Philharmonic performs 8-timpani piece, Beethoven’s Eroica

The New Mexico Philharmonic promises a spectacle of octopus arms at Popejoy Hall on Saturday.

Principal timpanist Douglas Cardwell will tackle Johann Karl Christian Fischer’s virtuoso Symphony with Eight Obbligato Timpani, written in 1792.

 Douglas Cardwell, principal timpanist of the New Mexico Philharmonic.
Douglas Cardwell, principal timpanist of the New Mexico Philharmonic.

“The timpani carries the tune,” Cardwell said. “It’s written for eight drums. I will play the original cadenza, and I wrote a new cadenza for the third. People will come away from the concert saying they’ve never seen anything like that.”

The concert will open with “Bachianas brasileiras,” by Hector Villa-Lobos, a series of nine suites combining the styles of both Bach and Brazil with eight cellos.

Santa Fe soprano Ingela Onstad, who has built an international opera career, is the soloist. Onstad has sung at Dresden, the UNM Opera Theatre and the Santa Fe Opera.

Cardwell’s colleague Hovey Corbin will tackle the rhythm of the Eroica.

“I think it’s just a vast piece with a vast range of color,” Cardwell said. “I’ve played it several times, and I’m drenched with sweat at the end of it.”

Beethoven originally wrote the Eroica (“Heroic”) as a tribute to Napoleon, whom he believed embodied the democratic ideals of the French Revolution. But he withdrew his dedication after Napoleon crowned himself emperor in 1804.

Beethoven removed Napoleon’s name from his manuscript so forcefully that he erased his way through the paper, leaving holes in the title page.

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