Gateway Gazette

Beethoven on the Silver Screen!

Beethoven: Emperor Concerto
Beethoven: Symphony #7

Ba ba ba bum… Wait, no. That’s Beethoven’s Fifth.

Everywhere you turn, somebody is quoting Beethoven. It may not be as famous as the Fifth, but you’re probably more familiar with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 than you think. It has been used again and again, in film and in television, to underscore both joy and sorrow.

Two of the most famous examples are both Academy Award Winners!

The King’s Speech (2010)

Includes Symphony #7 AND the Emperor Concerto!

There’s a moment in the film that absolutely soars. It comes near the end when poor Bertie has been crowned as George VI after his brother abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson. Superbly played by Colin Firth, Bertie (his family nickname) dreaded public speaking because of a speech impediment. He was horrified when he had to ascend the throne in 1937 because he knew what the job entailed. Two years later, he gave a major speech that BBC Radio broadcast throughout the empire, announcing Britain’s entry into World War II. The speech serves as the climax of the film. We’ve seen him humiliate himself on a number of previous occasions, unable to get the words out.

The film lets time drag as we see Bertie struggle with clicks and stutters to form the words. It’s excruciating and I found myself tensing up each time.

But now he’s the king and after working intensely with Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist, beautifully underplayed by Geoffrey Rush, Bertie is about to give the speech of his life. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Britain needs a leader to take it to war.

The buildup begins as he and Logue walk Buckingham Palace’s endless corridors toward the broadcast room, passing dozens of broadcasters who wish him well. At last, they enter the room with the microphone. They’re alone. Logue throws open the window — he believes fresh air helps — as Bertie tries to compose himself.

The countdown begins — four blinks of a red light followed by steady red. Bertie’s fear is agonizing to watch.

And then this: As Firth struggles at first, we hear the ominous chugging of musical chords. Moments later, the calm, gentle Allegretto of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony spreads over the pulsing rhythm. The melody is smooth, unruffled, an aural metaphor for Bertie’s aspirations.

With Logue silently prompting him through the difficult spots, the sweet, melancholic music unfolds, building in intensity, then subsiding, lasting exactly as long as the speech. Moments later, at the movie’s coda, we hear more Beethoven: the ethereal slow movement of the “Emperor” Piano Concerto. It too, is a perfect fit.

Mr. Holland’s Opus

Remember the tear-jerking scene in “Mr. Holland’s Opus” (1995), when the high school music teacher (Richard Dreyfuss) drops the needle on the sombre second movement and recounts to his students the tragedy of Beethoven’s later years, when he was going deaf? In the film, Holland’s son is deaf and unable to share his father’s passion for music. Intensified by the march, his heartbreak is palpable.

This breathtaking program of two majestic works, rarely heard together on the same program, and marvelously interpreted by world-class pianist Glen Montgomery and the Rocky Mountain Symphony, will delight and inspire music lovers of all ages.

Airdrie, AB
Town & Country Centre
Friday, May 4, 2018
Doors open at 7
Concert at 7:30

High River, AB
Highwood Memorial Centre
Saturday, May 5, 2018
Doors open at 7
Concert at 7:30

Click here to Reserve Seats

Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra

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