PORTLAND -- The Portland Symphony Orchestra will continue its three-season Beethoven series at the upcoming “‘Eroica’ ... plus Rhapsody in Blue” concerts, held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15 and at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17. The concerts, conducted by Music Director Robert Moody, will feature the premiere of a new composition inspired by Beethoven’s music and life from Michael-Thomas Foumai, the winner of the PSO’s Young American Composer Competition.
The concerts open with Foumai’s piece, composed in celebration of the PSO’s 90th anniversary. Foumai was selected from a number of finalists to write a fanfare work for this specific concert. He details his creative process in a “Becoming Beethoven” video series that can be found on PSO’s YouTube page. Foumai describes his music as being story-based and inspired by storytelling. Often composing works based on literature, poetry, art, film and history, he uses all and any form of musical language to construct the human experiences he finds in his inspirations.
Guest pianist Kevin Cole joins the orchestra for Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, one of the most famous pieces of American music ever written. Cole is an award-winning musical director, arranger, composer, vocalist and archivist whose performances, especially his interpretation of Gershwin, have prompted accolades from some of the foremost critics in America. Cole’s performance of Rhapsody with the PSO occurs almost 91 years to the day after its premiere at Symphony Hall in New York, when jazz was brought into the concert hall for the first time.
Finally, the orchestra moves into Beethoven’s Third Symphony, “Eroica,” a salute to heroes. Beethoven originally wrote the piece to honor Napoleon Bonaparte, who Beethoven believed would spread democracy through Europe. As Beethoven was reaching the final stages of composition, Napoleon declared himself Emperor, destroying any hopes Beethoven had for a change in the system. He subsequently erased all ties to Napoleon, but the piece remained an homage to the true heroes of the world.
Fans interested in learning more before they attend the concerts can listen to an online playlist, watch Moody’s online insights video, or read the PSO’s program notes, all of which can be found online at PortlandSymphony.org.
The final Beethoven concert of the 2014-15 season will be Beethoven’s Seventh on April 19 and 21. The series will continue with three more Beethoven symphonies in the 2015-2016 season.
In addition, to introduce young fans to the composer, the PSO’s KinderKonzert series delves into the life and times of Ludwig von Beethoven, from the music he listened to as a child to his earliest compositions and even his ability to persevere through hearing loss and continue to compose incredible symphonies.
Tickets to the concert range from $25-$75 and are available through 207-842-0800 or www.porttix.com. Tickets may also be purchased 20 Myrtle St., Monday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.