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Work of the Week – Rodion Shchedrin: Beethovens Heiligenstädter Testament

On 1 February, in celebration of the Beethoven’s 250 Anniversary in 2020, the Sibelius Academy Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo will perform Rodion Shchedrin’s Beethovens Heiligenstädter Testament. The concert, which will conclude the Sibafest in Helsinki, will also feature music by Kaija Saariaho and Mahler.

In 1802, Beethoven wrote a letter to his brothers, Karl and Johann, describing the effects of his advancing deafness. “Oh you men who think or say that I am malevolent, stubborn, or misanthropic, how greatly do you wrong me. You do not know the secret cause which makes me seem that way to you”. These words formed the opening of what has since became known as the Heiligenstädter Testament.

Rodion Shchedrin – Beethovens Heiligenstädter Testament

Shchedrin’s work was originally commissioned as an overture for the Sinfonieorchester des Beyerischen Rundfunks in 2008 and forms a poignant reflection on Beethoven’s testimony.

If the composer is possessed by an emotion, a thought or an idea of the human sound, then is born a work, which can inspire all of them who touch it. – Rodion Shchedrin

On 21 and 23 February the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México conducted by James Burton will perform Shchedrin’s Beethovens Heiligenstädter Testament for the first time in México. On 9 February, another of Shchedrin’s Beethoven-related works, a prelude to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 will be performed by Bielefelder Philharmoniker. Shchedrin’s Praeludium alludes to motifs, tonal colours, and harmonies heard in Beethoven’s symphony.