Stars here for Beethoven's Triple Concerto


POSTED: Monday, March 30, 2009

Knock, knock. Who's there? Banana. Banana who? BA-NA-NA NAAAH! ... BA-NA-NA NAAAH!





        Triple Concerto, with John O'Conor, piano; Ignace Jang, violin; Yehuda Hanani, cello:

» In concert: 8 p.m. Saturday


» Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall


» Program: ”;Egmont Overture,”; Concerto in C Major for Piano, Violin, Cello and Orchestra “;Triple,”; Symphony No. 5 in C Minor


» Tickets: $20 to $82, available at Ticketmaster outlets, (800) 745-3000 and www.ticketmaster.com; or call 792-2000 (weekdays) or 524-0815, ext. 245 (evenings). Visit www.honolulusymphony.com.




Do you get it? That's the opening from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, classical music's most instantly recognizable tune, ever. It's as dramatic as it gets, nothing funny or fruity here.

This motif, as if lodged deep within humankind's darkest soul, comes knocking at your door before all hell breaks loose. That's what you're in for this weekend.

But wait, there's nothing to fear. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, this work is about struggle, rebirth and, ultimately, triumph over evil. It will lift your mood the way Wall Street hasn't—all thanks to Beethoven's indomitable creative strength.

Leading the charge will be the Honolulu Symphony's Andreas Delfs. I haven't had a chance to comment on his influence on the orchestra since he took over the reins, so please, allow me.

Using fashion language, playing under Delfs is like going to a black-tie affair. Look chic and sharp, and play that way, too. (But play flats and naturals when required.) Bring only the best to the stage, and leave the baggy shorts at home.

Delfs is bringing the very best to the Beethoven Festival with superb guests, pianist John O'Conor and cellist Yehuda Hanani. O'Conor and Delfs recently collaborated on an album of Beethoven's piano concertos, so having spent many hours in the studio, their partnership is based more on intuition than dialogue. On Saturday, O'Conor and Hanani will be joining yours truly in a performance of Beethoven's Triple Concerto.

Triple? You've seen one soloist stand in front of an orchestra for a concerto. You might have seen two soloists for a double concerto. But three?

A trio or even quartet of soloists used to be common in the 18th century, in what was called a sinfonia concertante. It was based on the concerto grosso of the 17th century, in which the music is “;shared”; between a small group of soloists and the orchestra. So, there is precedent. But a piano, violin and cello combo? Never done before.

Legend has it that a teenage nobleman, Archduke Rudolph, was studying piano under Beethoven's tutelage. The rule of thumb for composers in those days was keep the wealthy happy. Due to this set of circumstances, the Triple was created in Rudolph's honor.

However, some historians refute this version. The official dedicatee in the first publication bears the name Prince Lobkowitz. A patron of the arts, Lobkowitz attended the private premiere with Beethoven himself at the piano. As a reward, the composer was paid 700 florins and 80 gold ducats. Quite a tidy sum in those days.

How much is that in today's market? I do not know. In my estimation, the Triple Concerto is priceless.