September 13th was the opening night of the National Art Centre’s (NAC) FOCUS: Beethoven Festival, a deep dive on Ludwig Van Beethoven, the German composer and pianist born in 1770. He is most loved for his great symphonies and many piano sonatas and concertos.
The 10-day festival, which was conceived by Alexander Shelley, music director of the NAC Orchestra, explores Beethoven and the profound impact he made on music. It includes concerts by the NAC Orchestra of all nine symphonies, and explores Beethoven and his music through lectures, armchair chats, podcasts, and exhibits.
Opening night kicked off with Beer, Beats and Beethoven 5 à 7 on the NAC’s newly renovated Wood Terrace, which offers a lovely, panoramic view overlooking the canal. The pre-concert event attracted a lot of attention by local media influencers and was attended by a noticeably a younger crowd. This was a great opportunity to breathe new life into the NAC which is going through a rebirth of its own thanks to a $110.5 million architectural rejuvenation and production renewal project.
On the opening evening of the 10-day series, audience members were treated to the first three symphonies by Beethoven. Alexander Shelley and first clarinetist Sean Rice discussed Beethoven’s first three symphonies on a podcast, which the NAC posted here : https://nac-cna.ca/en/podcasts/episode/beethovens-first-three-symphonies.
As the orchestra filled Southam Hall with the sounds of Beethoven, the music had a noticeably richer quality to it, likely due to the addition of a new orchestra shell that is made up of a floor to ceiling panels that amplify sound both on stage and into the audience; another part of the upgrades being made at the NAC.
Get to know the musician! Five random facts about Ludwig Van Beethoven:
- At the age of 25, he started to lose his hearing, but he continued to perform and compose.
- His last public performance was in 1811, after he had lost his hearing entirely.
- Beethoven was 14 years younger than Mozart.
- His first composition was published at age 12.
- Beethoven was said to be a huge egomaniac, very temperamental.
FOCUS runs at the NAC until September 22.