(Note: The concert will be repeated 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Saroyan Theatre. For details, go to fresnophil.org.)
The scene Saturday night for the “Beloved Beethoven” Fresno Philharmonic concert: Lively, to say the least. There was a big audience at the Saroyan Theatre, and two other events next door — a hockey game and winter formal — created a big traffic bottleneck. Cars were backed up on Highway 41 waiting to exit (there was a rear-end accident to the side of the road just before the offramp, which I’m assuming was related to the backed-up traffic), and a chunk of people didn’t make it to their seats in time for the orchestra’s first piece, Beethoven’s “Coriolan Overture.” In fact, traffic was so bad that guest artist Elena Urioste barely reached the hall in time for the start of the concert. Just a few minutes before 8 p.m., she was seen sprinting toward the stage door wearing street clothes.
The music: Inside the hall, however, all was much more pleasant. The “Coriolan,” with its boisterous martial theme mixed with more tender and lyrical interludes, was a rousing way to start a program of what conductor Theodore Kuchar later explained was a focus on Beethoven’s important “middle period,” which sparked a classical music revolution. That was followed by Beethoven’s stirring Violin Concerto, which showed off Urioste’s virtuosic talents. The second half of the program: the massive Symphony No. 3, the “Eroica,” at a running time of nearly 50 minutes.