SI Symphony Orchestra to celebrate Beethoven Feb. 16-19
CARBONDALE, Ill. — A four-day celebration of composer Ludwig van Beethoven at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will include two Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra performances of his monumental Ninth Symphony.
The Feb. 18-19 performances in Shryock Auditorium will feature more than 200 artists, including four internationally recognized operatic soloists and six Southern Illinois choirs. The celebration will include the premiere of a specially commissioned English translation to the choral finale by Carl Lutes, an SIU Distinguished Alumnus and World War II veteran.
Symphony performances are set for 7 p.m. Feb. 18 and 2 p.m. Feb. 19.
Edward Benyas, a professor in the SIU School of Music and director of orchestras, noted that Beethoven’s Ninth and final symphony “was the first work of its kind to utilize vocal soloists and chorus, who appear in the final movement singing the well-known ‘Ode to Joy,’ set to words of the German poet, Friedrich Schiller.” When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Beethoven’s Ninth was performed to celebrate the birth of freedom in Eastern Europe, Benyas added.
Benyas noted the choral finale is almost always sung in German but that he wanted this arrangement to be a bit different.
“Since we are in the heart of America, and especially in light of today’s heated political divisions, I thought it more appropriate to sing this expression of the brotherhood of humankind in English,” Benyas said.
Benyas asked Lutes, a two-degree SIU graduate and 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, to make a new translation. A World War II veteran, Lutes, now 96 and a native of Christopher, Illinois, used the GI Bill to study flute in France. He eventually became principal flutist of the St. Louis Symphony and recital soloist with the world-renowned Metropolitan Opera star, Roberta Peters, later obtaining a master’s degree in English from SIU while a member of the university’s English department.
“An erudite, worldly, intellectual musician, he is uniquely suited to prepare a new English translation of Beethoven’s and Schiller’s famous words,” Benyas said.
Benyas said the 75-piece orchestra, in addition to SIU students, faculty and community members, includes more than two dozen professional instrumentalists from New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Orlando. The concert also includes the overture and a beautiful vocal quartet from Beethoven’s only opera, “Fidelio,” a work which bears some revolutionary significance along with the Ninth Symphony.
The artists involved in the performances include the Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra; the SIU Concert Choir and Choral Union under the direction of the School of Music’s Susan Davenport, professor and director of choral activities; the Kaskaskia College Choir; the Southwestern Illinois College Choir; the Carterville High School Chamber Choir; the Southern Illinois Children’s Choir, and distinguished solo vocalists Gina Galati, soprano; Megan Potter, mezzo-soprano; Benjamin Werley, tenor, and Kenneth Stavert, baritone.
Leading up to the weekend’s symphony performances, two pre-symphony chamber music concerts that include the music of Beethoven, Austrian composer Franz Schubert and American classical composer and pianist Florence Price is at noon, both Feb. 16 and Feb. 17, Artspace 304, (formerly Carbondale Community Arts) 304 W. Walnut St., Carbondale.
On Feb. 16, the School of Music’s William Cernota, assistant lecturer of cello, and SIU alumna Jace Kim, piano, will perform two sonatas and one set of variations for cello and piano by Beethoven. On Feb. 17 the the Antigone String Quartet, based at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, will perform iconic “Death and the Maiden” quartet and the tuneful first string quartet by Price, a 20th century African American composer.
Tickets available now
General admission tickets for the symphony’s Feb. 18 and 19 performances are $25 for adults and $10 for students of any age. Tickets are available through the Saluki Athletics ticket office by calling 618-453-2000 or at the door the night of the performance. Admission to the Feb. 16 and Feb. 17 pre-symphony chamber music concerts at Artspace 304 is free.