoleon declared himself emperor of France Beethoven so violently scratched the inscription off the title page that it left the paper in tatters. Beethoven renamed the work a “Heroic symphony – to the memory of a great man.” The symphony was subsequently dedicated to Prince Joseph Lobkowitz, who was one of Beethoven’s primary benefactors (and to whom many of his middle-period compositions were dedicated.)


Eroica stands as the gateway to Beethoven’s middle compositional period and is often considered the first romantic symphony, as it revolutionized the symphonic form. The fact that this work single-handedly changed the trajectory of the symphony is a testament to the vision and talent of Beethoven’s skill as a composer. Not only was its length unprecedented for that time, but the composer’s choice in expanding and extending traditional musical forms to suit his tastes was unlike anything audiences had ever seen before.

Reception for the Eroica was mixed, with many decrying the work’s length while others declared it a masterpiece. Beethoven apparently counted himself amongst the latter group, feeling that the amount of applause the symphony received at its premiere was not “sufficiently outstanding.” Regardless of this initial response, it has become one of Beethoven’s most popular symphonies and one of the most important symphonies in the history of classical music.

From its opening E-flat blasts, the Allegro con brio drops us into a melody that seemingly was underway before we arrived. Beethoven nudges his listener unapologetically into a musical journey that sweeps us through unexpected corners and turns. While the movement follows a traditional sonata form, there are moments where that structure is obscured by Beethoven’s writing, as though he were playfully luring us into a good joke.
The second movement, Marcia funebre, adagio assai, likely has the distinction of being the second-most famous funeral march that Beethoven composed for his symphonies (the first being found in his seventh.) Beethoven expands in his writing in this movement, seemingly unhurried as he gives ample time for each melodic variation to unfold naturally.

The third movement, Scherzo, allegro vivace – trio, is a lively mixture of explosive and playful textures as Beethoven demonstrates the full range of the orchestra’s dynamic and musical responsiveness. A hunting call from the French horns bookends the trio section before returning us for one more fast trip through the scherzo.

The finale, Allegro molto – Poco Andante – Presto, is composed of a theme and variations – ten variations, to be precise. The theme comes from Beethoven’s previous works The Creatures of Prometheus and his Variations and Fugue for Piano. Through the course of these variations Beethoven visits a wide and colorful range of characters and writing techniques until we reach a fiery, explosive coda that is just as surprising as the symphony’s first opening notes.

Carlos Simon (b. 1986) — Portrait of a Queen

Composed for narrator, flute, oboe, clarinet & bass clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, two trombones, timpani, percussion, piano, and strings.

Performance length: approx. 16 minutes

LPO premiere of this work at tonight’s concert

Composed in 2017 on commission by the American Composers Orchestra, Carlos Simon dedicated this work to his mother and grandmother who “have wholeheartedly displayed the portrait of a queen by their unselfish and loving character.” 

Portrait of a Queen follows the historical journey of an African American woman. It opens by depicting her as a leader in Africa, then follows her enslavement on an American plantation, her life under Jim Crow laws, and finally her transformation into the matriarch found in many American churches today.

The composer says this about his inspiration for the work: “Women have always played vital roles in African-American communities. I have known women to have strong but warm, caring temperaments. She is elegant and prideful. She carries herself with distinction and class. Her guidance is given with both tender love and fitness. She is the backbone and cornerstone of her community. She gives wise instruction to those of all ages, especially the younger generations. She teaches the young girls how to be women and the boys how to treat a woman. Her character does not change with the ages, but it is passed on from generation to generation. With every struggle and change presented, she is there providing support and direction for her community.”

The work, while divided into four movements, is performed attacca (without pause) so that the journey of our heroine transitions seamlessly from one chapter to the next. The musical landscape shifts around us as we move from one portion of the story to the next.

The “prologue” is derived from a Ghanian song Mo mmra ma yengoro (Come let us play), in which the entire orchestra turns into a West African drum ensemble. 

A Crown Forgotten refers to the spiritual Oh, Freedom. Glissandi in the orchestra are meant to convey the cries of captured slaves against the swell of the sea.

Jim Crow makes references to the gospel song Don’t You Let Nobody Turn You Around, which was used as a protest song during Civil Rights demonstrations. 

The final movement uses the melody from Great is Thy Faithfulness, a favorite hymn of the composer’s mother.

Julia Perry (1924 – 1979) — Short Piece for Orchestra (1943)

Composed for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, two trombones, timpani, percussion, piano/celeste and strings.

Performance length: approx. 8 minutes

LPO premiere of this work at tonight’s concert

Julia Amanda Perry was born in Lexington, Kentucky. She completed her first musical studies at Westminster Choir College in New Jersey where she studied voice, composition, and piano. She later studied at the Tanglewood Institute and the Juilliard School of Music before she traveled to Europe to study with Nadia Boulanger. After she returned to the United States, she took up teaching positions with historically black colleges in Tallahassee and Atlanta. 

As an African American woman, Perry’s music was largely unknown until 1965 when the New York Philharmonic performed and recorded her Short Piece for Orchestra at Lincoln Center. Even though this short composition is her most well-known work, she left behind a large catalog which includes three operas and twelve symphonies.

Her life and career were severely hampered in 1970 when she suffered the first of several strokes which left her paralyzed on the right side of her body. She taught herself to write with her left hand and continued to compose and teach even while her health declined. She died at the age of 55 in Akron, Ohio. 

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