A&E: Symphony Celebrates Beethoven with Joyous Ode

Pianist Svetlana Smolina is the featured soloist at the South Florida Symphony’s Beethoven anniversary concert on Friday, Feb. 7.

The year 2020 abounds with big milestones: the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment giving women in the U.S. the right to vote and the founding of the National Football League are two that immediately come to mind.

But, for classical music lovers, there is no bigger celebration this year than composer Ludwig van Beethovens 250th birthday. 

Its true that the German master composed symphonies, oratorios and an opera, chamber works and countless concertos and sonatas, but the South Florida Symphony, under the direction of maestra Sebrina Maria Alfonso, is marking the occasion with Beethovens most uplifting work, the Symphony No. 9, Choral,” with its iconic Ode to Joy.

Its powerful, one of those pieces that hits you in the gut and stays there while its being performed,” Alfonso saidWhen you think about his life, he probably had a venereal disease — as most people did in those days — and by 23 or 24 (years old), he was pretty deaf. The music came from within him. He didnt really have the chance to hear it at the piano. Its his being. There was something very emotional and powerful that connects to the masses.   

Joining the symphony will be Neil Nelson, the bass-baritone who wowed audiences with his performance in Gershwin’s “Porgy & Bess” last season, along with soprano Robyn Lamp, mezzo-soprano Mabel Ledo and tenor Ray Gonzalez, and backed up by the South Florida Symphony Festival Chorus, led by Dr. Giselle Elgarresta Rios. 

Rounding out the Beethoven concert on Friday, Feb. 7 at the Broward Center will be Schumanns Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54. Local favorite Svetlana Smolina will make a return appearance to perform one of that composers most beautiful works and a natural complement to the vigor of the Ode to Joy.

The symphonic/choral collaboration will also foreshadow the formation of a new South Florida Symphony Chorus that will be featured on many of the programs during the 2020-21 season.

Were building our program and creating new opportunities to bring more people in from the community to work with the symphony,” Alfonso explained. “Were also hoping to add a childrens chorus, so that sisters, brothers, parents and grandparents — all generations — can experience and enjoy the music.

She plans performances of Handels oratorio Messiah” during the holiday season, followed by Gustav HolstThe Planets” featuring womens chorus in January, the Mozart Requiem in February and a collaboration with Florida Grand Opera in March. 

This is such an exciting time for everyone at the symphony,” Alfonso concluded.

The South Florida Symphony, under the direction of maestra Sebrina Maria Alfonso, will perform Beethovens Symphony No. 9, Choral,” and Schumanns Piano Concerto in A minor, Op 54, on Friday, Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets start at $25 at BrowardCenter.org.