Monday, May 8

Damn, I love Beethoven

A and I went to the Portland Youth Philharmonic concert on Saturday at the Schnitz. Great show. Delightfully-talented young people playing beautiful music is always a pleasure, but in some ways the show was somewhat stolen by their conductor: Mei-Ann Chen.

We had seats off to one side down on the orchestra level, so we were low enough, close enough, and far enough to the side that we could see Ms. Chen's face for much of the performance. Ms. Chen has to be one of the most entertaining conductors I've ever seen. It's abundantly clear that she has a deep and vibrant passion for the music. It was if she was dancing as she led the young musicians. No. Not "if". She was dancing. She was conducting, but it was so expressive that it went beyond mere direction and became a dance. It was really wonderful to see an artist and educator so enjoying her work.

Then, to top it all off, at the end of the program on Saturday they played pieces from my favorite two composers - Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. They played the first three movements of Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 4 in G Major. A beautiful piece, they played it beautifully. I was happy. Then they played the last two movements of Beethoven's 5th Symphony (yes, that symphony).

Oh. Wow.

We so often hear the famous "da da da dum" of the first movement that it's easy to forget just how breathtaking the other three movements really are - the third movement's scherzo leading uninterrupted into the finale is truly beautiful. All I could do was sit there and marvel at the beauty and the passionate power of the music.

Oh yeah. Beethoven rocks.

Tchaikovsky is great - just as powerful, but a precise, graceful, controlled power. I love his work, but to me nothing can compare to the raw emotion of Beethoven at his best - whether it's the famous stormy Fifth, the joy of the Ninth, or the love of the Pathetique.

Thank you, PYP for reminding me why I love Beethoven so much.


  1. Have you ever seen Murray Sidlin conduct? When I had season tickets to Nerve Endings, it was as much to watch him conduct as to listen to the music. He always made me think a bit of a mad scientist with his unkempt white hair.

  2. I have indeed seen Maestro Sidlin conduct, and I agree he was tons of fun to watch. But he can't hold a candle to Mei-Ann Chen, trust me. :-)

  3. Thank you for your kind words about PYP. We truly appreciate your patronage and support. Thought you would want to know that Season 84 opens November 10th with works by Debussy and Rachmaninoff. It should be absolutely beautiful. (There's an "instrument petting zoo" beforehand too, so it's great for [middle school [+/-] aged kids!) We have four interim conductors to enjoy this season (including Mei-Ann Chen on December 26th). Find out more at