Beethoven wrote only one Septet, but why mess with perfection? Ever the rebel, Beethoven took the usual instrumentation, gave it a good shake, and came up with an all new aural cocktail. Gone were the winds in sets of two; Beethoven used one of each, then added a string quartet, subbing one of the violins with a double bass. It was a blend that no one had ever heard before, and the crowds went crazy. An instant hit then and beloved still, Beethoven's Septet inspired composers to rethink the possibilites--Schubert, Spohr, and Berwald were just a few of those who took the idea and ran with it. In fact, the Septet was so successful that Beethoven began to resent it, feeling that it was overshading his newer works.
A work that is both grand and intimate, the Septet was the perfect piece for the Society for Chamber Music in Rochester to tackle in their concert on February 17, 2019. Co-Artistic Directors Erik Behr and Juliana Athayde drew together an all-star roster: Kenneth Grant, clarinet; George Sakakeeny, bassoon; William VerMeulen, horn; Phillip Ying, viola; Ahrim Kim, cello; and Cory Palmer, double bass. Juliana was the violinist. Beethoven dedicated the Septet to Empress Maria Theresa. It is, as you will hear, a work fit for a Queen.