Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs Orchestra (www.steamboatorchestra.org) has become increasingly professional under the able direction of Ernest Richardson. At this point, about 20 of the orchestra's 30 musicians are paid to perform, a number that will increase as more meet professional standards. Such standards include getting it right the first time, and last weekend's concert came close - it required only three rehearsals. The compositions are selected in part to provide an appropriate challenge for the musicians as well as to delight the audience.
The performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 41 "Jupiter" and Beethoven's 7th Symphony represented another step to a higher level of virtuosity. Perhaps it is audacious for such a small orchestra to attempt such an ambitious program. Nevertheless, both symphonies were performed flawlessly. It is not important that the orchestra lacked the full complement of instruments of big city philharmonics because the venue at Steamboat Christian Center is small and has fine acoustics.
By way of introduction, Richardson gave a brief talk that supplemented the program notes with interesting biographical information about the composers, germane to their work. The audience learned, for example, that Mozart was an extremely facile composer who was known to have finished works while in a carriage on the way to their performances. Beethoven was more plodding. Richardson also explained that the fourth movement of the "Jupiter" is a double fugue.
A fugue is like a round with the repeated theme superimposed on the original a little early or late, and then again, repeatedly, building enormous complexity. A double fugue is that to the second power. Most remarkable as this is as an intellectual achievement, the end result is an expression of the purest joy. The "Jupiter" is the 41st of Mozart's symphonies and is the first to demonstrate that he had gotten the form sorted out and established. Beethoven's 7th Symphony is no different structurally.
Mozart was dependent on the patronage of wealthy noblemen but was too mouthy to keep a position for long. So between patrons, he would compose works to be performed for his own benefit. Beethoven, at a somewhat later date, was able to do this full time. The French Revolution largely did away with, or otherwise discredited, nobility, and Beethoven himself was imbued with egalitarian notions. As his deafness grew worse, it became a deep dark secret because he feared it would discredit him as a composer should the public find him out.
Becoming increasingly reclusive, he took long walks in the country in the afternoon and composed in his head, then wrote it down in the evening and the following morning.
The first movement of the "Jupiter" is lyrical but much grander than we have come to expect of Mozart. It is denoted "Allegro Vivace." The second, denoted "Andante Cantabile" is as it says, a song. The third, described as "Minuetto," is much grander than the second and suggests the boisterousness of a tavern. The fourth, denoted "Molto Allegro," has soft lyrical passages between loud crescendos that increase in frequency and volume.
Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 is often called by way of mnemonic device, the "Train Symphony." The reason is most apparent in the second movement as the rhythm becomes established. In the third movement, the train is faster and there are whistles. In the fourth, we are really railroading. This is, of course, anachronistic. Really, the first describes peasants marching to a country dance. The gaiety builds in the next two movements, and in the fourth, we hear what Richardson describes as a peasant dance on steroids. Beethoven has elevated the common people to the level of the deposed nobility.