Oberlin’s large ensembles have leaned into an enormous expansion of the usual repertoire heard on orchestral stages. Over the past eight weeks, the Contemporary Music Ensemble and Oberlin Orchestra have performed 22 works by living composers, including four Oberlin alumni and two current students.
This week, for something a little different, they have been spending time with an old friend.
For the December 10 edition of Oberlin’s large ensemble series Fridays at Finney, the Oberlin Orchestra will present an all-Beethoven program. Guest conductor Robert Spano ’84 will lead the ensemble in the composer’s “Eroica” Symphony No. 3 and Piano Concerto No. 3.
Spano is a six-time Grammy Award-winning music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Aspen Music Festival and School, and music director designate of the Fort Worth Symphony.
Also featured on the program as soloist is Oberlin Conservatory Professor of Piano Peter Takács, a world-renowned expert in the piano music of Beethoven.
“Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto is central to the pianist’s repertoire,” says Takács. “It is also a thrill to play a concerto with Bob Spano on the podium.
“Bob is a rock-solid orchestral accompanist, making this essentially a chamber music experience. We are on the same musical wavelength, and the students in the Oberlin Orchestra are responding enthusiastically to his precise and inspiring leadership,” he says.
“Written in the dramatic key of C minor, the concerto features three distinct and characteristic movements,” offers Takács. “The first movement Allegro has a signature march-like rhythm. The Adagio that follows is in Beethoven’s deeply personal key of E major. And a rustic Rondo finale ends giddily in C major.”
Spano chose the third symphony when he was presented with Takács' choice of concerto.
“It’s so important for our students to perform the classical works of our tradition,” says Spano, “because that is the soil from which so many other things grow.”
It’s also the perfect program for a December concert. “This concert pairing of the C minor concerto and the great 'Eroica' symphony in E-flat major is our gift to Beethoven on his 251st birthday,” says Takács with a smile.
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