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Brilliant Beethoven – Symphony No. 9, “Ode to Joy”

October 7, 2023 @ 7:30 pm 9:30 pm MDT

Celebrate 100 years of exceptional music in Fort Collins with Beethoven’s brilliant Symphony No. 9, the “Ode to Joy.”


Saturday, October 7, 2023
7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Pre-Concert Lecture at 6:30


Lincoln Center Main Stage
417 W. Magnolia St.
Fort Collins, CO 80521
(or via livestream)


$25-67 adult, $10 student/child
$25 Livestream
Purchase Tickets

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Note: in-person tickets to Brilliant Beethoven are nearly sold out, but live-stream tickets are still available.

Brilliant Beethoven square, with title and repertoire

Our centennial season opens with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, “Ode to Joy,” one of the most uplifting and inspiring works ever written. The Larimer Chorale will join us to sing this beloved masterpiece, which celebrates the human spirit and the power of music to unite us all.

The concert also features William Grant Still’s Miniature Overture and Ottorino Respighi’s Ancient Airs & Dances No. 2, two works that evoke the beauty and mystery of the past. Together, these pieces provide a perfect introduction to Beethoven’s masterpiece, celebrating the best of what it means to be human.

Don’t miss this chance to experience the brilliance of Beethoven with your Fort Collins Symphony.

On this concert:

Miniature Overture, by William Grant Still

Ancient Airs & Dances No. 2, by Ottorino Respighi

Las Vistas Doradas, by Vince Oliver

Intermission: 20 min

Symphony No. 9, “Ode to Joy,” by Ludwig van Beethoven
Featuring the Larimer Chorale

Guest Artists:

Tiffany Blake, Soprano

Tiffany Blake

Praised by Opera News Online for her “…truly virtuoso performance….immaculate tone, good support and breath to spare.”, soprano, Dr. Tiffany Blake, received her D.M.A. in Vocal Performance with a minor in Opera Stage Direction from the Eastman School of Music, where she also earned her M.M. and was awarded the prestigious Performer’s Certificate.

Dr. Blake’s operatic roles include Desdemona in Otello, Marguerite in Faust, the title role in Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, and Mercedes in Carmen among others. Solo engagements have included appearances with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Missouri Symphony Orchestra, and the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Blake has a special interest in song literature, and has given several recitals in Scotland, France, Salzburg, and across the U.S., appearances with Chicago’s Arts at Large and the Odyssey Chamber Music concert series in Columbia, Missouri, and a vocal chamber music recital with Salzburg International Chamber Music Concerts.

Students of Dr. Blake have been accepted at major conservatories and music programs across the United States, including the Eastman School of Music, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and the University of North Texas. She has served on the faculties of the University of Missouri-Columbia, Syracuse University, and Alfred University.

She currently serves as associate professor of voice and director of the Charles and Reta Ralph Opera Program at Colorado State University.

Nicole Asel, Alto

Nicole Asel

Mezzo-soprano, Nicole Asel, serves as Associate Professor of Voice at Colorado State University where she teaches Voice and Vocal Pedagogy. A finalist in the 2010 Rocky Mountain Regional Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions, Nicole is a devoted operatic performer and recitalist who has a passion for new American opera and art song and has been active in creating and promoting new works.  She has collaborated with some of today’s most accomplished living composers including Mark Adamo, Kirke Meachem, Robert Livingston Aldridge, Hershel Garfein, Daniel Kellogg, and Robert Spillman. Her recording of Robert Livingston Aldridge’s Love Songs is available on the Centaur label with pianist Robert Spillman. 

Recent performances include mezzo-soprano soloist in Mahler’s Third Symphony with the Colorado State University Symphony Orchestra, mezzo-soprano soloist in Händel’sMessiah with Pro Musica Chamber Ensemble and Larimer Chorale, Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été with the Sam Houston State University Symphony Orchestra, and Rufus Wainwright’s Songs for Lulu in Vancouver, BC. She is also working on an innovative new film, The Baby Book Project, featuring Lauren Spavelko’s song cycle Baby Book with Art Song Colorado, more can be found on Art Song Colorado’s website.

John Lindsey, Tenor

John Lindsey

American tenor John Robert Lindsey has praised for his “clarion tone” and “blazing tenor” by Opera News. Recent roles include Froh in Das Rheingold with Arizona Opera; Števa in Janáček’s Jenůfa with Pacific Opera VictoriaJonathan Dale in Silent Night with Michigan Opera Theatre, Austin Opera, and Minnesota Opera; The Prince in Rusalka with Madison Opera; and Ben Marco in The Manchurian Candidate with Austin Opera. On the concert stage, he has been heard in Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, and Aldridge’s Parables. He currently serves on the voice faculty at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Graham Anduri, Bass Baritone

Graham Anduri

In demand as a concert soloist, bass-baritone Graham Anduri has been featured with orchestras throughout the United States in works by Bach, Handel, Faure, Vaughn Williams, Brahms, John Stainer, Margaret Bonds, Franz Schubert, and Louis Daniel. Anduri has been praised for his emotionally authentic portrayals of a wide cross-section of operatic characters, from villains to buffoons, from lovers to flawed heroes. A great portion of his work has been as an interpreter of Mozart and bel canto characters, such as Der Sprecher and Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Leporello in Don Giovanni, Bartolo in Le Nozze di Figaro, Osmin in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Dulcamara in L’Elisir d’amore, and Alidoro in La Cenerentola. The depth and dramatic timbre in Anduri’s voice have lent a convincing characterization to late Romantic and Verismo operas as well, including Michele in Puccini’s Il Tabrro, Alfio in Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana, and Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff, along with comprimario roles in Madama Butterfly and I Pagliacci. Anduri finds deep expressive potential in the works of American opera composers. Favorite roles from this oeuvre include Blitch from Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, Tom/John from Henry Mollicone’s The Face on the Barroom Floor, King Melchior in Giancarlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, Daddy Lowell/Floyd in Clint Borzoni’s The Copper Queen, and Manfred from Jake Heggie’s dramatic song cycle Farewell Auschwitz.

Outside of his life as a performer, Graham is also passionate about making the world a more musical and compassionate place by providing opportunities for people to experience the magic of the performing arts from the stage, the audience, and the classroom. As such, he has spent time as a university music professor, an arts entrepreneur, and an arts administrator. He currently serves as the Executive Director of Ovation West Performing Arts in Evergreen, Colorado. He holds a DMA in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from The University of Southern Mississippi, an MM in Vocal Performance from the University of Florida, and a BME in Vocal Music Education from Colorado State University.

Free week-of-concert events:

Composer talk
Composer Talks
with Dr. K. Dawn Grapes

Composer Talk:

Join CSU professor Dr. K. Dawn Grapes on the Wednesday prior to most Signature concerts for an entertaining and informative lecture about the upcoming featured composers. Light refreshments. Sponsored by the Friends of the Symphony.

Wednesday, October 4
12:00 – 1:00 PM, at the Old Town Library

Open Rehearsal:

Learn firsthand what it takes for an orchestra to bring live music to the stage. Houselights remain on during this comfortable preview of each upcoming Signature concert. The rehearsal closes to the public at 8:30 p.m. intermission.

Thursday, October 5
7:00 – 8:30 PM, at the Lincoln Center

Maestro’s Musings:

Prior to each Signature concert, join Maestro Wes Kenney for a pre-concert talk about the music you will hear.

Saturday, October 7
6:30 – 7:00 PM, at the Lincoln Center
Included with ticket purchase

FCS Sponsors and Business Support:

Season 23-24: “Then & Now” is dedicated in loving memory of John Roberts

“Brilliant Beethoven” Sponsors:

Paul Wood Florist
Bob and Diana Graziano
Gisela Hobman

Season Sponsors:

Arts Without End Foundation

Dr. David and Alison Dennis

Dr. Ed Siegel

Dr. Peter Springberg

City of Fort Collins Fort Fund Logo
The Lyric Cinema
Colorado Creative Industires
National Endowment for the Arts - wide

Supporting Businesses:

The businesses below help make our concerts possible. Please show them your support, and let them know you came from the Fort Collins Symphony. Click the logo to visit their website.

Get your tickets at LCTix.com

Program Notes – by Dr. K. Dawn Grapes

William Grant Still
Miniature Overture

Date of Composition: 1965
Duration: 2 minutes

William Grant Still
William Grant Still

William Grant Still (1895–1978) came of age in the early twentieth century at a time when composers were trying to establish a uniquely American identity. For Still, that sometimes meant embracing traditional music from his African American heritage and seamlessly juxtaposing inspired references within frameworks cemented by his solid classical training. Over the course of his career, he composed more than 200 works, from operas and ballets to symphonic, chamber, and solo compositions.

Along the way, he opened doors for other Black artists with a string of notable “firsts”:

  • – first Black composer whose symphony was performed by a professional U.S. orchestra (Symphony No. 1,“Afro-American,” Rochester Philharmonic, 1931);
  • – first to have an opera premiered by a major company (Troubled Island, New York City Opera, 1949, 10 years after completion);
  • – first Black composer whose opera appeared on a major U.S. television network (A Bayou Legend, 1981, 40 years after completion);
  • – first Black man to conduct a major U.S. orchestra (Los Angeles Philharmonic, 1936);
  • – and first Black conductor of a major orchestra in the deep south (New Orleans Philharmonic, 1955).

In 1999, Still was inducted posthumously into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame.

One of Still’s later compositions, the little-known Miniature Overture was commissioned for the October 1965 inaugural concert of the Greater Miami Philharmonic Orchestra (now the Florida Philharmonic). At just around two minutes long, the work stands as one of the composer’s shortest compositions. In this case, the saying “good things come in small packages” could not be more apt.

Ottorino Respighi
Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 2

Date of Composition: 1923
Duration: 19 minutes

In the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries, the profession of musician was not so neatly subcategorized as it is today. Composers were also simultaneously performers, entrepreneurs, and teachers. Thus, it seems appropriate that twentieth-century Italian composer Ottorino Respighi (1879–1936), who can also rightly be labelled performer, conductor, editor, professor, and musicologist, held a special fascination for the music and musicians who preceded him—a modern “Renaissance man” one might say.

Ottorino Respighi with a violin
Ottorino Respighi

As a young man, Respighi first attended the conservatory in Bologna as a string performance student. Upon his graduation in 1900, he accepted a position as principal violist in the Russian Imperial Theatre Orchestra. While in Moscow, he also studied with the great orchestrator-composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Perhaps it was this combination of hearing romantic opera daily, while exploring programmatic color options for different instrumental combinations, that led him to compose some of the lushest soundscapes of the century.

In contrast to the thicker romantic textures of his more famous works such as The Pines of Rome, Respighi’s Antiche danze ed arie per liuto (Ancient Dances and Airs for Lute) sonically replicates the charm of early Baroque dances in three orchestral suites. Each provides fresh new settings for modern audiences. His Second Suite includes four movements inspired by music originally composed for the lute, the most popular instrument of the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Utilizing dances first composed by Italian musicians Fabritio Caroso (c. 1530–c. 1605) and Bernardo Gianoncelli (d. c. 1650), Burgundian lutenist Jean-Baptiste Besard (c. 1567–c. 1616), and French court composer Antoine Boesset (1586–1642), the composer resurrects music of former times. Performance practice purists might quibble over Respighi’s arrangements, which set old lute dances for modern instruments and do not always follow historically-informed musical practice. The composer, however, labelled the works as “free transcriptions for orchestra,” leaving no doubt that Respighi achieved just what he intended.

Vince Oliver
Las Vistas Doradas

Date of composition: 2023
Duration: 5 minutes

Vince Oliver
Vince Oliver

Las Vistas Doradas (Golden Views), was commissioned by the Denver Young Artists Orchestra and premiered by the ensemble at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in 2023 with the Fort Collins Symphony’s very own Wes Kenney on the podium.

Composer Vince Oliver (b. 1978), whose talents extend to percussion performance, sound design, and musical direction, wrote the piece as an homage to the music of Aaron Copland. He describes the composition as “an abashed celebration of traditional Americana sounds in both orchestral and film music.”

The composer’s note in the score suggests: “The 19th Century played many stories of westward expansion—Commonly with hope of discovering precious metals in the new and unexplored land. Listening closely, we can still hear the spirits of the past. Singing their songs. Playing their familiar tunes. And in the after, celebrating the certainty that the true gold they found exists within the natural beauty that continues to surround them.”

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 9, Op. 125, “Choral”

Date of Composition: 1822–1824
Duration: c. 70 minutes

Last night I heard a beautiful performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. No one will write anything better …

Sergei Rachmaninoff, 1908

Sometimes a work of art takes on new life, reaching greater heights than might first have been perceived. Such is the case with the Ninth Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), a seeming culmination of all the composer had accomplished previously. In 1824, Beethoven’s composition was innovative in its length (with a fourth movement as long in duration as many other composers’ previous symphonies), its use of instruments typically found in opera orchestras of the time, and most especially, his addition of vocal soloists and choir to the final movement. The composer had experimented with these ideas previously, but never incorporated them all into a single four-movement symphony. Reports of the premiere indicate a resounding success. The audience was appreciative, applauding throughout and offering multiple standing ovations. History, however, tends to repeat only details that support such a canonic work, and thus, it may be surprising to learn that not everyone in 1824 was convinced of the work’s value. Contemporaneous composer Louis Spohr noted “in spite of some flashes of genius, [the first three movements] are to my mind inferior to all the eight previous symphonies,” and he called the fourth movement “monstrous and tasteless.” In the next generation, both Mendelssohn and Schumann claimed not to fully understand the finale.

Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven

Difficulties emerged before the premiere took place. Unlike today’s musicians who know the piece well, the music was brand new to original performers. Some musicians complained that certain passages were too difficult, but Beethoven refused to revise any part of his work. Two of the soloists had to be replaced. Of course, at the time, the composer was completely deaf, so who knows which passages orchestra members changed to meet their own needs? Reports indicate there were sections when some musicians stopped playing altogether. And despite his hearing loss, Beethoven insisted on conducting this massive work. The orchestra, however, followed concertmaster Ignaz Schuppanzigh, while Michael Umlauf (music director of the Vienna theater where the premiere took place) kept time in line of view of the full array of musicians, instructing them to ignore the composer.

What did the first audience hear? The first movement opens with an uncertainty of key or melody, as if the composer is experimenting to see where the piece will land. Opening rhythmic figures finally come together to present a regal theme worthy of the greatest symphony of all time, setting a mood for what will come. The second movement scherzo is a rollicking demonstration of the composer’s fugal inventiveness within a classical ternary form. The slow third movement lulls the audience with astounding beauty and tenderness that belies portrayals of Beethoven’s gruff personality. That first audience would have found parts of the first three movements novel, but it is the work’s finale that defied all expectations.

A booming opening gives way to more uncertainty as the concluding movement alludes to individual moments in the previous three, each interrupted as if to say, “this is not the way.” Finally, the all-important Joy theme is presented in the low strings, followed by another set of variations. Then to introduce the voices, a baritone soloist enters with words written by Beethoven himself: “O friends, not these sounds! Let us strike up more pleasing ones, more joyful ones,” dismissing all that came before in favor of a solo, chamber, and choral setting of the poem An die Freude (To the Joy), written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and reissued in 1808. It was this second revision from which Beethoven selected his verses. Schiller’s words first call upon Joy, a daughter of the paradise Elysium, to heal divisions and promote brotherhood. The text portrays the beauty of nature and calls for friendship before offering “a kiss for the world” and praising God’s firmament. It is through this finale that the cumulative orchestra and chorus transcends an earthly realm, bringing together all humanity, nature, heavens, and stars, as indicated in Schiller’s text.

Commissioned by London’s Philharmonic Society, dedicated to Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, and premiered in Vienna, Beethoven’s symphony held a certain international flavor from its start, which has only grown over time. In the twentieth century, World War I’s Allies heralded the symphony as belonging to everyone except the Germans. As if in response, in the next war, the composition was performed in Berlin for Hitler’s 1942 birthday as Nazi musical propaganda. In 1973, women sang their own “Himno a la Alegría” (Hymn to Happiness) in the streets while protesting the dictatorial Pinochet regime in Chile, and in 1989, students played Beethoven’s symphony over loudspeakers in Tiananmen Square to drown out governmental proclamations of martial law. At the end of that same year, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Leonard Bernstein led musicians from East and West Germany, England, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union in a performance in the reunited city. Mindful of the moment, the conductor asked the singers to replace the word Freude (joy) with Freiheit (freedom).

Long an established symbol of global harmony, portions of the symphony have been heard in the opening or closing ceremonies of no fewer than eight Olympic games over the last century, the most memorable taking place in 1998 in Nagano. Musicians from Japan, Germany, South Africa, China, Australia, and the U.S. joined in a simulcast television broadcast, demonstrating that humanity truly can come together to sing a song of brotherhood, despite location, distance, tradition, race, or creed, at a time when such technology was still novel. With so many associations, it is no wonder that Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 continues to be revered. Each performance adds meaning to the composer’s original vision as his music stands the test of time. Beethoven, however, did not view the Ninth as his symphonic magnum opus. He planned a tenth, as documented in early sketches. One can scarcely imagine what might have come next.

© Dr. K. Dawn Grapes, 2023

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