The Wichita Symphony Orchestra presents one of the best-known pieces in classical music, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, in a program next weekend that also includes works by Jean Sibelius (Symphony No. 7) and Dmitri Shostakovich (Piano Concerto No. 1).
The connection: All three pieces arose out of some sort of chaos, loss or confusion on the part of their composers. Ludwig van Beethoven had famously become deaf (he would go on to create two more symphonies, using his “inner ear” as guide). Shostakovich was laboring under the repressive Soviet regime, and Sibelius, for whatever reason, never finished another symphony despite living another 30 years.
Nevertheless, the pieces are full of life, according to Daniel Hege, the symphony’s conductor and musical director.
“It’s part of Beethoven’s heroic period that has that incredible infectiousness, almost out-of-this-world joy,” Hege said. Sibelius’ symphony builds from short musical motifs into a “gorgeous, wonderful piece filled with melody and triumph,” while Shostakovich’s work makes playful references to Beethoven and other composers, as part of a “satirical” work that commented on his times without the necessity of possibly incriminating words.
The featured artist: Pianist Adam Neiman and Hege go back to when Neiman was a kid of about 11 and a member of Disney’s Young Musicians Orchestra. Hege conducted the group for a television audience of 50 million viewers on the Disney Channel.
“He was a little kid, and he was really good,” Hege said.
He still is, according to the conductor, having now added composition to his repertoire. “I think he’s the perfect player for the Shostakovich,” Hege said. “He’s an excellent composer with a big repertoire. He’s just very mature, a good thinker, super-nice person and great pianist.”
And don’t overlook: David Hunsicker, the symphony’s principal trumpet player, plays a major part in the same work. “The piece is known as a concerto for piano and trumpet and strings,” Hege said. “It’s not as big (as the piano) but it is a very substantial role that the solo trumpet plays. It’s a big thing for him.”
You’re invited: Hege’s talk before the concert starts at 7 p.m. and is free. He uses the session to talk about the backgrounds of the composers whose works are being played. There’s usually a piano present, and Hege said Neiman will probably pop in to play briefly.
Don’t worry: There are two symphonies on the same bill, but both are short as symphonies go, with the Sibelius piece lasting only 20 minutes. “That’s a very short symphony,” Hege said. “It has four distinct movements. It’s really called a symphony in one movement. It’s almost like an overture to the program.”
So … Saturday or Sunday’s performance? Hege can’t say which will be better – the first exciting performance or the encore, with one under the belt. “Even if we tried to make the same (performance), we still wouldn’t be able to. There’s something always slightly different in the air, a different energy in the audience, some other experience we’ve had on the way.”
If You Go
Wichita Symphony presents Beethoven's 7th
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 14 and 3 p.m. Nov. 15
Where: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas
Tickets: $19-$57, with discounts available for students, seniors and military; wichitasymphony.org.