Beethoven and me: ‘Oecumenicus’ revisited |

Beethoven and me: ‘Oecumenicus’ revisited

Whereas Beethoven’s music is characterized by early, middle and late periods, mine has five, with all music I wrote prior to my third period characterized as BO – “Before Oecumenicus.”

It’s 1967 and I’ve just lugged “Oecumenicus,” unfinished, to Erich Leinsdorf (conductor of the Boston Symphony), who commissioned it.

Leinsdorf: “You know, you’re like Beethoven. He, too, has to write a lot of music for the jewels to emerge. So just finish the piece and move on.”

(A few months later)

Sydeman: “It’s done – the summation of all my musical ideas rolled up into this large “Concerto for Orchestra,” 45 minutes and 4,674 notes in all (more or less).”

Leinsdorf: “The only way I can get it into the program is to premiere just the last section after Isaac Stern plays.”

Sydeman (utterly crushed): “How do you think Beethoven would have felt if only the last movement of his ninth symphony had been played? (Leinsdorf is sympathetic but unmoved.)

(40 years later)

Sydeman: I just finished a studio recording of “Oecumenicus,” the big orchestra piece I did for Leinsdorf in ’67. I want to do a CD release event.

Fellow composer Mark Vance: So let’s do a return to ’67 evening that includes the painters, poets, socio-political events of the time, unleash Mikail Graham’s massive computer skills to recreate an era and let “Oecumenicus” rip.

A brilliant idea that is coming to fruition on Friday, Aug. 31, when I’ll present “Oecumenicus” for those hardy souls who seek sonic adventure. Drink a glass of wine while taking this adventure in the Besemer Concert Hall, 11417 Red Dog Road, Nevada City. It starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for $20 adult and $5 student may be purchased at the door, but please call (530) 478-0983 to reserve your seat.


Jay Sydeman, a resident of Nevada City since 1988, has had his music described by the New York Times as “refreshing, fascinating, astringent, quite dazzling.”

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