Dresden Staatskapelle | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Dresden Staatskapelle 

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The Dresden Staatskapelle, founded in 1548, is one of the finest orchestras in Europe, renowned for its luminous winds, lush string playing, and precise, well-blended sound. It returns to Chicago for the first time since 1987 to give a single performance of two Beethoven symphonies. The monumental Third, or Eroica, altered the direction of music forever. It was twice as long as a Haydn or Mozart symphony, and it offered radically new techniques and stylistic devices--additional thematic material, a drastically expanded development section, a fugue in nearly every movement. Written with the emotional intensity and grandeur that are hallmarks of Beethoven's heroic style, it starts out simply with two bold chords, after which the strings play a melody made up of broken chords. This musical material is immediately transformed, and new themes keep emerging organically. The sudden dynamic changes and crescendos include one extended climax in which the brass pours out sunlight. The devastating funeral march of the second movement turns into an elaborate set of free variations, the next movement's buoyant scherzo offers emotional relief, and then the finale launches into its magnificent theme and variations. As majesty is to the Eroica, so is serenity to the Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral. This celebration of nature is descriptive, with the sounds of birds and thunderstorms, yet Beethoven also wanted it to evoke his feelings about the natural world, writing on the score, "The whole will be understood even without a description, as it is more feeling than tone painting." That whole is full of warmth and splendor, grace and spirituality. The third movement is in a minor key and contains the work's only really dark and forceful music, and the finale is a joyful "thanks to the Almighty." Myung-Whun Chung conducts. Thu 4/7, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $39-$73.

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