Aha! With Alastair: Episode #3 - Beethoven And The Silk Road

Jan 29, 2020

What links Beethoven to the Silk Road?

South Bend Symphony Music Director Alastair Willis previews a concert featuring Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and a Silk Road first half with music by Tan Dun and Behzad Ranjbaran.

Credit South Bend Symphony Orchestra

Iranian composer Behzad Ranjbaran’s “Seven Passages” is the final work of his Persian
Trilogy. All three works are inspired by the stories of the Shahnameh, the national epic poem of Persia. These stories, about the hero Rostam, were a huge part of Behzad Ranjbaran’s childhood, capturing his imagination and inspiring him to ultimately set them
to music.

"I met up with Behzad Ranjbaran in Doha, Qatar, where I was conducting 'Seven Passages,'" says Willis.  "Of all performances he’s heard (there have been hundreds), he told me that the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra’s unique middle-eastern sound made his piece come alive in new ways.  I’ve loved this piece ever since, and am so excited to be bringing it to life again with our South Bend Symphony Orchestra’s unique sound.  As the Qatar Philharmonic has gone on to program many more of Behzad works, I hope the same will happen here with our South Bend Symphony Orchestra."

Next up is Tan Dun’s concerto for String Orchestra and Pipa.  If you’ve not heard of a pipa, it’s an ancient Chinese instrument that can be traced back over two thousand years – it has four-strings, that are plucked by the fingers.  It has a pear-shaped wooden body, and is sometimes known as the Chinese lute.

The concerto was composed for the world’s premier pipa virtuoso, Wu Man, who joins the South Bend Symphony for this performance.

Ludwig van Beethoven gave his 6th symphony the following title: “Pastoral Symphony, or a recollection of country life.  More an expression of feeling than a painting”.  This is a symphony that brims with gentle poetic beauty and affirms the sheer splendor of nature and life.

The South Bend Symphony's performance of these pieces is at the Morris Performing Arts Center on Saturday, February 1,  at 7:30 PM.