It seems that Maestro Raymond Leppard has Beethoven on the brain. The conductor laureate of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra will be at the podium on Friday and Saturday in Indianapolis and on Sunday in Carmel to lead a performance of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9 in D Minor.” This concert is part of the Symphonic Hits powered by Lilly series. The Friday and Saturday shows are at Hilbert Circle Theatre in downtown Indianapolis. The Sunday show is at the Palladium in Carmel.
Speaking with this writer from his home by phone recently, Leppard says he has been “obsessed with Beethoven and this concert for weeks, looking over the parts. When you really study Beethoven’s mind and the way he wrote and worked, he really was the Shakespeare of his day.”
Commencing the program will be Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 8 in F Major.” After intermission, the orchestra will perform “Symphony No. 9,” featuring the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir and a quartet of vocalists. They are soprano Sara Jakubiak, mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens, tenor Sean Panikkar and baritone James Westman
One of the most popular works in the classical repertoire and one of the greatest music compositions ever written, this choral masterpiece, completed in 1824, also is known as the anthem for the European Union. Musically, the piece reflects that which is most positive about the human spirit and climaxes in the famous “Ode to Joy” in the fourth movement, which is based on a poem by Friedrich Schiller.
“It’s nothing but Beethoven this week,” says Leppard, adding that, “I’m struck by how seriously Beethoven took Schiller’s poem. It’s a real guide into his mind, trying to illustrate when he’s talking about the good God, whomever he may be, who gives us joy.”
Leppard who served as the ISO’s music director for 14 years, until he left in 2001, says he always looks forward to coming back.
“It’s lovely. Like coming home. I so enjoyed my years with the ISO. They’re a wonderful group of people. It’s like working with old friends.”
A resident of Indianapolis and now an American citizen, Leppard continues to guest conduct with orchestras and opera companies throughout the world. He recently published his memoirs, “Music Made Me,” and is currently writing another book on contemporary music.
When asked if writing his autobiography was cathartic, Leppard good-naturedly brushed off the question.
“I don’t view the past at all in that light,” he says. “I’m lucky. I’ve never been that nostalgic, as it is an emotion I don’t think about much. It seems to be that people who are nostalgic are caught up in regrets, things that should have happened and didn’t. They are not happy now.
“I don’t have regrets, thank God. It’s a joy to look back, remember things, people you are fond of, situations that you thought amusing. They were all a part of building up a life. That’s all. I’ve had a wonderful life. I’m having it still. It’s gotten better and better.”
As far as Indianapolis and how it grew on him enough to make it his home, Leppard says, “I just made some wonderful friends here. I think it’s a lovely time to be in Indianapolis. It’s growing. It’s easy to negotiate right now, but that may change if it becomes a metropolis. I find the society here and the people are my sort of people.”
Leppard says he first learned Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9” when he was a young student. He has conducted it numerous times over the past 70 years and even recorded it once.
“You still have to learn it again each time you do a work of this stature,”Leppard says.
Indy’s emeritus conductor says he hopes he can provide the audience with a “faithful interpretation of the text, in my advanced years,” adding that he is excited about this weekend’s concerts.
“Both the 8th and the 9th are phenomenal and wonderful works. They are amazing manifestations of a superb musical mind. So I hope I’ll have found something in them of truth. I wouldn’t find anything of myself in them. I would look for what is there.”
Tickets for the Friday and Saturday Symphonic Hits concerts may be ordered in person by calling the Hilbert Circle Theatre box office at (317) 639-4300, or by visiting www.indianapolissymphony.org.
Tickets for the concert at the Palladium may be purchased by calling the Center for the Performing Arts box office at (317) 843-3800, or by visiting www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.com.