Zukerman leads Young Beethoven concert at ArtSpring



We find George Zukerman, OC, OBC, on an early spring afternoon in a buoyant mood.

The project he curated several years ago, and planned to tour in 2020, has finally hit the road. With most of the pandemic sat out in his south Surrey home, he says it feels very good to be getting these concerts underway.

The Young Beethoven, a celebration of the composer’s early and rarely heard works, was scheduled to mark his 250th anniversary in late 2020. A sanguine Zukerman said at the time, “pandemics leave few options. Beethoven waited 250 years. Another few months will probably not bother him unduly.”

Those few months turned into a year, and a change in original personnel, before the first performance in November 2021.

The concert runs at ArtSpring Sunday, March 27 at 2:30 p.m., with a pre-concert talk at 2 p.m.

Zukerman introduces the pieces with fascinating stories. The program includes movements from early works, which are “seldom heard because it’s difficult to get this type of ensemble together — it’s an unusual mix of instruments,” he says of the group that includes two violins, viola, cello, double bass, clarinet, bassoon and three French horns. “In fact, I’m challenging anyone on Salt Spring to say they’ve heard the Quintet W.o.O. 208 for clarinet, three horns and bassoon.”

Zukerman is particularly drawn to the Sextet, with its spectacular French horn writing.

“Horn player Andrew Clark, who played with the London Symphony Orchestra, really is an expert on the ancient French horn. He has great skill with open chords. I often do a double take when I hear him play. I think, ‘A horn can’t do that.’ But he nails it.”

The concert finale — a complete performance of the celebrated Septet, Opus 20 — is a chamber piece albeit symphonic in nature.

“It was one work before Opus 21, his first symphony. With the music in this concert we hear the path from his early, quasi-orchestral moments through to his great symphonies.”

A much-celebrated bassoonist and impresario, Zukerman retired from playing 12 years ago. He describes selling his instrument as going “cold turkey.”

“I have some regrets, but I take enormous pride knowing I stirred a generation of bassoon players who heard me play.”

The pre-concert talk is in the theatre with Zukerman, violinist Nancy DiNovo and bassoonist Jesse Read.

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