7:30 p.m. — Saturday, September 23, 2023

Vernon Cook Theater – Clinton High School

Violinist Marcia Henry Liebenow returns to the stage with us to perform the Bruch Violin Concerto in G minor. Marcia is Concertmaster of the Peoria Symphony and teaches at Bradley University in Peoria. Two Beethoven compositions complete the program: first the overture to his incidental music The Ruins of Athens, and then his Eighth Symphony. Altogether an exhilarating evening of live music.

Season Tickets and individual concert tickets are available at the door, or avoid the wait at the concert and order them for Will Call here on our website.

Not sure where to park amid Clinton High School’s renovations? A map showing parking and entrances is available here.

To celebrate our 70th Season, join us for an Overture to the Season buffet featuring pasta, chicken, and meatballs as well as salad, bread, dessert and beverages. This will take place in the Clinton High Commons at 5:30pm prior to the concert. Maestro Brian Dollinger will share an overview of the musical works he has chosen for the Clinton Symphony to perform this season. Tickets are $15 per person and available by calling Karl Wolf at 563-212-6075 by September 19.

Please enjoy the following program notes:

Ludwig van Beethoven
Long recognized as one of the greatest composers of Western classical music, Ludwig
van Beethoven fought the onset of deafness by the age of 28 to produce an output that
encompasses 722 works, including 9 symphonies, 35 piano sonatas and 16 string
quartets. Popularly, Beethoven personifies the idea of the creative genius struggling
against convention and his own physical limitations to push the boundaries of form and

Born in Bonn, Germany in 1770, his musical talent was recognized at an early age. By
the age of 9 his teacher proclaimed that Beethoven “would surely become a second
Wolfgang Mozart”. As he eventually took on the positions of assistant organist and
violist, his first publications, 3 keyboard sonatas, appeared in 1783. His early reputation
came from his virtuosity as a pianist, performing in public and private concerts and he
continued to publish piano solos and concertos which he often premiered. Famous for
his improvisations, he also performed works by other composers, including Mozart. By
1814 his increasing deafness forced him to stop playing in public, but he continued
composing for piano, stretching the instrument’s accepted limits in dynamics,
expression, rhythm and technique.

Hints of his interest in the symphonic form date back to his earliest years. His nine
completed symphonies span the years 1800 to 1824, each distinctive in character and
innovative in different ways. Chamber music formed another enduring element of his
output, notably the 16 string quartets composed between 1800 and 1826, the last four
exploring new sound worlds from a final burst of creativity.

Beethoven’s music encompasses many other genres as well, including songs,
canons, variations, bagatelles, overtures, dances, opera, incidental music and marches,
reflecting the diversity of his interests. More than any other composer, Beethoven’s
music has come to be identified with transcendental notions of struggle, revolution and
the sublime. Ideals of freedom and emancipation from tyranny permeate works such as
his only opera Fidelio and the Ninth Symphony, the French Revolution and Napoleonic
Wars forming the backdrop of his life between 1789 and 1815. He was celebrated
throughout Europe during his lifetime, and his funeral procession in Vienna attracted
thousands of onlookers in 1827.

Beethoven’s Die Ruinen Von Athens Overture
In 1811 Beethoven was commissioned to compose incidental music for two Hungarian-
themed plays by August Von Kotzebue, written to commemorate the opening of a
magnificent new theater in the city of Pest, funded by Emperor Franz I to unify Hungary
with the interests of the Austrian Habsburg monarchy. A masterful piece of political and
cultural propaganda, The Ruins of Athens was transformed by Beethoven into a virtual
operetta with a mix of dialog and music. Uncharacteristically, Beethoven quickly
composed the music while taking a cure at the spa of Teplitz and received an
enthusiastic reception by incorporating Hungarian themes and folk music, all
nationalistic themes designed to flatter the emperor.

The opening of the overture reveals a desolate and foreboding landscape in G minor.
With the entrance of the oboe, celebration erupts in a jubilant G major.
The most famous music is the spirited Turkish March. With cymbals blazing, it seems to
begin in the distance, pass by, and then fade into the distance.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 in F major, Op. 93
Beethoven’s odd numbered symphonies were big, heroic game changers, stunning
audiences with their bold innovations and often ferocious energy. By contrast, his often
neglected even numbered symphonies are sometimes described as more “classical”,
strikingly different, but equally thrilling. In fact, at the Eighth’s Vienna premiere in 1814,
it was overshadowed by the Seventh, performed at the same program to more
enthusiastic applause.

Beethoven himself possessed a great fondness for his “ little symphony in F”, imbuing it
with a spirited sense of daring pushing forward into inventive, new territory. The
buoyancy of this music gives no hint to his darkly complicated personal life at the time:
the anguished “immortal, beloved” letter ending a relationship with a mysterious woman,
and concern over his brother Johann’s love life.

The first movement has no introduction, no chord, just a jump from the starting gate into
a manic race. A boisterous and jovial ending closes the movement, marked fortissimo,
the loudest possible dynamic which Beethoven rarely uses. Only at the end do we hear
the opening melody charging forward in the low strings, almost drowned out by the rest
of the orchestra in a jubilant wave.

Instead of the slow, expected adagio, the second Allegretto movement is much more
perky and mischievous with a chirping tick-took rhythm, perhaps a parody of the
metronome which had just been invented.

The third movement, Beethoven’s only symphonic minuet, provides a bit of nostalgia
broken up by jabs on unexpected beats by the tympani, and unending conversation
traded between instruments.

The finale is another mad dash, though begun softly with silent hesitations. It quickly
becomes an exhilarating musical romp, filled with erratic key changes, sudden silences
and the intrusion of an out-of-place C sharp. The loud, dissonant interruption plays an
important role in one of the most over-the-top codas from the master of outsized codas.
Tchaikovsky, not noted for his sense of humor, thought this movement one of
Beethoven’s greatest masterpieces.

Max Bruch: Concerto No. 1 in G Minor for Violin, Op.26

Born in 1838 in Cologne, Germany, Max Bruch became a Romantic composer, violinist,
teacher and conductor who wrote more than 200 works, including three violin concertos.
In his day, Bruch was a substantial figure in the musical landscape, but the promise of
his early years failed to blossom and he comes perilously close to being a one-hit
wonder with his richly seductive Concerto No. 1. Indeed, the very popularity of this
composition irked Bruch no end. “The G Minor again! I could not bear to hear it even
once more. My friends, play the second concerto or the Scottish Fantasy for once,” he is
said to have exclaimed after receiving yet another request to conduct it.

By the age of nine, Bruch had written his first composition, a song for his mother’s
birthday, and from then on, music became his passion. With his parents’ enthusiastic
support, he wrote many minor early works, few of which have survived.

After briefly studying philosophy and art, Bruch has a long career as a teacher,
conductor and composer throughout Germany. At the height of his career, he spent
three seasons as conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society. He also taught
composition until his retirement, his most notable student being Ottorino Respighi.
His complex and well-structured works placed him in the German Romantic tradition
exemplified by Johannes Brahms. In his time, he was known primarily as a choral
composer, often overshadowed by his friend Brahms who was more popular and widely

Today, as during his life, Bruce’s Violin concerto No. 1 is one of the staples of standard
violin repertoire. The first version was completed in 1866; its premiere with Otto Von
Konigslow as soloist was followed by extensive revision. Performed throughout Europe
and America in Bruch’s own lifetime, it offered audiences exactly what they wanted in a
violin concerto: singing lines, passionate phrasing, extreme dynamics, high drama,
double and triple stops. The concerto is marked by Bruch’s characteristic alternation of
moods: simmering, soulful melodies build to explosive outbursts of passion. The
prelude opens in an air of quiet, brooding melancholy before breaking a full- blown,
impassioned allegro. It builds up to two major climaxes before dying away in emotional
exhaustion. Without pause, Bruch segues into the central and heartfelt adagio. This
begins in a prayer-like atmosphere, gradually gaining in activity and expressiveness,
some of the most beautiful writing in the entire literature for violin. Bruch concludes with
the drama and energy of the allegro energetico in a crackling, gypsy-tinged finale.

Compiled by Karin Anderson-Sweet

Clinton Symphony Kicks Off 70th Season on September 23