Celebrating Beethoven


This year is the 250 th Anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. Performances of his music to
celebrate the occasion had been planned all around the world.

Today, but for the pandemic, The Valley Concert Society would have taken part with a
program entitled Young Beethoven. George Zukerman, the venerable impresario, put
together a marvelous program of three unique chamber works composed by the master
when he was still a young man.

Zukerman assembled some of Vancouver’s finest professional musicians to perform a
recently discovered quintet, a sextet featuring two horns, and his elegant septet. While we
cannot enjoy the magic of a live performance, I would like to share with you a recorded
rendition of this masterpiece.

Beethoven wrote the septet for an unusual combination of instruments. He dedicated it to
the Empress Maria Theresa, a wise decision for a young composer trying to spark a
career and make his mark in the world.

The Septet in E flat major, Op. 20, was a smashing success. It became wildly popular and
was performed all over Europe. At first Beethoven enjoyed the success, but as time
passed he began to resent its popularity. He felt that it overshadowed some of his later
and, in his opinion, more substantial works.

When a traveller from England told Beethoven how popular his septet was in London,
Beethoven replied, “That damned thing! I wish it were burned!” Thankfully, it was not
burned. It has continued to delight audiences to the present.

I would like to share with you a wonderful performance by the brilliant Dutch violinist
Janine Jansen leading members of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.
In a time filled with turmoil and worry, here are forty minutes of irrepressible joy and
sublime beauty. Enjoy it and hold the hope that we will be able to hear it live next fall.

John Wiebe
The Valley Concert Society