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Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

Novena Sinfonía de Beethoven

The UC3M Orchestra and Choir with other musical groups perform the last concert of 2014

To end the year in a special way within the “Encuentros en Leganés con la Música Clásica” program,  Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) offered a great concert dedicated to Beethoven. Performed by the UC3M Orchestra and Choir, accompanied by the Alcorcón City Philharmonic Orchestra, the Gredos San Diego Foundation Choir and the Cristóbal de Morales Chorale, it gathered more than a hundred musicians on the stage.

At two special functions held the 17th and 18th of December, the audience packing the UC3M Auditorium, which holds over 1,000 people, was able to enjoy one of Ludwig van Beethoven’s most important creations: the Ninth Symphony. Also known as “Coral,” it is the German composer’s last complete symphony. The transcendence of the work reached a new dimension when an adaptation made by Herbert von Karajan became the anthem of the European Union in 1972.

This work is also unique because it is “the first time in the history of music that a symphony (essentially instrumental) includes part of the choir,” said the director of the UC3M Choir, Nuria Fernández. This choral project has existed for more than 20 years and currently has a staff of 55 people, including professional musicians and university students. One of its main goals is the vocal training of all its members, so it has a team of vocal technique teachers that essentially do that.

Each of the choirs that participated in these concerts worked individually for several months. “They did very good previous work and the difficulty lies in combining the performance of so many people, because these three complete choirs total about 150 people,” said Fernández. In the case of the Ninth Symphony, it was written for four voices: sopranos and contraltos (high and low in women); tenors and basses (high and low voices in men).

The challenge afterwards was to coordinate this cast of voices with 65 musicians, most of them university students or former students who belong to the UC3M Orchestra.  On this occasion, moreover, some members of the Alcorcón City Philharmonic Orchestra participated. “The Ninth is a genuine challenge for any musician because it is a work of great technical complexity for a professional orchestra,” stressed the artistic and musical director of the UC3M, Manuel Coves. The work is well known for the final movement, a choral finale which uses parts of the 1808 version of the “Ode to Joy” by Friedrich Schiller, but “the first three movements are equally spectacular and very difficult to execute from a technical point of view,” said Coves.

The UC3M Orchestra had rehearsed this piece since last October. The director of the show explained that the students, who earn credits for belonging to the orchestra (as they do for belonging to the choir), were excited because, for a non-professional musician, it is not at all easy to have the chance to perform a piece of this caliber. On a professional level, the key to dealing with this type of concert is to contribute “tranquillity and fortitude so that all the musicians on the stage feel comfortable and confident in this great transatlantic musical journey’”

Great music

Thanks to these concerts, spectators have been able to enjoy one of the masterpieces by Ludwig van Beethoven (Bonn, December 16th, 1770 – Vienna, March 26th, 1827). The German composer, conductor and pianist is considered the most important figure of the transition between 18th-century musical classicism and 19th-century romanticism.

These concerts are part of the “Encuentros en Leganés con la Música Clásica" music cycle, a program that features more than a dozen performances geared to all audiences. Extending and spreading that pleasure of listening to great music is the purpose of some concerts that have been programmed for morning and Sunday  sessions, with the intention of fostering attendance by a large, family-oriented audience. In this regard, in January, the music and puppets show, “El sastrecillo valiente,” will arrive with the Etcétera Company, and then in February, “Ma, me, mi, Mozart,” from the L’Auditori de Barcelona. “The Funamviolistas,” a vibrant, ingenious and minimalist musical that combines beauty and originality with an impressive array of artistic disciplines, has been programmed for March. It is a sampling that freshly harmonizes works from composers as varied as Georges Bizet, Edvard Grieg, Jules Massenet, Astor Piazzolla, Rita Pavone and Antonio Vivaldi.

Pertaining more to the stage, the “Stradivarias” concert has been programmed for January. It is a combination of music and humor performed by four very different characters, with a violin, a viola, a cello and a double bass. In January and March, one will be able to enjoy the group Zarabanda, led by the recognized flautist Álvaro Marías. The repertoire of this ensemble includes music from the Renaissance up to Classicism, although it focuses mainly on the Baroque period. First the “Perlas Barrocas” show, by Zarabanda as a trio, will come to the Auditorium. Afterwards, in March, it will be “Six Flute Concertos, Op. 10, by Vivaldi,” with Zarabanda in its larger version, which includes nine musicians playing the flute, oboe, bassoon, viola, cello, double bass, harpsichord and violins.

The cycle also includes works from the Zarzuela Theater, with which the University collaborates for its educational program to promote opera. In February, “Isabel” will be staged. It is a lyrical tale in which a solitary girl, in her oneiric world, shares games and hopes with other characters. The cycle concludes in April with “La cantada vida y muerte del General Malbrú,” a popular song which makes fun of the exploits of the English soldier John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, in his battles against the allied French and Spanish armies  during the War of the Spanish Succession.

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