BEETHOVEN @250 - Virtual Concert

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Celebrating the titan's 250th anniversary with two masterpieces

About this Event

This concert will be livestreamed on December 5, 2020, 8 pm EDT and will be available for viewing until January 4, 2021.


Happy birthday, Herr Ludwig! A musical birthday bash, just 10 days before the Titan’s actual date! Nurhan Arman will conduct his own orchestration of one of the most popular of all Beethoven’s quartets, and then a historic version of the exhilarating Symphony No. 7 by Beethoven’s close friend and publisher, Sigmund Anton Steiner.


BEETHOVEN String Quartet op. 18, No. 4 in C Minor orchestra version by Nurhan Arman

BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 arr. Sigmund Anton Steiner (1773-1838)

Virtual concert: $19.13 includes service fee and HST

About the program

String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 18, No. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Beethoven worked painstakingly for two years to produce his first string quartets, his Opus 18, finally published in 1801 as a set of six. He was acutely aware that his works would be compared with the rich quartet literature created by Mozart and Haydn.

The C minor quartet is unique among the group. It is the only one for which no previous sketches have been found, and the only one in a minor key. It is one of the most popular among all of Beethoven’s quartets thanks to the drama of its minor harmonies.

The first movement has a vivid exposition with a first subject in C minor, contrasted by a second theme in the brighter, relative-major key of E flat. The second theme is derived from the first, creating a unified sonata form for the movement. The development section points to the minor key’s return.

The second movement relieves the tension of the first with an experiment unique for a string quartet at that time: instead of the expected slow, lyrical movement, Beethoven wrote a playfully polyphonic sonata marked Scherzoso.

A more conventional Menuetto third movement brings back the dark urgency of C minor. Its trio section brightens back into major, but not for long; the return of the yearning minor theme is marked for a faster tempo than before, yet another experiment with traditional style.

The last movement is a spicy rondo based on a Gypsy-style refrain that alternates with more lyrical episodes. The major versus minor drama of the entire quartet is summed up here with a contest carried until the very last bars of an exciting coda where Beethoven dissolves all the drama into humour.

Symphony No. 7 by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Arranged by Sigmund Anton Steiner (1773-1838)

The premiere of this symphony was given in December 1813 as part of a benefit concert for soldiers wounded at Hanau, as they tried to cut off Napoleon’s retreat after his resounding defeat by the Duke of Wellington in northeast Spain. The concert was a huge success, probably the greatest of Beethoven’s career, and the program was repeated three more times within the next two months. But the triumph was not due so much to the symphony as it was to Beethoven’s other work on the program, the graphic, patriotic, but far less original Wellington’s Victory. To the composer’s distress, the Wiener Zeitung reviewer actually made note of the symphony as a “companion piece” to Wellington’s Victory.

The Seventh Symphony has come strongly to the fore ever since, however, becoming a consistent favourite among classical-Romantic works and the most often performed of all Beethoven’s symphonies. Its immediate popularity inspired arrangements like Sigmund Steiner’s contemporary string orchestra version and versions for string quartet, piano four-hands, and other combinations to enable home and chamber performances during the next century while music always had to be played live to be heard at all.

The introduction to the first movement is the longest in any symphony until then and is still one of the longest ever written. It opens vast harmonic vistas, from A major to C major and then F major in clearly audible shifts which prefigure the entire course of the symphony. After drawing out the suspense, Beethoven teases the vivace main theme from inside the last phrase of the introduction and plunges into the fierce energy that animates the rest of the movement. The lengthy coda is almost another development section, propelled at last by the unruly harmonic insistence of the bass line towards a tremendous climax.

The second movement Allegretto was often played as a separate work during the 19th Century. It is not the slow movement that customarily followed a classical first movement, but it does provide an effective contrast, as it is much more relaxed, with a delightful “walking” figuration in the lower strings.

The third movement Presto is an explosive scherzo, enlivened by several of Beethoven’s brilliant deviations from traditional form. It is practically a rondo, with A-B sections repeated several times instead of a simpler and more usual A-B-A structure, and with more thematic variations than typical.

In the finale, marked Allegro con brio, Beethoven not only breaks all previous symphonic speed limits, but plays with rhythm in a radical new way, frequently emphasizing the second beat in the movement’s two-beat measures. And again he builds the coda on a compulsively repeated bass line, a pair of notes that work down through a chromatic sequence until they reach the dominant of the home key and the note just below, points of maximum tension, waiting for resolution to the tonic, the home key. Spanning fifty-nine measures, this wild musical ride arrives at one of the most satisfying, positive conclusions in the orchestral literature. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Anton Steiner was a boy chorister with marked musical talent, but on finishing school he began his career as a law clerk and then secretary to the director of the Vienna Hoftheater before becoming managing director of a publishing and lithography firm. From 1812 to 1837 he headed the Association of Art, Book and Music Dealers in Vienna, and from 1828 until his death he was a performing member of the Vienna Musikverein. Steiner’s firm published the first editions of many of Beethoven’s works and his shop became a popular place for Beethoven and his friends to meet.


Sinfonia Toronto now in its 22nd season, has toured twice in Europe, in the US, South America and China, receiving glowing reviews. It has released four CD’s, including a JUNO Award winner, and performs in many Ontario cities. Its extensive repertoire includes all the major string orchestra works of the 18th through 21st centuries, and it has premiered many new works. Under the baton of Nurhan Arman the orchestra’s performances present outstanding international guest artists and prominent Canadian musicians.

Maestro Nurhan Arman has conducted throughout Europe, Asia, South America, Canada and the US, returning regularly to many orchestras in Europe. Among the orchestras Maestro Arman has conducted are the Moscow Philharmonic, Deutsches Kammerorchester Frankfurt, Filarmonica Italiana, St. Petersburg State Hermitage Orchestra, Orchestre Regional d’Ile de France, Hungarian Symphony, Arpeggione Kammerorchester, Milano Classica and Belgrade Philharmonic.

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