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New Works by Hannah Lash, Huw Watkins, and Katherine Balch Respond to Beethoven’s Symphonic Legacy

Jan. 01, 2020

New Works by Hannah Lash, Huw Watkins, and Katherine Balch Respond to Beethoven’s Symphonic Legacy

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra honors the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth with a year long celebration of the great composer and his works. Music Director Krzysztof Urbański leads all nine Beethoven symphonies at concerts throughout the year and has commissioned nine composers to write new pieces that are being paired with each of the symphonies. The celebration begins in January with three weekends dedicated to the first five Beethoven symphonies and other well-known works. The 2019–20 season comes to a close with all five of Beethoven's Piano Concertos and his Missa Solemnis, before the remaining four symphonies are performed in the fall of 2020. Hannah Lash, Huw Watkins, and Katherine Balch are among the composers commissioned and their works will all be performed this month. Hannah Lash’s Forestallings, a musical response to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in D Major, is premiered on January 10-11. The composer notes:

“My piece, Forestallings, takes just the opening gesture from Beethoven’s Symphony a point of departure. From that rather stark D – an anacrusis, my slow introduction unfolds in its own direction, quickly parting ways from Beethoven’s. I explore a constellation of harmonies which then lead to a faster music, which derives from the same material I used in my slow introduction, but now reimagined in a more urgent character. The slow music and the fast music form a sort of dialectic and a dialogue, and a sense of conflict is produced by the harmonic constellation whose hierarchies shift throughout the length of the piece. It ends uncertain of which tonal center leans upon which, asking a question rather than offering a resolution.”

Listen to Hannah Lash’s Concerto No. 1 for Harp and Chamber Orchestra (2015):

(Concerto No. 1 for Harp and Chamber Orchestra by Hannah Lash/Hannah Lash, harp/
Yale School of Music/William Bougthon, conductor)

Huw Watkins’ Dawning, a musical pairing for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major, will be premiered on January 24-25. The composer describes his new piece:

Dawning is a short, celebratory overture commissioned by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne written to be paired with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4. It begins quietly, with playful flutes and clarinets above gentler strings, but quickly builds in energy and momentum, soon reaching some exuberant music for the whole orchestra. After the first climax, there is a much quieter passage – a slow-moving chorale for strings accompanying delicate brass fanfares – but thereafter, the music regains its vitality, and remains highspirited until the end.

Listen to Huw Watkins's Piano Quartet (2012): 

(Piano Quartet/Huw Watkins/Schubert Ensemble)

Featured on the same program is the world premiere of Katherine Balch’s impromptu, a musical response to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor. She notes:

“Something that strikes me about Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, besides its famed obsessiveness, is its radical use of space. Silence suddenly permeates moments of climax, as in the first movement, or points of arrival are delayed by long pedal tones, as in the third movement. In my response, impromptu, I steal a chord progression from the development of the first movement, savoring and expanding the space between each harmony. I explore non-pitched or sparsely pitched textures between these harmonic columns, recasting the common-practice tonality of Beethoven’s time in a decidedly ‘non-tonal’ way, like echoes or shadows of a tradition past. The visual metaphor I have in mind is holding his manuscript under a powerful microscope and seeing all the little grains and details and fibers of the paper in between each inky chord on the page.”

Listen to Katherine Balch’s With Each Breathing (2015):

(With Each Breathing/Katherine Balch/Quartet121)

For more information about Hannah Lash, visit:
For more information about Huw Watkins, visit:
For more information about Katherine Balch, visit:

Hannah Lash
Forestallings (2019)
for orchestra

Huw Watkins
Dawning (2019)
for orchestra

Katherine Balch
impromptu (2019)
for orchestra