Beethoven & Prokofiev Musical Review I attended a classical performance of Beethoven and Prokofiev, on October 29, 2017 at the Jones Hall in Houston, Texas. The musical selections of Messiaen, Beethoven, and Prokofiev were performed by the Houston Symphony and conducted by Ludovic Morlot. Jonathan Biss is the pianist. Andres Orozco-Estrada is the Musical Director. Steven Copes, violinist, is the guest Concert Master. The orchestra played in a traditional format. Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), was a French composer, who devoted most of his works directly or indirectly to his devout Catholic Faith. Les Offrandes Oubliees (The Forgotten Offerings) was his first publicly performed worked in 1930. The concept of his song is composed of three movements, Cross, Sin, and Eucharist. Messiaen had a modern vision and was not trying to please the audience. He wanted them to meditate and think over his songs. The first rendition is very dark and sorrowful. The tempo then picks up with a lot of riffs and it becomes very fast paced with a lot of outbursts from the horn section. The last portion of the song is sad again with a sense of resolve. There is no pulse as if freezing time to allow you to go deeper in yourself. The song lasted approximately 12 minutes. The instruments played were 3 flutes, 2 oboes, English Horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion and strings. Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Opus 58 was completed in 1806. This song shows the more lyrical, introspective side of his imagination. Beethoven is fascinated with the idea of fate. The first movement begins with Jonathan Biss playing a piano solo with simple, pulsating chords which sets the tone of the symphony instead of the orchestra. The orchestra responds uncertainly in a distant, dreamy key, before coming back to the home key of G Major. The orchestral introduction develops the piano’s opening and introduces a new unsettled theme in which they play several minor keys. When the piano returns the soloist introduces new melodies, the orchestra precedes to respond by playing intensely. Near the end of the movement the piano soloist plays a cadenza. The second movement began with a unison of strings playing in a speaking style. The piano then engages in a dialogue with the strings. This movement fits the tragic mood and juxtaposition of a vulnerable individual against a hostile force. The finale immediately dispels the melancholy mood of the preceding movement. Accompanied by a solo cello, the pianist sets the tone that causes the entire orchestra to play in an upbeat and playful manner. The concerto races to a joyful conclusion, leaving us with a sense of happiness and well-being. Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) composed Symphony No.5 in B-Flat major, Opus 100 The instruments that played are a flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings. The rendition lasted approximately 36 minutes. At the end of this piece, the audience gave the orchestra a standing ovation. during the summer of 1944 when World War II raged across Europe. Despite the war, terrifying confrontations with the Soviet government and turmoil in his personal life, Prokofiev remained fundamentally idealistic and wrote that he conceived his symphony as “glorifying the grandeur of the human spirit, praising the free and happy man-his strength, his generosity and the purity of his soul.” He witnessed firsthand the devastation as Germany took over France. In 1917, he lived a self-imposed exile to the U.S and returned to Russia in 1936. Many people thought that this symphony was a symbol of the resilience of life in the face of war and death. The symphony begins with a lyrical melody that is shared by the flute and bassoon. The sounds of the basses and cellos leads to a soft contrasting theme. The concert master, Steven Copes, played the lead violins, while the brass and the strings played and interacted with the basses and cellos. The addition of the trumpets intensifies the development of the sounds and the original melody returns with the different sounds. The second movement is a fast, almost maniacal scherzo, full of Prokofiev’s characteristically sardonic sense of humor. The slow and deeply felt third movement begins by drum-roll-like trills. with a long melody by the woodwind section which leads to the moving sounds of the string section. Toward the end of the symphony, the piano leads to an ominous melody by the trumpets and woodwinds characterized by drumroll-like trills. The last movement begins with a dialogue between the sections of the orchestra that recalls the opening of the symphony. The solo clarinet melody contrasts with the alternating sections which ties all of the moments together. The symphony ends with a wild and excited finale. This symphony symbolized the beauty of life during destruction and death. The instruments include 2 flutes, a piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, e-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, piano and strings. This rendition lasted approximately 45 minutes Although I enjoyed the symphony and the ambience very much and was in awe of the talents of the musicians, I found myself not being able to appreciate the full scope of the symphony. I started to doze off a little towards the end of the performance as I became more and more relaxed when listening to the tone of the music at times. I would like to see another performance in the future. I thought that Sergei Prokofiev’s, Symphony No.5 in B-Flat major, Opus 100 was beautifully composed in the midst of the war and my favorite of the 3 symphonies played.