Baltimore Orchestra Uncovers Mystery, Genius Of Beethoven

Ruzan Haruriunyan's picture

Inspired by Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Music Director Marin Alsop's own fascination with television's hit series CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) and the overarching Beethoven theme of the 2007/2008 season, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will present a two-night CSI: Beethoven event, Wednesday, February 27 and Thursday, February 28 at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

The programs will guide audiences through a forensic study of Beethoven, the vast body of music he wrote during his lifetime, and the great suffering and mystery behind his creative genius, specifically his progressive hearing loss. CSI: Beethoven enlists the help of key experts to explore the psychological, medical, social and political conditions that profoundly influenced Beethoven's work, combining the elements of symphonic music, forensic science, allopathic (or conventional) medicine and theatre.

Beethoven himself actually charged his physicians to immediately autopsy his body upon his death so the world might understand the immense suffering he had endured throughout his life. But nearly two centuries later, do we know what caused Beethoven's moodiness, his deafness and ultimately his death?

Were his lifelong affliction and death related? What clues did the composer leave us in his letter of surrender, the famous Heiligenstadt Testament? Is it true that the composer had to be turned around to face the audience at the premiere of his Ninth Symphony because he couldn't hear the thunderous applause? Did he fall victim to lead poisoning—at the hands of his own doctors? Participating experts will explore various differential diagnoses to determine the best probable causes and explore possible answers to these questions and more in CSI: Beethoven.

Maestra Marin Alsop has assembled experts and scholars to weigh in on autopsy findings and the latest forensic results from testing done on rare Beethoven relics, including hair and skull fragments. Their challenge is to dissect and debunk the prevailing theories surrounding the composer's deafness and death based on scientific and scholarly evidence. Joining the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for this special event is a "CSI Team" made up of leading experts in their respective fields: Dr. Charles Limb, assistant professor of otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins; Dr. Philip A. Mackowiak, professor from the University of Maryland School of Medicine; and Dr. William Meredith, a scholar from the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University. Actor Tony Tsendeas will play the role of Beethoven, reading letters and monologues.

Produced by Seattle?based writer Denise "Didi" Balle, the two?part event is designed to be experienced sequentially. The program will be interspersed with excerpts, performed by Maestra Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, from various Beethoven symphonies and other works. Part I (Feb. 27) will focus on Beethoven's earlier works and symphonies; Part II (Feb. 28) shifts to the composer's later music by which point he had already spiraled into complete deafness. Audiences will also hear digitally modified clips of Beethoven's symphonies as they would have sounded to the composer later in life.

The BSO has planned a total immersion into the CSI: Beethoven theme with actual Beethoven artifacts on display in the lobby including manuscripts, first editions, letters and locks of the composer's hair. Open captioning will be provided both evenings for the hearing impaired courtesy of the Baltimore Symphony Associates.

Marin Alsop, Music Director

Hailed for her dynamic musicianship, artistic vision and commitment to accessibility in classical music, Marin Alsop made history with her appointment as the 12th music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. With her inaugural concerts in September 2007, she became the first woman to head a major American orchestra, mirroring her ongoing success in the United Kingdom as principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony since 2002.

In summer 2005, she was named a 2005 MacArthur Fellow, the first conductor ever to receive this most prestigious American award. The first artist to win Gramophone's "Artist of the Year" award and the Royal Philharmonic Society's Conductor's Award in the same season (2003), Maestra Alsop recently won the Classical Brit Award for Best Female Artist of 2005. In July 2007, she was honored with a European Women of Achievement Award presented to individuals whose vision, courage and determination have made a major impact on increasing the influence of women in European affairs. Ms. Alsop is a regular guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as with many distinguished orchestras worldwide. After a highly successful 12?year tenure as music director of the Colorado Symphony, Ms. Alsop continues her association as conductor laureate; she also continues as music director of the highly acclaimed Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in California.

Marin Alsop is a native of New York City; she attended Yale University and received her master's degree from The Juilliard School. In 1989, her conducting career was launched when she became a prizewinner at the Leopold Stokowski International Conducting Competition in New York, and in the same year, she was awarded the Koussevitzky Conducting Prize at the Tanglewood Music Center, where she was a pupil of Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa and Gustav Meier. William R. Meredith III, PhD.

Internationally renowned Beethoven scholar William Meredith is the director of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies and also a professor at the School of Music and Dance at San Jose State University. He founded The Beethoven Journal in 1986, the only regular periodical on Beethoven in the world, and still serves as its editor. In 1990, he created the online Beethoven Bibliography Database to serve as the primary research center for Beethoven inquiries. He has given many lectures, written many articles and also has appeared as a consultant on video biographies of Beethoven. In addition to his scholarly pursuits, he is a singer, conductor and pianist. He received his bachelor of arts degree in music education from Birmingham Southern College in 1976 and his doctor of philosophy in historical musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1985.

Charles J. Limb, MD

A graduate of Yale University School of Medicine, Dr. Charles Limb is currently an assistant professor of otolaryngology (head and neck surgery) at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the computer music faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. He is also a hearing specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital and an auditory researcher at the National Institutes of Health. His research focuses on how human beings can produce, perform, hear and interpret music. Dr. Limb also specializes in implantable hearing devices and disorders of the skull base.

Philip A. Mackowiak, MD

Dr. Philip A. Mackowiak is professor and vice chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and chief of the Medical Care Clinical Center of the VA Maryland Health Care System. A graduate of Bucknell University (BS in Biology), the University of Maryland (MD) and Johns Hopkins University (MBA), he began his career in academic medicine as an epidemic intelligence officer with the Centers for Disease Control in the early 1970s. In 1975, he joined the faculty of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. He moved to the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1988. He is best known in the medical community for his work on the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of fever. His Fever: Basic Mechanisms and Management, now in its second edition, is the first comprehensive monograph on the subject since 1868. For almost a decade, Dr. Mackowiak has hosted an internationally acclaimed series of Historical Clinicopathological Conferences in Baltimore.

Tony Tsendeas, actor

Tony Tsendeas is an artistic associate of the Baltimore Shakespeare Company where he has directed the company's acclaimed productions of Shakespeare's Macbeth, Othello, Julius Caesar and the parody The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), as well as Kimberley Lynn's Love for Words. Roles for the company include Caliban in The Tempest, Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, The Player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and most recently Paroles in All's Well That Ends Well. Mr. Tsendeas has also performed at a variety of theaters regionally including Roundhouse Theater, Theater J, Woolly Mammoth, Everyman Theater and Center Stage. Film and video work includes HBO's The Wire, NBC's Homicide: Life In the Streets, and appearances and voice over work for The Family Channel, The Learning Channel and Discovery. From 1992 until 2000, Mr. Tsendeas was the artistic director of Baltimore's internationally recognized Action Theater. The company was in residence at the Baltimore Theatre Project and toured Northern Europe and Great Britain with its production BeckettLand, a collection of short dramatic pieces by Samuel Beckett, set in a Ghost Carnival or Bemusement Park. Tony Tsendeas is currently a member of the theater faculty of The Baltimore School for the Arts. --

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