In 2020, music lovers all over the world are marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth with concerts, recitals and works commissioned for the celebration.
Thomas Heuser, music director of The San Juan Symphony, has already begun the tribute by giving talks about Beethoven, Romantic Genius. Heuser is set to give more talks before the upcoming twin concerts Saturday night in Farmington and Sunday afternoon in Durango.
Mischievously titled “Beethoven@250,” the concerts will feature two big works by the master and a new work commissioned by Heuser from American composer David Biedenbender especially for this moment.
Composer and conductor met at a contemporary music festival in 2013. Biedenbender said Heuser approached him about a possible commission, “and I gladly said yes. I’ve seen Thomas work his magic with an orchestra, and I’m excited to collaborate on this piece.”
Biedenbender’s work, “something deeply hidden,” will be framed by two large Beethoven works: the Leonore Overture No. 3, Op 72 and Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 53, the “Eroica.”
Humbled by the commission, placement on the program and the fact that this is a world premiere, Biedenbender said he deliberately scored his orchestral work to match the famous overture and followed with a detailed description of instrumentation. That’s a boon for any orchestra and conductor, not to mention the stage personnel who have to set up and redistribute chairs and music stands.
More important, Biedenbender said he was inspired by the Third Symphony: “The heroic opening often gives way to music of heartrending melancholy ... revealing a darker meaning beneath the bright surface.”
His title, “Something Deeply Hidden,” comes from an Albert Einstein quote: “Something deeply hidden had to be behind things.”
“In Beethoven’s work, we get a glimpse of someone who felt especially deeply, a glimpse into a person whose passion and urgency and hope for what was possible in the world seemed to pour out of him like an endless fountain,” Biedenbender said.
In the five-minute work, Biedenbender said, “The piece is a parallel universe to Eroica – a musing that starts with some of the same musical material but takes it in a very different direction.”
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.