Ludwig van Beethoven

By Colin Roshak

It’s a new year. Time to flip the calendar, update our timesheets, apply for the PFD and renew our can-do attitudes.

Many things will change this year, but somethings, however, will remain indefatigably present. Great movies will get snubbed by the Academy, the long drawl of winter will demand many a vitamin-D supplement and, as may forever be the case in classical music, Beethoven will reign supreme.

The greatest symphonist and founding father of Western music tradition, Ludwig van Beethoven celebrates his 250th birthday, and sounds darn good for his age. And while, yes, we’ll find just about any reason to celebrate Him, this is a landmark work celebrating anew.

Many of the major classical music presenters in Anchorage will take their turn paying homage this year. Earlier in the season, the Anchorage Symphony performed his Egmont Overture, and in just a few months time, the Anchorage Youth Symphony will take on his indelible Fifth Symphony. Not so many have taken this task quite so seriously as the Anchorage Festival of Music, however. This coming weekend, AFM presents Beethoven’s Birthday Bash — a reverie in review of Beethoven’s “lost” years.

AFM musicians will perform works mostly written between 1813 and 1818, when Beethoven was transitioning from his heroic middle period to his more experimental late period. These include his Polonaise in C major, op. 89 and a rare performance of Wellington’s Victory, which tells the story of the English victory at the Battle of Vitoria. Sandwiched between these will be an assortment of folk songs both for voice and assorted instruments.

Thinking of Beethoven, one immediately hears the concussive Hammerschläge of the Third Symphony, or the impenetrability of the Grosse Fuge, perhaps even the lilting finale to his Violin Concerto, but folk song is rarely one’s first association with the temperamental German titan. However, Beethoven was a prolific songwriter both in folk and art song settings. His set of 25 Scottish Songs, op. 108 will be sung by guest vocalists Kyle Gantz and Kate Egan, accompanied by AFM musicians Linda Ottum (cello), Juliana Osinchuk (piano) and Christine Harada Li (violin).

Music Director and flutist Laura Koenig takes great care in programming AFM concerts and in crafting narratives that accompany the drama of the music. For Beethoven’s sestercentennial, Koenig will present a pre-concert lecture to delve into both the music and Beethoven’s hearing loss that plagued his later years. Koenig made sure to mention that there will also be a birthday cake, though, of course, one wonders whether Ludwig would have preferred chocolate or vanilla cake — a question in dire need of serious scholarship.

The Anchorage Festival of Music presents Beethoven’s Birthday Bash, this coming Sunday, January 5th at 4pm at the UAA Recital Hall. Tickets are available at

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