The Victoria Symphony Orchestra is in the midst of performing all of Beethoven’s symphonies in March during its Beethoven 250 celebrations at UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium, marking the birth of the great composer. Don Descoteau/Monday Magazine

REVIEW: Beethoven’s Fifth a masterpiece to begin March

Victoria Symphony’s Beethoven 250 celebrations open with a bang at the Farquhar Auditorium

Some symphonies begin subtly, with gentle phrases building in layers, sections gradually added in a crescendo of sound.

With Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, no such hesitation exists: the dominant four-note opening motif, played twice, sets the tone for what is to follow.

Dum-dum-dum-dahhh! Dum-dum-dum-dahhh!

With those eight unmistakable notes, set off with violent yet singular baton strokes from Maestro Christian Kluxen, the Victoria Symphony on Saturday night officially kicked off its celebration of Beethoven 250, part of the annual Masterworks Series. This month sees the orchestra perform all nine of the great composer’s symphonies at the University of Victoria’s very comfortable Farquhar Auditorium.

Kluxen indicated to Monday in a previous interview that he wanted audiences to experience how the Victoria Symphony interprets these great works of musical art. Indeed, from the urgent opening, the full orchestra tackled each movement in the Fifth with enthusiasm and reverence, creating a triumphant and majestic performance that prompted many in the crowd to stand with appreciative applause following the final note.

RELATED STORY: Beethoven 250: Victoria getting ready to celebrate

It’s hard to single out highlights from such a complete piece of music, one that draws on the strengths of all sections, from the orchestra’s supremely solid violin, viola and cello sections to the woodwinds and brass, underpinned by the work of rock-steady tympanist William Linwood.

The Third Symphony, also known as Sinfonia Eroica or Heroic Symphony – the composer dedicated it to Napoleon Bonaparte – encompassed the second half of the evening’s program. It’s a calmer-paced piece than the Fifth, with many subtleties and sections that featured the orchestra’s wonderful horn section, principal oboeist Michael Byrne and principal flautist Richard Volet, among others.

That’s part of the beauty of Beethoven’s symphonic works, they provide the listener with everything from pinpoint sounds and passages spotlighting certain instruments and musicians, to the grandeur of the entire orchestra playing in unison.

The Victoria Symphony’s flawless performance of the Fifth and Third symphonies gave this audience member a wonderful taste of what is to come. Next up, they’ll perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2, No. 4 and No. 7 this Thursday evening (March 12) at 8 p.m. Tickets are still available; find them online here with more information, or purchase by phone at 250-385-6515.

Later Beethoven 250 concerts are scheduled for matinees March 15 and 22 (2:30 p.m. start) and the evening of March 23.

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