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Tomas Cohen Photography

All Beethoven

with Ehnes The Philadelphia Orchestra
Orchestral Series
Friday, July 7, 2023 at 6pm Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater

The Philadelphia Orchestra opens its residency with an all-Beethoven program, featuring Bravo! Vail favorite James Ehnes in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and the composer’s nature-inspired Symphony No. 6, Pastoral, led by Denève. 

The Philadelphia Orchestra's distinctive sound returns to Bravo! Vail for its annual residency in July. The Fabulous Philadelphians are admired for a legacy of innovation and known for their keen ability to capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences.

All artists, programs, and pricing are subject to change.​

Program Details

Stéphane Denève, conductor
James Ehnes, violin

BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 6, Pastoral

Guest Artists

Stéphane Denève


James Ehnes


Program Notes

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 (1806)

(42 minutes)


Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61
     Allegro ma non troppo
     Larghetto [attacca]
     Rondo: Allegro


Ludwig van Beethoven’s Violin Concerto has long been considered one of the most essential works of its genre, but it earned its reputation slowly. It made little effect at its premiere, in Vienna in 1806, surely not helped by the fact that the composer finished it only two days earlier, leaving the orchestral musicians scant time to prepare what is at heart a very symphonic concerto. Anton Schindler, the sometimes-credible chronicler of Beethoven’s life, recalled in 1840: “The concerto enjoyed no great success. When it was repeated the following year it was more favorably received, but Beethoven decided to rewrite it as a piano concerto. As such, however, it was totally ignored: violinists and pianists alike rejected the work as unrewarding .... The violinists even complained that it was unplayable, for they shrank from the frequent use of the upper positions.” It is true that Beethoven makes his soloist spend a great deal of time in the stratosphere playing streams of swirling figuration.

At least the soloist, Franz Clement, seems to have acquitted himself with distinction, since a review noted, “To the admirers of Beethoven’s muse it may be of interest that this composer has written a violin concerto—the first, so far as we know—which the beloved local violinist Klement [sic] … played with his usual elegance and luster.” Clement hedged his bets with the audience by also programming a set of variations, probably his own composition, that he played on a single string while holding his violin upside down. It may be that he had already gotten to know the concerto as a work-in-progress. Beethoven’s manuscript shows that he wrote so hastily that he left some of the notation of the solo part on the sketchy side; he didn’t fill in the blanks until it came time to publish it. Not until 1844, when Felix Mendelssohn conducted it with the London Philharmonic with 12-year-old Joseph Joachim as soloist, did this concerto score a serious triumph. Beethoven did not write out cadenzas for this piece, and the ones proposed by Joachim remain the most commonly heard, although many other violinists have written competing versions.

Audience members at the premiere could not have anticipated the first sounds of this concerto: five quiet beats on the timpani, the last of which coincides with the entrance of a more standard orchestral complement. As tunes go, it’s not much to write home about, but that motif surfaces often in the first movement; indeed, when Beethoven transformed this work into a piano concerto a year later, as Schindler mentioned, he incorporated the timpani as an obbligato participant in the first-movement cadenza he wrote for the solo pianist.

Beethoven thrived on the stimulation of his adopted city of Vienna, but, like many modern urbanites, he also complained about its inconveniences. He liked to escape to the suburban parks and countryside, and he spent his summers mostly in the rural areas surrounding the city, which is why he was installed in the village of Heiligenstadt in the summer of 1808. On a few occasions he went farther afield, dropping in at the country residences of well-to-do friends in Hungary or visiting spas in Bohemia. “How delighted I shall be to ramble for a while through bushes, woods, under trees, through grass, and around rocks,” he wrote in a letter in 1810. “No one can love the country as much as I do. For surely woods, trees, and rocks produce the echo which man desires to hear.”


(18 minutes)

Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, Pastoral (1808)

(40 minutes)


Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, Pastoral 
     Allegro ma non troppo: Awakening of Cheerful Feelings upon Arrival in the Country
     Andante molto moto: Scene by the Brook
     Allegro: Merry Gathering of Country Folk
     Allegro: Thunderstorm
     Allegretto: Shepherd’s Song; Happy and Thankful Feelings after the Storm


This was just a year after his Sixth Symphony was published—in its individual instrumental parts, that is, since a full score would not be printed until 17 years later. In general, he was disinclined to predispose listeners by revealing extramusical inspiration that might feed into his compositions; in fact, his sketches for the Pastoral Symphony are peppered with such inscriptions as “The hearers should be allowed to discover the situations,” “All painting in instrumental music is lost if it is pushed too far,” and so on. Still, there is no question that tone-painting and “situations to discover” exist bountifully in this symphony, his great ode to the outdoors, and he clearly condoned the use of the title Pastoral. At the head of a violin part used in the first performance we read the words “Sinfonia / Pastoral Symphony/ or / Recollection of Country Life / More an Expression of Feeling than Painting.” Each of the symphony’s five movements also carries an individual motto: “Awakening of Cheerful Feelings upon Arrival in the Country,” “Scene by the Brook,” “Merry Gathering of Country Folk,” “Thunderstorm,” and “Shepherd’s Song; Happy and Thankful Feelings after the Storm.” The sense of “discovering a situation” begins with the opening phrases, which seem already to be in progress when we stumble within earshot. The symphony certainly succeeds at being “an expression of feeling”—who could not be swept up in its tableaux of merry-making?—but one is also struck by how Beethoven incorporates realism into his score. In the “Scene by the Brook,” for example, a passage portrays the interplay of birdsongs, labeled in the score as nightingale (flute), quail (oboe), and cuckoo (clarinet); and the “Merry Gathering of Country Folk” includes a passage where a rustic band does its best, with woodwinds seeming to enter on not quite the right beats.

The Philadelphia Orchestra is admired for a legacy of innovation and known for its keen ability to capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences. This Orchestra’s distinctive sound returns to Bravo! Vail for its 16th residency in 2023.

All artists, programs, and pricing are subject to change.

Presented At

Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater