Symphony ends season on magnificent ‘Joy’ note.
By Sue Langenberg

–The Rockford Symphony Orchestra finished its 75th anniversary season Saturday evening at the Coronado Theatre with a performance of Ludwig Von Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, “Ode to Joy.”
–The masterpiece was originally based on Friedrich Schiller’s “An die Freude,” or “To Joy,” of late 18th century literature. Beethoven did not complete his sketches and score until well into the 19th century. The result expresses enlightenment and spiritual freedom.
–The house was nearly full, right up to the upper balcony area crow’s nest for this special concert. The stage as well was filled with the orchestra conducted by music director Steven Larsen and some 100 voices of the Mendelssohn Chorale directed by Martha Bein.
–And there were special guest vocal soloists to enrich the last movement, Presto. Soprano Christine Steyer, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Lane, tenor Scott Ramsay and baritone Gerard Sundberg soared above and around the precious notes.
–The concert was short in length, slightly over an hour, but long in musical wealth. The Ninth and composer’s final symphony was a single statement of magnificence, and needing nothing else on the program. There are few orchestral experiences in life that offer such a feast of notes as did Saturday evening.
–The first movement, Allegro, was rich and grandiose offering a depth of symphonic color in a minor key statement. The second movement, Vivace, executed precision and racy meter boldly recognizable again in a minor key. The plucky scherzo was a lighthearted language of music that endures in our long-celebrated appreciation for Beethoven.
–The Adagio movement was a contemplative waft of beauty as the strings seemed to hover above, breathless in B-flat and never quite reaching a major key.
–The much-anticipated final movement engaged the full potential of sentiment with no apology by the composer. Beethoven himself, in fact, wrestled with the proper segue into a vocal passage that seemed to depart from the previous movements. Indeed it marked the first vocal passage in any symphony.
–Beethoven himself might have meant grandiose regalia as this piece has found a way into many official ceremonies around the world. It has also found a way into some contemporary cell phone ring tones, perhaps a low blow to the purity of music history, but nevertheless another venue to remember a classic heritage.
–Outstanding work on the program was provided by concertmaster Michelle Lekas and principals Andrew Williams, second violin; Benjamin Weber, viola; Michael Beert, cello; Alison Gaines, bass; Scott Metlicka, flute; Debra Freedland, oboe; Darlene Carl-Beck, clarinet; Karl Rzasa, bassoon; Gerik Fon-Revutzky, contrabassoon; Becky Asher, horn; Mark Baldin, trumpet; Rick Seybold, trombone; Michael Zielinski, bass trombone; Jon Mortensen, timpani and Tom Rogiewicz, percussion.
–It was an evening with the right composer, the right musicians and the right maestro. An instant standing ovation followed to close this RSO season.