The Other Beethoven


Beethoven is not a dog. Well, he's not only a dog, as kids will discover Saturday if they attend the "Beethoven Celebration" at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.

According to Sidney Weiss, music director and conductor of the Glendale Symphony, Beethoven is also "the composer of one of the greatest violin concertos ever written."

That concerto, Op. 61, plus Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 and his "Egmont Overture," will be on the symphony's program.

"These are three of the composer's outstanding works," Weiss explained, "and I want parents to bring their children to hear them in an actual concert setting, in a wonderful acoustical setting--music in its natural habitat."

Weiss, who has had a distinguished career as a violinist and concertmaster and now leads his own orchestra, said, "I have a great faith in the ability of young minds to absorb quality."

No stranger to the mind-set of local audiences, having been principal concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1979 to 1994, he thinks children as young as 10 will enjoy Saturday's event.

"And I don't believe in playing down to kids," Weiss said.

He'll begin the concert with one of Beethoven's most rousing compositions, the "Egmont," a piece Weiss said expresses the composer's rebellious nature.

"It's the sum of Beethoven's whole persona, a struggle for the cause of liberty," he said.

The true story the music is based on recounts "the final victory of the forces of freedom over tyranny," Weiss said. The actual events took place in the 16th century during the fight against imperial Spain's harsh occupation of the Low Countries.

If this all sounds sort of like "Star Wars" stuff, well, it is--swords, helmets, capes and all. But this time the action is set to music by Beethoven, an artist who can evoke images in a listener's head without resorting to a movie projector.

Pam Ellis, who chairs the symphony's board of directors and also heads the Glendale School Board, stressed the importance of exposing kids to the classics of music in a concert setting.

"In a world flowing with [movie] images, an appreciation of classical music enables children to develop their imagination in a wonderful way," she said.

Citing recent research findings, Ellis said she thinks studying music strengthens the mathematics skills of youngsters as well.

To promote these ideas, the orchestra invited teachers to bring school groups to rehearsals for its March concert, without charge.

(Arrangements must be made considerably in advance, so teachers interested in taking students to rehearsals for the next scheduled concert, which is in May, should call the orchestra office, [818] 500-8720, soon.)

Because of the Alex's excellent acoustics and seating pattern, even in the balcony, kids will be so close to the ensemble they'll hear every note of every instrument.

For kids who have never experienced symphonic music performed live, it could be something they'll talk about for the rest of their lives.


"A Beethoven Celebration," the Glendale Symphony Orchestra performing the "Egmont" overture; Violin Concerto Op. 61, Sidney Weiss, violinist; and Piano Concerto No. 4, Jeanne Weiss, pianist; Saturday at 8 p.m., Alex Theatre, 216 Brand Ave. Glendale. $15-$45. (818) 500-8720.

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