Beethoven & Bartók

May 1 – June 30, 2021 | Michigan Theater (virtual concert)

Behind the Music

At turns “repellent” and “incomprehensible” (depending on who you were listening to), the  immense proportions and complexity of Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge (“Great Fugue“) was met with condemnation at its premiere in 1826.However, as with much music underappreciated in its time, critical opinion of the work has since improved dramatically, with the likes of Arnold Schoenberg  and Igor Stravinsky heralding the revolutionary work roughly a century later as one of Beethoven’s greatest achievements. Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, & Celesta raised a similar furor at its premiere in 1937; the composer laying out an exacting stage plan for an antiphonal ensemble in  which divided strings could bounce ideas back and forth on the stage with the percussion  instruments acting as (not always obliging) mediators. The program closes with Heinrich Ignaz  Franz von Biber’s Battalia à 10, a stunning work for 2021, let alone 1673. Listen in particular for the  second movement titled Die liederliche gesellschaft von allerley Humor (“The lusty society of all  types of humor”), where Biber treats us to a quodlibet (the merging of disparate melodies that don’t necessarily work together); German, Slovak and Czech folk songs combined to depict the  raucous cacophony of a bustling tavern.


BIBER Battalia à 10

BARTÓK Music for Strings, Percussion, & Celesta


Perry So, conductor

Special thanks to Michigan Theater for the filming location of this concert.

Perry So, conductor


A Music Director candidate with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, Perry So was born in Hong Kong in 1982 and received his early musical training in piano, organ, violin, viola and composition there. He graduated from Yale University with a degree in literature with a focus on the interaction  of literature and music in Central Europe in the modernist era, and as a student at Yale he founded an orchestra and led the undergraduate opera company. He received his formal training as a conductor under Gustav Meier at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. In 2008 he received First and Special Prizes at the Fifth International Prokofiev Conducting Competition in St Petersburg, Russia. He has subsequently held posts as Assistant, then Associate Conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Conducting Fellow of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Artistic Collaborator of the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias in Spain and is a member of the conducting faculty at the Manhattan School of Music. 

A presence in concert halls on five continents, Perry So recently made his debut with the San Francisco Symphony, his European operatic debut at the Royal Danish Opera in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and his North American operatic debut at Yale Opera in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Recent highlights include a tour to Milan with the Nuremberg Symphony and a seven-week tour of  South Africa with three orchestras including Verdi’s Requiem in Cape Town, broadcast in July 2020  as the center piece of the South African National Arts Festival. In the coming season he will return to the San Francisco Symphony for his debut on the subscription series.

So has enjoyed a long association with the Royal Danish Theatre and the Royal Danish Orchestra both on the concert stage and in the pit for opera and ballet. He has been a frequent guest at Walt  Disney Hall and the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and in 2013 toured the Balkan Peninsula at the helm of the Zagreb Philharmonic in the first series of cultural exchanges established after the breakup of Yugoslavia. Other debuts in recent years include appearances with the Cleveland and Minnesota Orchestras, the symphony orchestras of Navarre, Málaga, Tenerife, Nuremberg, Israel, New Zealand, Houston,  Detroit, New Jersey and Shanghai; the London, Szezcin, Seoul and China Philharmonics, the Residentie Orkest in the Hague and the Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie in Koblenz.

His work in the recording studio encompasses a broad sampling of twentieth-century British,  French and Russian music with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBC Concert  Orchestra, and his album of Barber and Korngold’s Violin Concertos with soloist Alexander Gilman and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra was awarded the Diapason d’Or in January 2012.

His wide-ranging musical interests encompass numerous world premieres on four continents as well as the reintroduction of Renaissance and Baroque repertory into symphonic programs, most notably championing the works of Jean-Philippe Rameau. His work with young musicians has taken him to the Australian Youth Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, the Round Top Festival, the Manhattan School of Music, the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts and the Yale School of Music.

Perry, his wife Anna and daughter Caroline divide their time between Boston and Saint Paul, Minnesota, where Anna is professor of History of Science at the University of Minnesota.

Fast Facts



Composed in 1825 as the finale of the String Quartet No. 14 in B-flat Major, Op. 130, Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge was not well received at its premiere, prompting Beethoven and his publisher to remove and replace it with an alternate finale (one of the few instances where Beethoven yielded to the pressure from contemporary critics). The fugue was eventually published in 1827, a few years before the composer’s death, as an entirely separate work with the opus number 133. 



By 1936, Bartók garnered most of his income from the Budapest Academy of Science, an institution that encouraged his research into ethnomusicology. Bartók was a pioneer in the field of what was initially coined “comparative musicology”, expanding the boundaries of what was taught during the early 20th Century to music not commonly considered part of the Western canon.

by the numbers

Heinrich Biber Battalia à 10 length (minutes)

Top note (C8) on a Celesta (soundwaves per second)

Musicians in Your A2SO