Those who attended our season finale, His Greatest Hits, enjoyed a thrilling all-Beethoven performance together in Overture Hall. The concert began with Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. Garrick Ohlsson joined the Madison Symphony Orchestra for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, “Emperor.” The evening ended with the legendary Symphony No. 5 in C minor. Read the reviews and view photos from the amazing performance below!


Bill Wineke / Channel 3000: “Beethoven Tribute Ends MSO Season”

The Madison Symphony Orchestra concluded its annual concert season over the weekend with a year-late but nevertheless welcome tribute to Ludwig van Beethoven.

The concert featured pianist Garrick Ohlsson, a Madison favorite who has soloed with the symphony more often than most residents have attended a performance.

He has played with the MSO in 1984, 1985, 2002, 2009, 2012 and 2016 and in this concert played Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto.

If Ohlsson, 74, has a flamboyant bone in his body, it must be confined to his fingers. He lumbers across the stage, sits up straight on the bench and lets the piano and the music provide the showmanship.

You may have heard the concerto dozens of times (and, despite my previous snarky comment, if you’re reading this you probably have), but, after hearing Ohlsson play it you will understand it more fully than you did before.

The concerto dates to 1809, the same year Beethoven composed the weekend concerts’ first offering, the “Egmont Overture.”

Ironically, it’s not certain that the composer heard either piece. He started losing his hearing in 1798 and became totally deaf.

At any rate, 1808 was a pretty good year for the composer because his Fifth Symphony – probably the only symphony in the world familiar to everyone because of its “ta,ta,ta taaah” beginning – is also dated to that year.

The Fifth Symphony concluded the concert and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it in better form.

Pretty much by definition, a symphony orchestra has a need for every musician (no one can afford to pay for superfluous music), but the nature of Beethoven is that the audience can discern the contribution of most everyone.

Randal Swiggum, conductor of the Madison Youth Choirs, who delivered the pre-concert lecture, said when he introduces young people to Beethoven’s music, he compares it to Lego sets in which one piece connects with another until a complex structure appears. That’s kind of the Fifth Symphony in a nutshell.

At any rate, it was a great concert and a great season. Conductor John DeMain hasn’t lost a step in his 27 years at the podium and it’s pretty obvious the concert-goers haven’t lost their enthusiasm for their symphony, either.

The MSO does have one more offering this year. On May 20 Greg Zelek, curator and performer with the Overture Concert Organ will host the Diapason Brass and Timpani (“Some of the loudest instruments in the symphony”) for a concert. Tickets are $20 and Zelek has never hosted a disappointing performance.

Hear what the audience had to say…​

It was the most beautiful concert of the MSO season.

I thought John DeMain was the “star” of the Beethoven’s Fifth….his conducting was outstanding….Although it was difficult to “outshine” the performance of the orchestra as a whole.

The entire program was enjoyable; however, Garrick Ohlsson’s mastery of the Beethoven concerto could only be described as “sublime.” My husband and I agreed he is perhaps the best and most accomplished piano soloist we have heard in concert. Thank you for bringing him to Madison!

Breathtaking. Mr. Ohlsson’s rendition of the Emperor concerto was masterful and his encore of the Moonlight was a real delight. The 5th was inspiring

Even more perfect than the last perfect concert!

I have been waiting 2 years for this concert. This was the best one of the season.

I loved every piece performed! The Emperor Concerto is my favorite classical piano piece. It often brings tears to my eyes. Beethoven didn’t write as many compositions as some classical composers, but everything he writes is amazing. The Symphony was fantastic, as usual. The Fifth Symphony was a great way to end the season – in a great triumph!

The soloist’s playing was mesmerizing, and the orchestra’s performance was exciting.

The entire concert was outstanding! I had never heard Garrick Ohlsson before and was blown away by his performance. I loved Egmont…first time I have heard it. And Beethoven’s 5th was fantastic!!

I particularly enjoyed MSO’s fine performance of Beethoven’s fifth symphony. With virtuosity and precision, the orchestra conveyed the beauty and power of this work. Also, Garrick Ohlsson’s soulful rendition of the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata was beautiful.

The program was superb. Great sound. Great passion. Best MSO performance I’ve seen in years

The orchestra sounded beautifully resonant and with such well played solo parts at intervals as Beethoven featured the oboe, the piccolo, the basses skipping across their strings with fingers flying.

This was one of the best concerts by MSO ever. Ohlsson was fantastic, as was the orchestra. I loved it all.

I loved the big sound, and the joy that was so clearly conveyed by the players. I brought my mother, who said this was one of the best concerts she’s seen in her life.

I enjoyed Garrick Olson’s performance so much…he was amazing and the piano was also amazing! Wonderful talent, and wonderful sound. And, loved to celebrate Beethoven once more. I also enjoyed going out to a concert with a wonderful audience. Every concert was wonderful to attend. Thank you all so much for providing this wonderful experience.

The performance was transporting. Always enjoy MSO performances but this was a very special experience.

Garrick Ohlsson was great but the MSO performance of Beethoven’s 5th was extraordinary. Loved the quick tempo and the execution was flawless.