Beethoven image

Attending classical music concerts has formed a huge part of my life. My father was a symphony conductor and violinist, and as kids, my brother and I were often “dragged” from one performance to the next on many a school night. We learned an appreciation for music at a young age and both learned to play musical instruments—with our father’s blessing.

On Saturday evening, my husband and I were invited by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to enjoy one of the greatest musical works of all time: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

Vancouver Bach Choir

If you’re not familiar with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, that familiar choral tune that comes to mind is only part of a much more complex series of four movements. This was Beethoven’s final symphony and was written in a style that the composer hadn’t written in for ten years. It was also the first time a major composer used voices in a symphony (the world’s first choral symphony). The ever-popular fourth and final melody was actually part of an earlier creation dating to 1794. The work was composed in 1823-1824 and it premiered in Vienna in 1824.

Joining the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and conductor Andrew Grams was the Vancouver Bach Choir plus four guest vocalists. To back up a bit, Beethoven’s 9th was performed at the end of the concert. Leading up to it were two other Beethoven compositions: The Creatures of Prometheus: Overture, and his Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21. Both were beautiful and lighter in style when compared to the complexity and style variation of the second half’s “grand finale”.

Vancouver Bach Choir close-up

According to Andrew Grams, “The No. 9 is a culmination of Beethoven’s efforts at improving every aspect of his skill as a composer, coupled with his own deep desire to present a humanistic ­ideal where all of humanity comes together rather than tearing itself apart.”

Even before entering the Orpheum Theatre, the enormous will-call queue was indication that anyone not either at the Canucks game or seated at a bar to watch it was here. Once inside, we marveled at the beauty of the auditorium’s architecture and lighting. As concert goers started to fill their seats, I could already sense an air of anticipation this evening.

Orpheum Theatre interior

Everything about this concert was top-notch. The orchestra, led by conductor Grams, Michele Capalbo’s soprano voice that could melt a room, joined by Rebecca Hass, mezzo-soprano, a very expressive Benjamin Butterfield, tenor, Daniel Okulitch, bass-baritone, and augmented by the rich sounds of the Bach Choir, made for both a truly joyful and dramatic finish to a concert that celebrated life and music.


  • Comment by Jen — January 10, 2011 @ 11:02 am

    I am so sorry I missed this, Beethoven is my favorite composer and the 9th is my favorite symphony! My daughter plays clarinet in the Victoria Youth Orchestra. Going to a concert is one of the best ways to be uplifted!

  • Comment by Perry — May 8, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

    I think Beethoven was one of the greatest composers of all time, his music has stood the test of time.

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