Sun, surf, sand, and classical music. Four things you don't necessarily think of together. But Florida Philharmonic conductor James Judd doesn't think the way most people do. For the second year in a row, the maestro has been a guiding force behind the second annual Beethoven by the Beach, a 22-day festival celebration of the thundering music of one of history's greatest composers.
Why the bombastic Beethoven, whose complex works often require larger orchestras than customary, and not the lighter and maybe more beach-friendly Mozart? "Beethoven appeals to every generation," Judd explains. "His music is appropriate to any century. Young people can identify with him because of his obvious struggle with the world around him."
While the composer may have grappled with himself and his surroundings, often carrying ideas in his head for days or weeks before committing them to paper, music lovers will experience a quandary of their own: deciding which of the many events to attend, then finding them. The festival takes place at various locations in and around the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and boasts more than just performances. There will be lectures, films, and activities for kids -- a screening of the movie Beethoven, an appearance by the star of the film (Beethoven the Saint Bernard), and a sleepover at the Museum of Discovery and Science.
Several presentations will be given at the Broward Center, the Museum of Art, and the Broward Main Library, but many others are scheduled at less orthodox locations. Although no concerts will be given directly on the sand, one, cleverly titled "Beethoven by the Boulevard," will take place on Fort Lauderdale's Las Olas Boulevard. The Independence Brewery will host "Beethoven Hops!" featuring a beer tasting, hors d'oeuvres, and a question and answer session with a brewmeister. The ambiance of Borders Bookstore on Sunrise Boulevard will be enlivened when Judd and the Florida Philharmonic Chorus participate in a panel discussion, give a performance, and then chug the store's newest coffee blend known as Beethoven Brew.
Attendees are advised to guzzle plenty of that java in order to make it through the 22 days of nonstop Beethoven. Special guest artists include Ukraine piano sensation Valentina Lisitsa, the Dalbergi Trio, pianist Bruno Leonardo Gelber, the Tokyo String Quartet, the Ying Quartet, and the Takacs Quartet. All will take part in performing the sixteen Beethoven string quartets and five piano concertos that organizers, inspired by the previous festival's great attendance, added to the program this year. On the bill too, of course, is the evergreen Symphony no. 5. Festivities kick off at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday with famed pianist Peter Serkin, son of celebrated pianist and Beethoven interpreter Rudolf.
As the festival grows and big names become easier to attract, organizers anticipate that Beethoven by the Beach will evolve into a major summer attraction, drawing a slew of classical music fans much the way Tanglewood in western Massachusetts does. The ever optimistic Judd, who recently rescued his orchestra from financial ruin by taking time off from his conducting duties to raise money, has high expectations of one day incorporating more than Beethoven: "[The festival] could be centered around Beethoven, but it doesn't always have to be exclusively the works of Beethoven. We'll try to always do what we can do well, but I think the growth has an unlimited potential."
Beethoven by the Beach begins June 24 and runs through July 15 in and around the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW 5th Ave, Fort Lauderdale. Some performances are free; tickets for others range from $10 to $32. Call 930-1812 for details.