Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 marks his break with the conventions of the symphony. An exercise in pure music unbound by any narrative or mytho-poetic connotations, the Seventh begins with a mighty blast — consider it a starter's pistol — that launches the orchestra into a four-part romp through the possibilities of rhythm. In German, one praises the Seventh for its embodiment of mit Schwung (with feeling) but also for the lurking false cognate "with swing." Even in the slightly mournful second movement's 2/4 time signature, there's a sense of propulsion, a forward thrust that pays off in the capering third movement, which itself is topped by the pedal-to-the-metal exuberance of the fourth. This is music for music's sake, and it taxes the players mightily in that final lap. Guest conductor Semyon Bychkov will be at the wheel for the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra's time trial with Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 this weekend. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (January 28 through 30) at Powell Symphony Hall (718 North Grand Boulevard; 314-534-1700 or www.slso.org). Tickets are $16 to $107.
Jan. 28-30, 2011