LISTEN: Pensacola Symphony Orchestra's Beethoven & Blue Jeans Is This Weekend

Jan 9, 2018

The Pensacola Symphony returns to the stage of the Saenger Theatre this Saturday, January 13, at 7:30 p.m.  Electric violinist Tracy Silverman will be joining the orchestra for their annual “Beethoven and Blue Jeans” concert.  The wide-ranging program will be anchored by Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  Music Director Peter Rubardt and UWF professor Dr. Hedi Salanki stopped by the WUWF studios to share some thoughts on the performance.

electric violin playing

Dr. Hedi Salanki: Beethoven and Blue Jeans. I must say, every time I speak with a symphony goer, they say, "Oh my gosh! I love that program!" So I am wondering, what did you cook  up this time?

Peter Rubardt: Well the sounds we were just listening to I think are sounds that have never been heard on the stage of the Saenger before. That is Tracy Silverman playing on his electric violin. Tracy developed the instrument, the instrument has six strings instead of four, a couple of extra strings which take the register down into the cello register as well. Then he runs it of course through a pick up and an amplifier and has all kinds of differing electronic sounds he can do on it, he can record loops and then improvise on top of those. Mozart, when he started writing, had never heard a clarinet and yet, by the end of his life, he heard the clarinet, he fell in love with it and he wrote music that propelled the instrument into the mainstream.

HS: So do you think this is the instrument that's going to replace the Stradivarius in the future?

PR: Well, I don't think it's going to replace it but you think composers in the 19th century couldn't have imagined what would happen with percussion in the 20th century. And composers in the 20th century just started to dabble with electronic instruments and here in the 21st century it's interesting to take this little snapshot, this little evolutionary moment where an electronic instrument is coming into its own.

HS: So Tracy is classically trained but he wasn't trained to use his foot, because...

PR: He really had this vision of a different kind of violin and it caught the attention of some very notable composers. John Adams has written for him,  Terry RIley has written for him, and Tracy has written for himself.

HS: I was told that your percussion is very happy this time.

PR: It's a big percussion night. We're playing Ginastera's 'Dances from Estancia' and the malambo is a percussion player's dream. All kinds of latin instruments, indeed many instruments that were not part of an orchestra until the mid to late 20th century.

HS: Of course there is no "Beethoven and Blue Jeans" without some Beethoven!

PR: Without some Beethoven, and of course this is big Beethoven and well known Beethoven. Just when you hear those opening chords, it's iconic for classical music, the fifth symphony. The piece is so groundbreaking in so many ways, even though we play it often we love it just as much every time we get to it, it's an exciting way to end the concert.

That was Pensacola Symphony Music Director Peter Rubardt talking about the “Beethoven and Blue Jeans”  concert  this Saturday at the Saenger Theatre.   More information is available at the symphony office at  435-2533, or online,