Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony

Program Listing

Friday, November 4, 2022, 7:30 PM
Saturday, November 5, 2022, 7:30 PM
SUNDAY, November 6, 2022, 2 PM
MONDAY, November 7, 2022, 7:30 PM

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David Danzmayr, Conductor
Gabriel Kahane, Piano, Electric Guitar, Vocals
Nathalie Joachim, Piccolo, Flutes, Vocals
Alex Sopp, Piccolo, Flutes, Vocals
Holcombe Waller, Piano, OP-1, Vocals

Gabriel Kahane

The Right to Be Forgotten (a folk opera in one act) 
Gabriel Kahane as NATHANIEL
Nathalie Joachim as LARRY
Alex Sopp as SERGEI
Holcombe Waller as MARK

Lera Auerbach


Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major, Op. 55, "Eroica"
Allegro con brio
Marcia funebre: Adagio assai
Scherzo: Allegro vivace
Finale: Allegro molto


Program Notes

Gabriel Kahane: The Right to Be Forgotten (a folk opera in one act) – World premiere and Oregon Symphony co-commission
Lera Auerbach: Icarus
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, Op. 55, “Eroica”

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Gabriel Kahane
b. 1981

The Right to Be Forgotten (a folk opera in one act) – World premiere and Oregon Symphony co-commission

Work composed: 2020-22
First Oregon Symphony performance
Instrumentation: four solo singers/instrumentalists and chamber orchestra
Estimated duration: 40 minutes

Composer/singer/instrumentalist Gabriel Kahane, Chair of the Oregon Symphony’s Creative Alliance, combines incisive lyrics, versatile musical language, and an unflinching appetite for exploring uncomfortable societal realities. Last season, the Oregon Symphony presented Kahane’s piano concerto, Heirloom, performed by the composer’s father, pianist Jeffrey Kahane.

The Right To Be Forgotten, which Kahane describes as a “one-act folk opera for four singer/instrumentalists and chamber orchestra,” delves into the experience of living without social media for a year.

In September 2022, Kahane wrote, “I first encountered the work of composer and performer Nathaniel Levitan somewhat by accident. In 2014, during a visit to the Bay Area, I stumbled into a performance of Embarcadero, Levitan’s meditation on American myth-making (and Manifest Destiny) as seen through the lens of San Francisco and its built environment.

“Staged at the Yerba Buena Arts Center, it was an unusual production: not quite concert; not quite theatre, helmed by the cult English director Michael Diamond. The songs – if at times a bit “purple” lyrically – were distinctive in their harmonic language, as well as in their raw, emotional earnestness. I was intrigued, and began to follow Nathaniel’s work avidly, keeping up in large part through his output on social media, which was, to say the least, prolific.

“But then, late in 2019, he seemingly disappeared. It wasn’t the kind of thing one noticed immediately. But after a time, his absence from digital spaces became conspicuous, particularly in the spring of 2020, when, with the onset of the pandemic, seemingly every artist had “pivoted to digital,” as the saying went. Was he retreating from music-making? Had he suffered an illness?

“Finally, in the summer of 2021, Levitan resurfaced, revealing that he had embarked on a year-long experiment in living a completely analog life: no smartphone, no email, no social media, no web browsing. Yet he remained somewhat cagey about why it was that he’d decided to drop out of digital spaces, particularly at a moment when his career seemed to have been at an apex.

“This is where The Right to Be Forgotten begins: in this mini-folk opera, I imagine – while taking liberal artistic license – Nathaniel’s creative process, his inner life, his experience during the early months of the pandemic, and what it was like for him to return to our digital status quo after his Walden-esque experiment in leaving the internet behind.

In a way, Nathaniel’s quest mirrors my own search for gratitude in a world that seems bent on constantly reminding us of what we lack. Perhaps we all have something to learn from Nathaniel’s journey, and might come to discover that what we need most is already within our grasp.”


Lera Auerbach
b. 1973


Work composed: 2006/2011. Music originally from the last two movements of Auerbach’s first symphony, “Chimera.” Commissioned by the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra
First Oregon Symphony performance
Instrumentation: 3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo, 1 doubling alto flute), 3 oboes (1 doubling English horn), 3 clarinets (1 doubling bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (1 doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones (1 doubling bass trombone), tuba, timpani, bass drum, bells, amplified crystal glasses, cymbals, glockenspiel, tam-tam, theremin, vibraphone, celesta, piano, 2 harps, and strings 
Estimated duration: 12 minutes

“Lera Auerbach’s music has been compared to that of Shostakovich, and with good reason,” writes music critic David Hurwitz. “She remains committed to a fresh use of tonality, without denying herself the full resources of modern technique.” A conductor/composer/pianist/poet/visual artist, Auerbach was born into a musical family and raised near Siberia in the former Soviet Union. In 1991, she defected to the United States and later attended Juilliard, where she studied piano and composition. After earning a piano diploma at Hannover’s Hochschule für Musik, Auerbach embarked on a concert career in which she also performed her own compositions. Since then, Auerbach’s multi-genre music has been commissioned by soloists, ensembles, and music festivals around the world.

Icarus began as the final two movements of Auerbach’s Symphony No. 1, “Chimera.” This powerful symphonic poem marshals the forces and timbres of a large orchestra plus several unusual instruments, including amplified crystal glasses and a theremin. Auerbach characterizes all her music as abstract; although she has been intrigued by the story of Icarus since childhood, the music is not a straightforward narrative of the story. She prefaces her own notes with a short verse:

“Light blinds.
To see – we turn away.
Our eyes hold all images inverted.

Every day a new Icarus kills himself.

“ … What makes this myth so touching is Icarus’s impatience of the heart, his wish to reach the unreachable, the intensity of the ecstatic brevity of his flight and inevitability of his fall. If Icarus were to fly safely – there would be no myth. His tragic death is beautiful. It also poses a question – from Daedalus’ point of view – how can one distinguish success from failure? His greatest invention, the wings which allowed a man to fly, was also his greatest failure as they caused the death of his son. Daedalus was brilliant, his wings were perfect, but he was also a blind father who did not truly understand his child. If he did, he would realize that the road to freedom leads to its ultimate form – death, which Icarus, with the uncompromising daring of youth, achieves …

“The title ‘Icarus’ was given to this work after it was written. All my music is abstract, but by giving evocative titles I invite the listener to feel free to imagine, to access his own memories, associations. Icarus is what came to my mind, listening to this work at that time. Each time I hear the piece it is different. What is important to me is that it connects to you, the listener, in the most individual and direct way, that this music disturbs you, moves you, soars with you, stays with you. You don’t need to understand how or why – just allow the music to take you wherever it takes you. It is permissible to daydream while listening or to remember your own past. It is fine not to have any images at all, but simply experience the sound. These program notes are a door to your imagination. The music is your guide. But it is up to you to take the step and cross the threshold.”


Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, Op. 55, “Eroica”

Work composed: 1802-04
Most recent Oregon Symphony performance: Guest conductor Matthew Halls led the Oregon Symphony on October 10 & 12, 2015
Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 3 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings.
Estimated duration: 47 minutes

Ludwig van Beethoven was an admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte, whose early exploits as First Consul of France reaffirmed the motto of the French Revolution, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” It had been Beethoven’s intention to dedicate his third symphony to Napoleon, but when Beethoven heard that Napoleon had declared himself Emperor in May 1804, he was outraged. So vehement was Beethoven’s desire to rid his third symphony of any association with the French general that he removed the words “intitulata Bonaparte” from the title page with a knife, leaving a hole in the paper. When the score was first printed in 1806, the title page read only, “A heroic symphony … composed to celebrate the memory of a great man.”

Today, the Eroica is considered one of the groundbreaking musical events of the 19th century, but in Beethoven’s time it received a great deal of criticism. One reviewer, using words that today we would consider praiseworthy, criticized Beethoven’s “undesirable originality.” From our 21st-century vantage point, however, we recognize Eroica’s significance. Similar in its impact to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, the influence of Eroica reverberated through all the symphonic music of the century that followed.

Beginning with the one-two punch of Eroica’s opening chords, Beethoven obliterated the concept of the Classical-style symphony and earned for himself the adjective “revolutionary.” Everything about this lengthy first movement confounds expectation: its continuous development of melodic fragments, its “wrong key” tonalities, and Beethoven’s idiosyncratic use of rhythm, which at times verges on the eccentric. Certainly this was shocking to audiences accustomed to the more predictable pace of Mozart and Haydn. Of particular note is the notoriously “early” entrance of the horn towards the end of the first movement. Beethoven’s student and biographer Ferdinand Ries recalled, “At the first rehearsal of the Symphony, which was terrible – but at which the horn player made his entry correctly – I stood beside Beethoven and, thinking that a blunder had been made I said: ‘Can’t the damned hornist count? – it sounds horribly false!’ I think I came pretty close to getting a box on the ear. Beethoven did not forgive that little slip for a long time.”

The solemn, majestic Marcia funebre (funeral march) reflects the impact and importance of the “great man,” whose life and actions Beethoven refers to in his dedication.

The buoyant Scherzo departs from the intensity of the previous two movements. Here is Beethoven’s mocking sense of humor at play, as when the strings return with their signature theme and stomp all over their previously playful rhythm. The insistent pulse of the strings and the incessant bounce of this movement suggest a puppy chasing its own tail.

The final movement, a set of themes and variations, uses music from the Beethoven’s own Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus from 1801 and an 1802 solo piano work, known today as the Eroica Variations. A virtuoso blast from the horn section signals the symphony’s conclusion, a glorious reaffirmation of Beethoven’s heroic ideals.


© 2021 Elizabeth Schwartz