Barber & Beethoven

Date & Time

Sunday, May 14, 2023 2:30 pm
Monday, May 15, 2023 7:30 pm


Dirk Brossé conductor

Sandy Cameron violin


Simon Fate Now Conquers

Barber Violin Concerto

Beethoven Symphony No. 8

Samuel Barber’s virtuosic and quintessentially American Violin Concerto is performed by the captivating Sandy Cameron. A piece by Carlos Simon inspired by one of Beethoven’s most beloved melodies and Beethoven’s 8th Symphony close out the season.


Perelman Theater
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
300 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19102


76 minutes, including intermission

Program Notes

Fate Now Conquers
Carlos Simon (b. 1986)

Using the beautifully fluid harmonic structure of the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th symphony, I have composed musical gestures that are representative of the unpredictable ways of fate. Jolting stabs, coupled with an agitated groove with every persona. Frenzied arpeggios in the strings that morph into an ambiguous cloud of free-flowing running passages depicts the uncertainty of life that hovers over us.

We know that Beethoven strived to overcome many obstacles in his life and documented his aspirations to prevail, despite his ailments. Whatever the specific reason for including this particularly profound passage from the Iliad, in the end, it seems that Beethoven relinquished to fate. Fate now conquers.

Carlos Simon

Violin Concerto
Samuel Barber (1910-1981)

The Barber Violin Concerto is quintessentially Philadelphian. The great American composer Samuel Barber (1910-1981) was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and later studied composition at the Curtis Institute of Music, beginning his studies there at only 14 years old. His Concerto for Violin and Orchestra was composed between the summer of 1939 and 1940, and received its first public performance in 1941 in Philadelphia.

The story of Barber’s Violin Concerto is a Philadelphia based soap opera—literally. Its commission came from the laundry soap manufacturer, Samuel Fels, who took the Russian violin prodigy, Iso Briselli, into his household while a student at Curtis. Fels offered Barber $1,000 for the concerto—a generous sum in those days, with half to be paid down, and the other half to be paid upon delivery.

While Briselli loved the first and second movements, he was very unhappy with the Presto in moto perpetuo finale. Despite Barber’s attempts to demonstrate the final movement’s playability and suitability, Fels refused to pay the balance on the commission and Briselli never performed the concerto. The first public performance was given by Albert Spalding to great critical acclaim with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Barber’s Violin Concerto has been championed by many great violinists including Jaime Laredo, Itzhak Perelman, and the late Isaac Stern. Many other major artists have made it a regular part of their concerto repertoire, much to their own delight, and that of audiences around the world. It has taken its place in history, not only as a wonderful example of Americana, but as one of the great violin concertos of all time.

The first movement, Allegro, is lyrical with a romantic opening that is later joined with a whimsical quality brought about through a subtle idea comprised short-long rhythms. The Andante begins with a hauntingly beautiful melody in the oboe, the melodic writing sharing features with the composer’s beloved works for solo voice. The finale showcases its rapid-fire perpetual motion giving the soloist ample challenges and opportunities for technical fireworks.

Symphony No. 8
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

It was Wagner who proclaimed Beethoven to be a titan wrestling with the gods.  Although he did not hear the sublime power of his artistic temperament in the Eighth Symphony, as he claims to have heard it in the Seventh, he still recognized it as “characteristic of the man, mingling tragedy with force and a Herculean vigor with the games and caprices of a child.”  The mingling achieves a classical balance in this symphony.  It is humorful without being humorous — playful without being jocular.  The manner is graceful and the action lean.

It would be wholly unexpected in successive works — especially those of large proportions — to hear repeated outbursts of the kind of superhuman energy of which Beethoven was capable.  Indeed, taken as a whole, the nine symphonies offer remarkably satisfying contrasts of content, with the even-numbered ones generally not depicting states of mind that call for the intensity of realization that is in evidence in the most imposing of the odd-numbered ones.  Such contrasts nurtured Beethoven’s spiritual development with a balance and counterbalance that seemed completely natural.

The effervescent Symphony No. 8 came virtually on the heels of the Seventh — only four months elapsed between the end of one and the beginning of the other.  In spirit it is totally devoid of the emotionally troubled atmosphere that plagued Beethoven during the period of its composition.  Such distractions, after all, do not tell us very much about the inner life of a genius like Beethoven, who “lived in constant and often undignified discomfort,” as Donald Tovey observed.

Except for the First Symphony, the Eighth is the shortest of the nine — too short, complained some critics, just as they had thought the Seventh too long.  When the “little Symphony in F,” as Beethoven referred to it, had less success than its predecessor, Beethoven said “That’s because it is so much better.”  He could not have meant that as anything more than a brash judgment, reacting to his listeners’ inability to recognize the different image of him that it projects.  The reviewer for the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung attributed the audience’s somewhat lesser enthusiasm for the symphony partly to the faulty judgment of having it follow the Seventh Symphony on the same program.  “If this symphony should be performed alone hereafter, we have no doubt of its success.”

Composed in 1812 (or given its final form not long thereafter) for a standard orchestra of double woodwinds, brasses, timpani and the usual string choirs, the Eighth Symphony has no slow movement.  Instead Beethoven writes a second movement with the marking Allegretto scherzando.  Its principal material is based on a four-voiced canon Beethoven improvised at a dinner attended by Johann Mälzel, the inventor of the metronome, a device the usefulness of which Beethoven and others were acknowledging.  The movement’s metronome-like motion supporting its infectious good-natured character earned it a spotlight position among the symphony’s four movements, threatened perhaps only by the “unbuttoned” spirit of the Finale.

George K. Diehl


Violin 1
Min-Young Kim, Concertmaster
Meichen Liao-Barnes, Associate Concertmaster
Igor Szwec
Alexandra Cutler-Fetkewicz
Shizuka Inoue
Xuan Yao

Violin 2
Donna Grantham, Principal
Catherine Kei Fukuda
Rodolfo Leuenberger
Emily Barkakati
Tamae Lee

Mary SangHyun Yong, Principal
Yoshihiko Nakano
Grace Takeda
Michael Stanley

Branson Yeast, Principal
Thomas Kraines
Noelle Casella Grand

Alex Jenkins, Principal
Anne Peterson

Edward Shultz, Principal
Frances Tate

Geoffrey Deemer, Principal
Evan Ocheret

Doris J. Hall-Gulati, Principal
Rie Suzuki

Michelle Rosen, Principal
Zachary Feingold

John David Smith, Principal
Lyndsie Wilson

Rodney Marsalis, Principal
Tim Hudson

Barry Dove, Principal

José Melendez, Principal