The Building Blocks of Music: CSO, led by Stilian Kirov, moves to Beethoven’s middle period in Beethoven Festival concert

Rossen Milanov conducts the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra during their performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 Saturday, July 21, 2018 in the Amphitheater. This concert was the first of a three-part Beethoven festival this week. RILEY ROBINSON/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Music Director Rossen Milanov thinks Beethoven would have loved Legos.

“He would have been absolutely fascinated playing with them,” Milanov said. “He loves putting things together that are broken up into smaller units.”

The perfect example, for Milanov, is Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Beethoven opens the symphony with its famous four-note theme and then uses that motif as the building block for the rest of the symphony.

“The Fifth Symphony is technically just four notes, so that’s a (two-by-two) Lego block, and the entire first movement is made of just (two-by-two) Lego blocks,” Milanov said.

The CSO, led by guest conductor Stilian Kirov, will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op 67, at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, July 24, in the Amphitheater, along with Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, op. 61, and the overture from Verdi’s La forza del destino.

This concert will be the second of the CSO’s three-part Beethoven Festival, which began on Saturday with the composer’s Symphony No. 2 and Piano Concerto No. 1. Those works both come from Beethoven’s early period and foreshadowed the masterpieces yet to be written.

Tuesday, July 24, the audience will hear those masterpieces.

The Fifth and the Violin Concerto are both members of Beethoven’s middle period, featuring more dramatic and Romantic elements than his early-period works. They are also two of the composer’s most frequently performed compositions.

Interpreting well- known works like these is a big responsibility. Kirov, who will conduct the CSO for the first time tonight, is aware of that burden — and a little intimidated, too.

“I think if you’re not intimidated, maybe your ego is taking over too much,” he said.

Kirov takes a humble approach to conducting, especially with Beethoven. For Kirov, accurately portraying the intentions of the composer is the most important objective, and he wants to “get out of the way” as much as possible.

“The score is the sun, and my job is to reflect the light to the audience the best way I can,” Kirov said.

In order to achieve that, Kirov tries to get inside the creative process behind whatever composition he’s studying. If they are available, Kirov will study facsimiles of the original, handwritten score so he can see how exactly the composer put the music together.

“In some pieces he’s crossing out whole sections, and sometimes it’s very aggressively crossed,” Kirov said. “He’s revising and revising until he gets something that he believes will be perfect. … I’m trying to at least have some feeling for the process of creation so that I can be a good messenger for what the composer is saying with this great music.”

Kirov is particularly excited to conduct the CSO because it’s somewhat of a homecoming for him. In 2010,Kirov was the David Effron Conducting Fellow conducting fellow under Music School Festival Orchestra Music Director Timothy Muf tt, and he returned as an MSFO guest conductor in 2012.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to make music with the wonderful Chautauqua Symphony,” Kirov said. “Chautauqua is one of my alma maters — with all of the different arts it embraces, it’s quite unique.”

Tags : BeethovenBeethoven’s Fifth SymphonyBeethoven’s Violin ConcertoChautauqua Symphony OrchestraStilian Kirov

The author Justin Kelly

This is Justin’s first summer at Chautauqua, where he covers symphonic and chamber music. He grew up in Washington, D.C., attended Carnegie Mellon University and Manhattan School of Music, and now resides in Pittsburgh. Justin is a dedicated lover of live music, and he tries to attend as much of it as he possibly can.