beethoven vs coldplay

Beethoven v. Coldplay at the San Diego Symphony

When you think of Coldplay and Beethoven you probably don’t think of them both at the same time. Because, what could they possibly have in common? Turns out, despite living centuries apart, they might have more in common that you’d expect. 

In the sold out Saturday evening performance of “Beethoven v. Coldplay” at the San Diego Symphony, these two worlds of music collide in a spectacular display that elicits one of the loudest, longest, and most enthusiastic ovations I’ve ever heard at a symphony performance. It was absolutely electric.

Conductor Steve Hackman marries the music of Coldplay with that of Beethoven’s “Third Symphony (Eroica).” This was done to such great effect that often times I found it difficult to distinguish between the two. 

Photo By Tom Russo

The music of Coldplay is filtered through the lens of Beethoven, creating an all-new musical piece. It isn’t just Beethoven or Coldplay singularly, instead it’s an entirely new composition merging the classical with modern rock. 

In between movements, Hackman shares about how Beethoven confronted broad, universal humanist themes in his music. Beethoven’s music is deeply personal, not unlike Coldplay frontman Chris Martin’s musical styling. Hackman makes the decision to combine the music of the two because of this shared universality. They talk of love, loss, and relationship with nature and our relationship with spirituality. 

Hackman’s work isn’t limited to just Beethoven v. Coldplay, he has also synthesized Brahms and Radiohead, Bartók and Björk, and Tchaikovsky and Drake; into epic orchestral tone-poems.

Facing an aging audience, symphonies across the country are looking at new ways to attract millennials and younger generations. Bringing in composers and musicians like Steve Hackman is just one of the ways that the San Diego Symphony is working to increase and diversify their audience.

Traditional audiences for performing arts has declined, while at the same time the average age of the attendees has increased two decades, according to the National Endowment for the Arts. Some surveys suggest that nationally only 10 percent of first-time symphony attendees will return for a second performance within a year.

A large barrier for for symphonies to overcome is the fact that younger generations are simply unfamiliar with classical music and choose more familiar alternatives. The San Diego Symphony is doing an excellent job in trying to bridge that gap. 

The performance of Steve Hackman’s Beethoven v. Coldplay introduces audiences to classical music while at the same time exposing pop music fans to an entirely new genre of music. Ultimately it may be the exact right thing to get young people in the door and help them fall in love with all sorts of new live music.

Music has always been so important to me and is important to so many people’s lives. The magic of music is that it’s universal. Numerous studies have shown that music can lift moods, lower stress and even in medical studies have shown that it can combat depression, lower cortisol, improve blood flow, and ease pain. The power of music is strong and am excited for the future of what music can bring to not only to those in attendance but how a strong arts environment can change a city for the better. 

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