Checking on the Arts
Wed April 28, 2010
David Loebel's Final Concert as Music Director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra
By Darel Snodgrass, WKNO-FM
Memphis, TN – David Loebel: I thought it would be sort-of typical Loebel to do this piece of Beethoven that people really don't know - except for the overture - except that you'll recognize the same melody that Beethoven uses in the Eroica. A theme that started as a contra-dance, then used in a piano piece which is referred to as "the Eroica Variations," although, actually, a more accurate title would be "the Prometheus Variations." It uses the same theme - that piano piece was kind of a sketch for the final movement of the Eroica.
I like to do programs where the pieces sort-of comment on each other, and where you combine something familiar with something maybe not-so-familiar, but which has, nonetheless, a relationship to what else is going to go on during the program.
The other reason for Beethoven was that when I came here, I said there were two aspects of the repertoire that I really wanted to emphasize with the orchestra. One was American music and all of its forms. The other was the 19th century Viennese classics - 18th century, too: Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert. When I look back on these years one of the things I take the most satisfaction from is the fact that I think that the orchestra really developed a really strong way of playing that repertoire in a stylistic way. I've always believed that this is a given for any orchestra that aspires to improve; that you just have to play that repertoire; you have to play it a lot; you have to play it with a lot of attention to detail.
So I guess, as kind of a musical statement of what I've been trying to do these years, I think Beethoven is as good a way to go out as any. Plus, people like it.
Darel Snodgrass: These pieces are related in many ways - the fourth movement of the Prometheus forming the foundations of the theme and variations in the fourth movement of the Eroica. People may not realize that there is a sort-of historical relationship between the Eroica and the Egmont - having, of course, to do with Napoleon.
Loebel: Yes, exactly. And this is sort-of a subset of Beethoven's middle period, but there was a time between 1800 and 1810 when politics and the events of the world and Napoleon all were on everybody's mind, and it can't help but reflect itself in the art of the time, so Beethoven went through this obsession with Napoleon - dedicating the Eroica Symphony to Napoleon and then erasing the dedication when Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor. But the Egmont overture is part of inscendental music that Beethoven wrote for a play by Goethe, which has to do with the oppression of the people in Flanders by the Spaniards, and Egmont was a count who ultimately was martyred in the cause of freedom.
These are also the years in which Beethoven wrote his opera Fidelio, which has exactly the same theme of the triumph of freedom over oppression.