by Daniel Hathaway
The Times of London has a long tradition of publishing letters from its readers claiming to have heard the first cuckoo of Spring. Though Delius’s piece of the same name wasn’t on the program at E.J. Thomas Hall on Saturday evening, the cuckoo did make an appearance as Christopher Wilkins and the Akron Symphony and Chorus might have been the first musical organization in Northeast Ohio to spread the message that balmy breezes will be blowing not too far in the future. The program brought together two Austrian works first performed in Vienna only seven years apart, each of which evokes the joys of nature in its own delightful way.
Beethoven’s sixth symphony, subtitled “Pastorale,” paints vivid scenes of the countryside and its rustic inhabitants, whose peasant dance is interrupted by a thunderstorm and who return to sing a song of thanksgiving after the skies clear. One of Beethoven’s only ventures into “program music”, the 1807 symphony begins with a depiction of cheerfulness on the part of an urban escapee arriving in the country, authentically incorporates the songs of a nightingale, dove and cuckoo in a scene by the brook, conjures up Donner und Blitzen with the help of thundering kettledrums and drama in the brass, and finally restores peace to the countryside with bucolic horn calls. [Read more…]