Beethoven 1

Beethoven 1 in Concert

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Beethoven 1: Immortal Beloved

“Ever thine. Ever mine. Ever ours.” Beethoven wrote these words in an intimate letter to his Immortal Beloved, whose identity remains a mystery. His astonishing legacy of masterpieces, however, is no mystery. The Calgary Phil launched The Year of Beethoven concert series — a tribute to the greatest symphonic composer of all time in celebration of his 250th birthday — on 14 February 2020. The first performance featured Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, paired with his Piano Concerto No. 1 performed by Clayton Stephenson, and Violin Romance No. 1 performed by Yesong Sophie Lee. The concert opened with Fantasy on a Theme by Beethoven, a new commission by Larysa Kuzmenko inspired by Beethoven’s first symphony.

This concert is presented in partnership with Morningside Music Bridge.

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Immortal Beloved in Concert

“Ever thine. Ever mine. Ever ours.” Beethoven wrote these words in an intimate letter to his Immortal Beloved, whose identity remains a mystery. His astonishing legacy of masterpieces, however, is no mystery. The Calgary Phil launched The Year of Beethoven concert series — a tribute to the greatest symphonic composer of all time in celebration of his 250th birthday — on 14 February 2020. The first performance features Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 paired with his Piano Concerto No. 1 and Violin Romance No. 1. The concert opens with Fantasy on a Theme by Beethoven, a new commission by Larysa Kuzmenko inspired by Beethoven’s first symphony.

This concert is presented in partnership with Morningside Music Bridge.

Sponsors + Supporters


Larysa Kuzmenko: Fantasy on a Theme by Beethoven

Beethoven: Violin Romance No. 1 in G Major, Op. 40

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15

Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21

Learn more about the Program

Rune Bergmann Conductor
Larysa Kuzmenko Composer
Yesong Sophie Lee Violin
Clayton Stephenson Piano

Larsya Kuzmenko Fantasy on a Theme by Beethoven 8’
Beethoven Romance No. 1 in G Major for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 40 8′
  Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15 36′
  I. Allegro con brio

II. Largo

III. Rondo: Allegro

  Intermission 20′


Symphony No.1 in C Major, Op. 21 26′
  I. Adagio molto — Allegro con brio

II. Andante cantabile con moto

III. Menuetto: Allegro molto e vivace

IV. Finale: Adagio — Allegro molto e vivace


This concert features the debut of a new work by Canadian composer Larysa Kuzmenko, commissioned by the Calgary Phil. She has provided the following program note:

Fantasy on a Theme by Beethoven (World Premiere)

Larysa Kuzmenko
b. 1956

I was asked to write an eight-minute work, featuring the oboe, inspired by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1. I chose to write a theme and variations loosely based on the main theme of the first movement. (Beethoven’s original theme is C G B C C, while my version is D Ab C D D.)

The theme goes through different permutations, but remains recognizable, largely because of its shape and rhythm. The work opens with the theme being presented in a fugal texture by strings alone. There are variations that feature the solo oboe, and others that feature horns, trumpets, and even timpani, which, appropriately, was first featured as a solo orchestral instrument by Beethoven in his ninth symphony. The biggest challenge when writing this piece was being restricted to Beethoven’s instrumentation — the orchestra in the classical era was much smaller than the contemporary orchestra. My other orchestral scores generally include trombones, bass clarinet, tuba, and a variety of percussion instruments.


Romance No. 1 in G Major for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 40

Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770 to 1827)

Little is known about the creation of Beethoven’s two romances, save that they date from the early years of the 19th century. Some writers believe that he composed them as possible continuations of an earlier concerto, of which only the first movement has survived. Others see them as ‘dry runs’ for the slow movement of the masterful, full‑scale Concerto in D Major (1806). Whatever the case, they are charming and gracious works.


Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15

Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven arrived in Vienna in 1792, intending merely to finish his musical education with Joseph Haydn before returning to Bonn. Circumstances led him to change those plans. The Austrian capital was destined to remain his centre of activities for the remainder of his life. He won his first fame there as a pianist. He also composed solo piano works for his own performance. He revised certain of his existing creations as well, including the Piano Concerto No. 2, his earliest complete work in this form. In order to retain the performing rights to it, he delayed its publication until 1801. This explains why it is numbered higher than Concerto No. 1, which he composed in 1796 and 1797. Beethoven played the solo part at the premiere of the Concerto in C, as he would with the first four of the five piano concertos.


Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21

Ludwig van Beethoven

Haydn and Mozart were Beethoven’s primary predecessors in the field of the symphony, which during Beethoven’s early career had not yet achieved the status of the most vital musical form. He was destined to change that. It wasn’t until 1799, several years after Haydn and Mozart had composed their final symphonies, that he developed enough self-confidence to test those same, daunting creative waters. Symphony No. 1 premiered in Vienna in April 1800. He did not intend it as a major or individual statement, but to demonstrate that he fully understood the current style. It fulfills that modest ambition perfectly, providing high-quality entertainment and the occasional flash of individuality (a gruff sense of humour, for example) that he would build upon in the future.


Programme Notes for Beethoven by Don Anderson © 2019


The year 2020 marks Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday! To celebrate, orchestras all over the world are performing concerts and series honouring his life and work. The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra brings the festivities to this city by performing, throughout the year, the full cycle of Beethoven’s nine symphonies, as well as all of his piano concertos and some of his other beloved works. Beethoven’s music defies any one descriptor. At one moment it’s monumental and dramatic, the next intimate and heartfelt. It can be cerebral and mysterious, or lighthearted and fun. But one statement can be made in certainty: Beethoven’s music is unlike anything written before or since. Even now, 200 years after his lifetime, we look back at Beethoven as an artist whose creative genius was imaginative, uncompromising, and unprecedented. Here’s why I think Beethoven is a true Game Changer:

Beethoven changed the meaning of the word ‘symphony’

Today we think of a symphony as a monumental work, the ultimate test of a composer’s command of their craft and a supreme expression of their creativity. When we sit down to hear a symphony, whether by Brahms, Shostakovich, or Mahler, we are expecting a long, complex, sensational work. Mahler famously said, “a symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything.” But before Beethoven, the symphony was a fairly mundane genre, often produced quickly and in large quantities (Haydn wrote 107). Beethoven tapped the symphony’s potential in a way no one had before: his Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) in particular expanded our idea of what is possible in a symphony and, for that matter, in music. Not only was it longer — Eroica’s first movement alone was longer than many symphonies of the time — but it also pushed the boundaries in its form, harmonies, and emotional content. He continued to revolutionize, making the orchestra bigger (Beethoven’s fifth is the first symphony to use trombones) and eventually even including voices in his titanic ninth. His legacy in symphonic music is evident in the myth of “the curse of the ninth”: the superstition that a composer’s ninth symphony is destined to be his last (as nobody can surpass Beethoven).

Beethoven bridged the gap between the Classical and Romantic eras

Many of the composers we consider to be the ‘greats’ were great because they were experts who mastered their respective styles and built on the foundations of what came before to reach new levels of sophistication. Bach, for instance, is considered the greatest Baroque-era composer of all time, but he didn’t invent any of the conventions of Baroque music — he was simply extremely well trained in the Baroque tradition, a style of music that was considered old-fashioned by the end of his life. Mozart, similarly, is ‘great’ because although he wrote in the same style as everyone else composing at the time, he did it better.

Beethoven, however, is an example of a great composer who was on the cutting edge of music, who was the avant-garde of his time. Before Beethoven, there was no Romantic Era, but after him, few wanted to write in the Classical style any longer. You can trace the transition through the cycle of his nine symphonies, from the first two, which are modelled on those of Haydn and Mozart, through the innovation of his third and fifth symphonies, to the incredible scope and Romanticism of his ninth. But his music is not just famous for its newness: it is also incredibly profound, beautiful, and skillfully written. Extraordinarily, Beethoven did not just help invent a new style of music, he also perfected it.

Beethoven took a whole new approach to composing music

Romanticism was primarily a literary movement and it was already established when Beethoven became the first to take its ideals and apply them to the way he wrote music. Instead of the ‘naturalness’ or perfection of the Classical era, Romantic artists sought to express their authentic selves, to capture all the tragedy and comedy of the human experience. Structure and refinement gave way to emotion, and the inner world of the artist.

Most music of the earlier Classical era relied heavily on what we call ‘form,’ or a kind of musical structure. Audiences of the time were familiar with the way composers communicated their ideas and intentions — which keys were used where, systematic repetition of certain melodies, and the character and tempo of each movement.

Beethoven broke all these rules, and not simply for the sake of it: it was always in service of whatever he wanted to express, whether that was incredible drama or the most intimate, personal sentiments. Some of his later works, notably his late string quartets and piano sonatas, use almost no traditional form at all, and instead follow a stream of consciousness, passing from one idea to the next as quickly as they can be perceived, the way thoughts can melt away before we even fully think them.

This is the heart of what was revolutionary about Beethoven’s music: it was not about God or beauty or what the public wanted to hear; it was about what it was like to be Beethoven and therefore to be human.


This is an important year for classical music — 2020 signifies the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven, a composer whose works have stood the test of time and influenced many who followed in his footsteps. However, for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO), it also marks the year of five world premieres in as many months, all part of the Orchestra’s 2020: The Year of Beethoven celebrations.

“We decided to feature the first five Beethoven symphonies, paired with his five piano concertos,” says Vincent Ho, New Music Advisor for the CPO. But, he adds, they wanted to take it one step further and do something extra special. “We decided we should commission five composers from Canada to write concert openers for these five shows.”

The project was made possible thanks to the DeBoni New Works Programme, which was started by longtime supporters Irene and Walt DeBoni to contribute to the development and commissioning of new Canadian works. Ho says the CPO deliberately sought to collaborate with a diverse group of composers. “The challenge was trying to find five composers that have distinct, unique voices…. We wanted to select composers from across the nation, of differing backgrounds, and at different stages of their career, to ensure that we had a mosaic of voices that represent diversity.”

The five composers selected are Larysa Kuzmenko, Barbara Croall, Kelly-Marie Murphy, Jocelyn Morlock, and Dorothy Chang, whose works debut at the Beethoven 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 concerts, respectively. Croall’s composition was co-commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO). “Each composer was asked to write something that had some connection to the symphony and/or concerto that their works are programmed alongside,” Ho says. “They each have their own history with Beethoven and association with his music.”

The series of new works includes another tribute to the celebrated German composer — each composition features one of the Orchestra’s principal musicians in a solo. In concert order, they include a significant solo for oboe, flute, horn, bassoon, and cello. Ho says the idea was inspired by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, which famously showcased the oboe in the first movement. “We thought we’d give an acknowledgement to that by having that similar concept put in place for each of these new pieces.”

The pieces are intentionally limited to about 10 minutes in length, which Ho says should improve their chances of being programmed in other concerts by other orchestras in the future. He feels strongly that seeking out and presenting new music is an essential responsibility of orchestras. “Culture is built on the expression of our identity through the arts — every generation of artists expresses our collective identity through their creative work,” he adds. “In the context of an orchestra, it’s important to feature the works of living composers in order for musical culture to grow, to give a voice for our generation as a musical response to relevant issues impacting our lives, and to provide future audiences with historical documentation of who we are in musical form.”

Fortunately, the CPO shares this sentiment, as evidenced by the DeBoni New Works Programme and this series of new commissions — and Ho feels incredibly grateful to be a part of it. “It’s just wonderful to be in a city where there is an orchestra that embraces new creations for an audience that is receptive to it.”

Artist Bios

Larysa Kuzmenko is a Toronto-based composer, pianist, and Juno nominee. Her works have been published by Boosey and Hawkes, and commissioned, performed, broadcast, and recorded by many outstanding musicians all over the world. Some prominent ensemble and soloists who have performed her works include: the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Rune Bergmann, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra directed by Peter Oundjian and Jukka-Pekka Saraste, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra directed by Bramwell Tovey, Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra directed by Jeffrey Moule, the Gryphon Trio, the Composer’s Orchestra directed by Gary Kulesha, the New Hampshire Philharmonic directed by Mark Latham, flutist Susan Hoeppner, pianists Anton Kuerti and Christina Petrowska-Quilico, and cellist Shauna Rolston. Kuzmenko’s works demonstrate a strong affinity towards the mainstream of classical music. She imbues her music with a strong melodic sense, and a firm rooting in traditional, albeit extended tonal processes. She is currently on staff at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, where she teaches composition and piano.

Since winning the Menuhin Competition, Sophie has soloed with numerous orchestras, including the London Philharmonia Orchestra, Berlin’s Konzerthaus Orchestra, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Milan’s Orchestre des Cameristi de la Scala, the Seattle Symphony, and the Detroit Symphony. She performed Bach’s Double Concerto with Joshua Bell and the Richmond Symphony, and also performed Duo Gemini with its composer, Henning Kraggereud, at Victoria Hall in Geneva. She has performed in festivals in Gstaad, Geneva, Kronberg, Warsaw, and in major U.S. cities from Honolulu to New York City. She also gave a concert tour of the U.K., where she played for Prince Charles.

In the 2019/2020 season, concerts include the Tchaikovsky Concerto with the Orchestre des Cameristi de la Scala de Milan, Beethoven Concerto with the Bremerton Symphony, the two Beethoven Romances with the Calgary Philharmonic, and recitals at the Gstaad Menuhin Festival, the Great Lakes Center for the Arts in Bay Harbor, Michigan, and the Resonance Masters’ Series in Seattle. Recently, she received Salon de Virtuosi’s ‘Charlotte White’ Career Grant and will be performing at the Salon’s Gala Awards Concert at The Kosciuszko Foundation.

Named the 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, Stephenson has won top prizes in several competitions, including the 2015 Cliburn Junior International Piano Competition and the 2016 Cooper International Piano Competition. He is also a proud Young Scholar of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation.

Highlights of Stephenson’s burgeoning career include recitals at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, Kissinger Sommer Festival, BeethovenFest, Stars and Rising Stars in Germany, Swiss Alps Classics at Swisst, and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. He has been featured on NPR and WQXR (New York City) and is a frequent guest artist for the Cliburn Foundation. Stephenson’s orchestral performances include Chicago Sinfonietta’s season-opening concert at Chicago’s Symphony Center, the Colour of Music Festival Gala Concert at Charleston’s Gaillard Center, the Midwest Young Artists Symphony at the Ravinia Festival, and Chicago’s Millennium Park Pritzker Pavilion, UN Day concert at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. He recently appeared at the Grammy Salute to Classical Music concert at Carnegie’s Stern Auditorium. Stephenson trained at Juilliard since age 10, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in economics at Harvard, and a master’s degree in piano performance at the New England Conservatory with Wha Kyung Byun.

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