For its final show of the 2013-14 season, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, led by the incomparable maestro Heiichiro Ohyama, returns home (at last) to the Lobero Theatre for a "Lobero Homecoming Celebration" concert at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
There will be just two works on the program, two symphonies in the grand tradition — indeed, the very founders of that tradition! — to wit: Wolfgang Mozart's Symphony No. 41 in C-Major, K. 551 "Jupiter" and Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 in Eb-Major, Opus 55 "Eroica."
Talk about a triumphant homecoming!
It is the consensus among Mozart scholars that it is unlikely that Mozart ever heard his last symphony performed. There is, anyway, no record of a performance in the three years between its composition — it was one of a set of three, Nos. 39-41, composed in the summer of 1788 — and the composer's death (1791). Nor do we know exactly what Mozart had in mind writing such a huge and lengthy work. As a last will and testament, it is fairly intimidating.
It is probable, moreover, that Beethoven didn't hear his third symphony very well, since his hearing loss had by the time of its composition become impossible to ignore or reverse (some sentimentalists maintain that the "Eroica" was his shout of defiance at the fates who were stealing his most precious sense).
Whether or not it was Beethoven's intention, the "Eroica" changed the symphony — one might almost say changed music — forever; any 18th century symphony written thereafter was bound to sound either reactionary or recherché.
The title, which means "Heroic," was a last-minute substitution. For all his dependence on aristocratic patrons, Beethoven was an ardent supporter of the French Revolution and, like most of right-thinking Europe and the Americas, he saw Napoleon as the Revolution in action, the new broom that would sweep the world clean. However, when Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor of the French in May 1804, Beethoven, in anger, erased the name "Buonoparte" from the title page, and ultimately decided to call the work "Eroica."
(Bad timing on Bony's part, since it would have looked pretty sensational on his historical resumé to have had the greatest symphony ever written dedicated to himself.)
The "Eroica" holds a rather promineent place in my own history as a music lover. It came into our house as part of an RCA-Reader's Digest boxed set called "Music of the World's Great Composers," performed by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Odd Grüner-Hegge.
I was 13, and I just decided to like classical music, starting with Beethoven. I read what the booklet said about the work and then just played it over and over until I got it. (That's still how I do it.) In the more than half a century that has passed since then, I have never found the Third Symphony less than spell-binding.
Tickets to this SBCO concert are $56, and can be purchased from the Lobero box office at 33 E. Canon Perdido St., by calling 805.963.0761 or online by clicking here.