Wake, Party, Pilgrimage – Part II

Beethoven 9Like the Shrine of Lourdes, the Kaaba of Mecca, or the Standing Stones of Orkney, the Ninth Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven calls out to believers the world over: “Come!” And come they did. This past Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, well over 8,000 souls made their way to SW Broadway and Main to witness the Ninth’s power firsthand – as performed by the Oregon Symphony, the Portland Symphonic Choir, and four incredible vocal soloists, all under the sublime direction of a surprisingly scoreless Maestro Kalmar. [sigh] Written a full decade after #8, the Symphony No. 9 is astoundingly different music right from its first primal measures, much closer to Mahler than to Mozart in its size, scope, and song. And while much of the limelight (deservedly) shines upon its glorious climax, the 3 purely orchestral movements that precede it are as infinitely demanding of the musician as they are infinitely rewarding to the listener. After surviving the terribly Sturmy weather of the opening chapter, one is plunged directly into the second movement’s wicked turbulence – a crazed waltz through some dark German forest, briefly punctuated by a comforting woodwind chamber concert. Beethoven’s third movement? Dear. God. Pure acoustic tenderness, accentuated by tiny moments of triumph and terror that only underline the composer’s unforeseen compassion and warmth. [sigh] With 40 minutes of music already behind us, we were brought to the choral finale’s transcendent threshold – an epic closing movement that seems to encapsulate and proclaim all that is good and noble in Art. From the thickest string of the bass to the upper registers of sopranos everywhere, these are towering tones capable of breaking down walls and uniting neighbors. Perhaps most miraculous of all, the Götterfunken of Beethoven’s Ninth reminds everyone who has ears to hear, that even in the midst of rampant poverty, political corruption, and a long history of massacres at home and abroad, human beings are equally capable of peaceful creation. A decent reminder, indeed.

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