Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)

Beethoven: Anniversary & Piano Concerto No. 3

The Florida Orchestra’s Tampa Bay Times Masterworks Series returns in mid-January with a special performance of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Igor Stravinsky. The concert pays homage to the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. The Impending Silence, a Florida International University School of Music and Florida Orchestra joint commissioned work, premieres at the concert. Florida Orchestra music director Michael Francis conducts. The esteemed Gilles Vonsattel is the piano soloist. 


Orlando Jacinto Garcia’s The Impending Silence opens the concert with powerful and somber themes. Beethoven aficionados most likely deduced the composition’s theme from its title. It is a reference to Beethoven’s loss of hearing in the later years of his life. According to the Florida Orchestra’s concert notes, Garcia imagined the psychological and physical impacts of gradient deafness on Beethoven’s compositional style and arranged the piece accordingly. The 2019/2020 Florida Orchestra concert season marks the premiere of this composition. Garcia is a Cuban-American professor at the Florida International University’s School of Music and director of its composition program. 


Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel, an opera in three acts, is the next composition on deck. Rimsky-Korsakov was a member of the New Russian School or “mighty handful.” The New Russian School hoped to transform Russian classical music into a totally unique entity. Drawing upon Russian culture and Orientalism, Rimsky-Korsakov did just that. Completed in 1907, the opera parodies the recent failures of the Russian Empire in the Russo-Japanese War with a bumbling Tsar and his attempts to control another country. The opera premiered in the United States at the Metropolitan Opera House on March 6, 1918. The concert utilizes the Introduction and Wedding March sections of the opera. The selections generate excitement but remain light-hearted to balance the solemn themes of The Impending Silence.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, 1898



Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 is the nexus of the concert. If Garcia’s The Impending Silence illustrates the despair of Beethoven at his loss of hearing, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 provides the historical context for his loss of hearing. Beethoven noticed his loss of hearing after a fit of rage in 1798. By the completion of his Piano Concerto No. 3 in 1800, Beethoven corresponded to his friends about the difficulties his loss of hearing was creating for his career. Instead of succumbing to his impairment, Beethoven pursued new heights of excellence. Critics describe Piano Concerto No. 3 as one of Beethoven’s most developed pieces in terms of style and symphony. According to Ignaz von Seyfried, a trusted confidant of Beethoven, he played the concerto from memory at its premiere on April 5, 1803.

Portrait of Beethoven in 1815 by Joseph Willibrord Mähler

Portrait of Beethoven, 1815


Igor Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, a one act ballet, closes the concert. Pulcinella is a stock character from 17th and 18th-century Italian commedia dell’arte. Acting as an everyman, Pulcinella parodies Italian society of the day with his alternating crude and haughty attitude. The main episode of the ballet features Pulcinellas attempts to win back the affections of his girlfriend. Stravinsky’s experimentation with Italian theater marks his transition into the interwar “neoclassical” period of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The composition premiered in Paris on May 15, 1920.

Igor Stravinsky, 1920's

Igor Stravinsky, 1920’s

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (Jan. 17-19)

These compositions compliment each other nicely, making a lovely concert. The deeper story gleaned is lessons in success. Garcia manifests his success at the Florida International University School of Music by paying homage to the old masters. Stravinsky also paid homage to the old masters, and this led him to a new phase of creative brilliance. The story of Beethoven’s gradual loss of hearing tells the story of an artist overcoming great hardship. Rimsky-Korsakov’s desire for the New Russian School to succeed encouraged an ostensibly dangerous task, critiquing the Tsarist government. 

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