Music Director Jacques Lacombe and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra present Beethoven's Third and Fifth Symphonies on a program that runs March 30–April 1 in Newark and New Brunswick. The program opens with the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winner and Montclair, New Jersey, resident George Walker's Sinfonia No. 4 (Strands), which the Orchestra co-commissioned as part of its New Jersey Roots Project.
Performances take place on Friday, March 30, (8 p.m.) and Sunday, April 1, (3 p.m.) at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark and Saturday, March 31, (8 p.m.) at the State Theatre in New Brunswick. Classical Conversations begin one hour before each performance and are free to ticketholders.
"Whoever approaches Beethoven should always have a sense of being [somewhat] scared, because these works are big monuments, and they are so well known," Lacombe says. "But I always find something new to discover in Beethoven, and what interests me is how we typically have this image of his temper and moodiness, but I find there is so much youth in this music.
"The 'Eroica' is full of energy and humor, and sometimes we can forget that. I am going to put a bit more emphasis on that aspect of his personality, because when you listen carefully to some of the passages, you should almost burst into laughter because he's tricking you. Of course, the Fifth starts with this tragic statement, but there is a lot more to it. The Scherzo third movement of the Fifth could work as the soundtrack to a funny movie. The fourth movement is very exuberant, and Beethoven introduces cycles and themes from previous movements, as he will do later in the Ninth Symphony."
The NJSO commissioned Walker's Sinfonia No. 4 (Strands); the Cincinnati, National and Pittsburgh Symphonies are co-commissioners. "Part of the mission of the New Jersey Roots Project is to premiere and commission new works, and George Walker's 90th birthday was the perfect reason [to commission a piece from him]," Lacombe says.
"When I started to discover the 'who's who' in the music of New Jersey, he was a composer at the top of the list. He has a history with the NJSO, including a piece he wrote for us when we opened the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. He has written a lot of wonderful and very moving pieces in a lot of different aesthetics; there are pieces where he was inspired by traditional spirituals, and other concert pieces that use more modern language. I am very honored that, by writing this work for us, he has given us such a wonderful gift for his birthday!"
Sinfonia No. 4 (Strands) is a Meet The Composer commission and is commissioned through Meet The Composer's Commissioning Music/USA program, which is made possible by generous support from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Helen F. Whitaker Fund.
Tickets range in price from $20 to $85 and are available for purchase online at www.njsymphony.org or by phone at 1.800.ALLEGRO (255.3476).