16 minutes



Portland Symphony Orchestra



Becoming Beethoven



February 17, 2015

Portland Symphony Orchestra

Robert Moody, conductor

Portland, ME, USA


Becoming Beethoven has two meanings that have served as the inspiration for this work. The first being my role to figuratively become Beethoven to discover and explore what makes Beethoven sound like Beethoven and to channel that voice and energy into my own music. The second refers to Beethoven’s hearing loss and the premise to compose a work illustrating Beethoven’s struggle to cope with deafness.


The work is in three large sections and is a large progression from darkness to light. The first section begins as the opening of the Ninth Symphony, with a crescendo. This large crescendo begins with bell-like percussion, to symbolize the ringing in the ear that foreshadows deafness, and builds into stormy and turbulent music. Descending scales and glissandi are used with several rhythmic and transformed melodic motives from the Fifth and Ninth Symphonies to illustrate an aggressive descent into a kind of madness. This is the darkness and anguish of Beethoven’s hearing loss, his thoughts on suicide and the eventual blurring and loss of familiar sound.


The middle section emerges from the darkness into a lighter and less heavy music symbolizing Beethoven’s love of nature. This section contains flourishing woodwind passages and a melody based on a melodic fragment from the Fifth Symphony. An escape from the darkness, the music moves toward pastoral atmospheres. Glissandi and downward scales are still present as a lingering reminder of the struggle to cope with deafness and depression.


The final section returns suddenly with the former turbulent music but moves into a heroic and triumphant transformation to light. This light is represented with the appearance of motives and progressions from the Sixth Symphony. The work concludes in a fanfare-like section recapping a Fifth Symphony motive where descending and ascending scales signify Beethoven’s heroic triumph over darkness and deafness.


Perusal recording available by request.

© 2004-2020 Michael-Thomas Foumai. All rights reserved.