Beethoven Week Let’s Ludwig Van Get It On!


Tonight marks the beginning of the Missoula Symphony Association’s Beethoven Week. Technically 10 days – stretching from Feb. 28 to March 9 – this week will celebrate the life and works of Ludwig Van as well as providing a distinct opportunity for music loving Missoulians.

Why Beethoven? As Music Director Darko Butorac puts it, “It’s the kind of music that grabs you in your guts and pulls you into it.” Perhaps Beethoven strikes us that way because he was the first symphonic composer to “write for humanity”. In his time pieces were commissioned for events and written only for the moment. Beethoven broke that mold – subsequently serving as a model for all the music written after him – by composing pieces that addressed universal themes and personal struggles – essentially the stuff that makes music art.

 “To build a concert around Beethoven, with the unbelievable talent of Smirnova, is a music director’s dream. The audience is going to be blown away” – Darko Butorac

The Smirnova in question is Lisa Smirnova, a world famous pianist who happens to specialize in Beethoven. To get an idea of the caliber of performer coming to Missoula consider that Smirnova made her US debut at only 20 years old – at Carnegie Hall. She has played London, Tokyo, and Vienna to name a few. Based in Vienna she founded the New Classic Ensemble Vienna. She is the recipient of the 2011 BBC Instrument of Choice Award and in 1993 was the first pianist to ever receive the prestigious Brahm’s Prize at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival.


Smirnova opens up the festivities tonight with a solo concert featuring two of Beethoven’s most popular sonatas – Moonlight and The Tempest. Filling out the repertoire will be performances of Beethoven’s “friends” Lizt and Handel. Then on March 8th and 9th, Smirnova will join the Missoula Symphony Orchestra and the Missoula Symphony Chorale for a special performance entitled, BAM! Beethoven.

There’s plenty more Beethoven to be had in between concerts with a screening of Immortal Beloved at the Wilma on Sunday night with a pre-function featuring Symphony Signature Cocktails at the Top Hat. And on March 7th the Symphony takes over the Top Hat’s Family Friendly Friday with a musical instrument petting zoo. Kids will have the opportunity to try out instruments with student musicians and Symphony personalities on hand to hopefully inspire a new generation of musicians.

Just as the experience of a Symphony performance stays with you well outside the theater doors, the events and concerts arranged by the MSA hold a much larger impact on our community than the evening’s entertainment. These notes resonate well beyond the final encore. Organizations like the Missoula Symphony Association distinguish Missoula as a center of arts and culture in our region.

Why is that important? Throughout America towns the size of Missoula suffer a significant “brain drain”, in which whole generations of the best and brightest feel the need to move elsewhere in search of opportunities. The MSA is comprised of local musicians, each coming from Missoula or the surrounding areas and they have no intention of importing players. This organization gives young, talented musicians a reason to stay in Missoula and our community is enriched by their contribution. But it goes deeper than the musical experience. Organizations like the Missoula Symphony Association make Missoula a place worth going to. Smirnova wasn’t just in the neighborhood, she came all the from Vienna to perform with our Symphony. This standard of excellence not only reflects the MSA’s tireless efforts, but illustrates the significant talent we hold in our community as well. Because when you are a world renowned musician you don’t just take any gig that comes your way – you play where you want to and where the caliber of performance is equal to your own.

And this excellence is infectious. The MSA provides us with more than music. By virtue of being in Missoula and made up of Missoulians, the Symphony enhances Missoula overall. It makes this mountain town a very desirable place to live, visit and return to. Our thriving arts community has the potential to pull us up by the boot straps. Companies decide where to take those good jobs for skilled work forces based on how much these skilled employees want to live in a given place. Tourists come and spend their money on local businesses in places that make their visit worthwhile. And a town where world famous performers regularly grace the local stages is a very desirable thing indeed. So even if it’s just buying a ticket to one of this week’s performances – support the Symphony and organizations like it. You’ll be supporting your own economy in the process.