The Veil of the Immortal Beethoven (Minnesota Orchestra) – Twin Cities Arts Reader

A portrait of composer Ludwig van Beethoven superimposed on a photograph of Orchestra Hall by Greg Helgeson.

Minnesota Orchestra One Night Concert Immortal Beethoven Saturday’s event was one of its hall’s most distinctive nights in recent memory. It was certainly not a traditional concert at all.

Imagine a crazy bedtime story by your eccentric and eccentric aunt and uncle. Imagine then that each anecdote is followed by a few minutes of classical music to illustrate the scene. Add the specter of a ragged, industrious man (this would be composer Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827) who stumbles in and out of frame, doing strange things. Now imagine that the narration and the tortured composer were provided by the famous (and very quirky) theater troupe The Moving Company, and that the classical music came not from a CD player or a streaming service, but from live from the Minnesota Orchestra. It’s more or less the tenor (or, if you prefer, the bassoon) of the evening.

It was not a performance for aficionados who know Beethoven’s biography inside and out. Nor was it for those who prefer full symphonies to excerpts, or who wouldn’t consider listening to just the opening movement of the Moonlight Sonata. The sweet spot of the performance was for those who were a bit more laid back or new to their engagement with Beethoven, who wanted to learn a bit more and get a taste of the music’s tasting flights.

One of the most interesting ideas of the evening was trying to capture Beethoven’s world of sound as he dealt with increasing hearing loss. These audibility shards – sonic glows – were an elegant and thought-provoking device, and caused a few audience members to knowingly tap their hearing aids and whisper to their comrades. Another was to graphically depict some of the composer’s privations, whims and irascibility in his later years – anecdotes that many students and music fans know, but all the more vivid when rendered through the performances. by Nathan Keepers of The Moving Company, Sarah Agnew and Steven Epp.

For The Moving Company fans who arrived on Saturday evening, the performance was highly anticipated and warmly received. As they left the show, a group of high school kids enthusiastically discussed the 70-minute night without intermission, with one saying, “Perfect length for a concert! Some of the more regular audience members discussed their favorite tunes teased in the musical performances (led by Sarah Hicks) as they roamed the aisles, debating what they would have included and why. This one wasn’t so much for the very dedicated fans, but the closing monologue was worth the wait.

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