The Atlantic Ocean's actually a couple miles eastof the venues for Beethoven by the Beach IV, but we can let the Fort Lauderdale festival's tenuous title slide. After all, no one would want sand in his or her shoes while enjoying two weeks of Florida Philharmonic Orchestra concerts, chamber recitals, and lectures devoted to the Big B anyway.Instead of on the hot beach, the event is held in air-conditioned comfort, and every summer some aspect of the great composer's oeuvre and/or personality is chosen as the festival theme. This year it's "Beethoven the Dramatist." That's "dramatist" as in composer of vibrant music, music that expresses lofty humanitarian ideals and in its day introduced daring new instrumental techniques.
"The challenge for a performer," says Ilya Itin, the Russian-born pianist who will play the Fourth Piano Concerto, "is to combine the passion, dramatic freedom, spontaneity, and structural integrity that Beethoven intended."
Ludwig van Beethoven (17701827) is most famous for his instrumental works, but he did pen an opera and a ballet, both of which get treatment at the fest. Without benefit of dancers, the orchestra will play Beethoven's sole ballet score, Die Geschöpfe Des Prometheus (The Creatures of Prometheus). A semistaged version of Beethoven's opera, Fidelio, will be brought to life with special-effects lighting and narration. Last year's sold-out "Missa Solemnis" and the Ninth Symphony ("Choral") with its rousing "Ode to Joy" finale are slated for performance again this year. So is Beethoven's masterwork, the spine-tingling Fifth Symphony, the sheer majesty of which makes you realize exactly why his compositions so seldom needed words.