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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Feat with Beethoven graces concert in Egg Harbor’s Kress Pavilion

Critic At Large

Midsummer's Music

Concert posters of Midsummer’s Music in doors of Kress Pavilion, with right window reflecting waters of Egg Harbor. (Warren Gerds)

EGG HARBOR, Wis. (WFRV) – A full symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven performed by three musicians.

Impossible?

No, possible.

A gimmick?

No, Beethoven wrote the adaptation. It was a thing to do back when – “back when” being 1803-ish.

There weren’t many professional orchestras around back when. To get “air time,” so to speak, Beethoven and other composers adapted larger works for musicians who played common instruments of the time.

Such fascinating stuff was par for the course Friday night in a concert in Donald and Carol Kress Pavilion.

Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Opus 36” was performed by way of violin, piano and cello.

The rendition is not “Beethoven’s Second for Idiots.”

It is dense, full of mastery.

Friday, a rocket’s red glare ended the first movement. The players turned on the heat.

Throughout, Beethoven’s shifting sea of notes was awash with power, grace and drama, performed by the skilled Jeffrey Panko (piano), David Perry (violin) and James Waldo (cello).

The concert was part of the 31st season of Midsummer’s Music with the umbrella theme of “Celebrating Beethoven at 250.”

Concert scene. (Warren Gerds)

Prior to performance, Midsummer’s Music co-founder/artistic director James Berkenstock told of how the season is being programmed “through the lens of Beethoven.” The focus is on the first half of Beethoven’s life.

This season, coming out of limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, Midsummer’s Music is creating a wider presence, performing in more public venues throughout Door County. There happens to be more such places to play – new or recently new spaces such as the Kress Pavilion in Egg Harbor, SWY231 in Sturgeon Bay and Barbara and Spencer Gould Theatre in Fish Creek.

Door County is known for its arts scene. Driven by professionalism, Midsummer’s Music ticks that up more than a notch.

In Friday’s concert, each of the three works was introduced with a story and/or background detail by one of the musicians playing it. In keeping with the program’s theme of “Creative Crisis,” cellist James Waldo told of the composer’s saga at the time of the work’s composition. Beethoven was going deaf at a relatively young age. Beethoven pondered, wither life? He overcame and continued his journey into greatness.

James Waldo also explained the Beethoven’s distillation of the symphony to three instruments and how small ensembles were more common than orchestras. This version was, he said, “the living room rendition.”

***

Side story 1: James Waldo also told of once being in the situation of performing as a cello section of one in an orchestra concert performing a Beethoven symphony. The experience gave him the opportunity to see the “architecture” Beethoven used. Something similar is happening in the one-man performance of “Hamlet” for Door Shakespeare at The Garden at Bjorklunden near Baileys Harbor. To Aug. 17, actor Ryan Schabach is portraying 18 characters. The way I see it, he had to take all the characters apart to understand the details of their personalities so he could put them together and make them individual in creating a type of large collage. What I saw in one performance Wednesday, James Waldo spoke about in another way Friday.

Side story 2: At the concert, “2021 MM Survey” is stuffed into printed programs. One question is, “What is your favorite M&M?” Small packets of M&M, the candy, were handed out at the concert. Eventually, I realized this is a matter of course. Midsummer’s Music – M and M – and the M&M candy… get it? I didn’t get it until, at home, I really read the survey. My favorite M&M is the blue because of this: My daughter worked for the company that created the blue coloring. The blue was a late arriver in the M&M colors. The blue is hard to produce, she says, so it was a big deal and source of pride for the research and development department of company, Chr. Hansen. My daughter’s R&D was in a different area – cheese – her creation of a kind of mozzarella being a whole other story.

***

The introductions by the players heighten the Midsummer’s Music experience, adding audience friendliness to the chamber music setting.

In the “Creative Crisis” program, works of other hues are sandwiched around the meat of Beethoven in the middle. First comes a kind of festivity by Johann Baptist Vanhal, a work with three players creating visions of a ball with bright and cheery dancing. The final work by Sergei Lyapunov for six instruments is rich in warmth with a notable section finding violin and cello teaming for a back-and-forth of romantic rapture.

This concert was the tip of an iceberg. A whole lot more music is to be made as the season continues to Labor Day with individual sets of programs, some of which are still to be announced.

Midsummer’s Music provides an abundance of riches.

***

Program: “Creative Crisis”

+ Johann Baptist Vanhal : “Divertimento in G Major, W.Vlb:13” for violin (David Perry), viola (Allyson Fleck) and bass (Drew Banzhaf)

+ Ludwig van Beethoven: “Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Opus 36” for violin (David Perry), cello (James Waldo) and piano (Jeffrey Panko)

+ Sergei Lyapunov: “Sextet in B-flat Minor, Opus 63” for piano (Jeffrey Panko), two violins (David Perry and Ann Palen), viola (Allyson Fleck), cello (James Waldo) and bass (Drew Banzhaf)

Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Repeat performances: 7 p.m. July 3, Hope United Church of Christ, Sturgeon Bay; 7 p.m. July 6, Door Community Auditorium

Info: midsummersmusic.com

***

THE VENUE: Donald and Carol Kress Pavilion and Egg Harbor Library is located at 7845 Church St. in Egg Harbor. Open in 2018, the building is designed for multiple purposes. A performance space is on the second level. Rectangular and open, the room features a high, pointed ceiling with wood beams lining the sides and triangulating the roof. The floor is hardwood of various lengths and widths of approximately nine inches. On the south side is a wall-like structure of limestone with a gas fireplace at the bottom. The rest of the room on three sides is windows. Step outside on the veranda, and the view to the east is the Pam Egan Performing Arts Center (an amphitheater) and the view to the west is Egg Harbor below and the bay of Green Bay to the horizon (quite a vista). The acoustics suit the sounds of non-amplified “au naturale” music. Of note, sculpture is an emphasis on the grounds of the pavilion and amphitheater.

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