Fans of Bruce Willis and his "Die Hard" series now have a reason to go hear some classical music this weekend.
The Boise Philharmonic will perform Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, with the Master Chorale, Northwest Nazarene University and The College of Idaho choirs. And yes, it culminates with the celestial-sounding, glorious and triumphant "Ode to Joy" that has become a theme for Willis' series.
One of the most recognizable classical works ever written, it is a true crossover, resonating throughout popular culture.
Beethoven's Ninth has been used in dozens of other films, including The Beatles' "Help!," "A Clockwork Orange" and "Dead Poet's Society."
You hear it in television shows and commercials and it has been covered by metal bands, such as Rainbow. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore riffs on the fourth movement's "Ode to Joy" during the Rainbow opus "Difficult to Cure."
It gets this kind of play because the piece is epic in scope and transcendent in nature. In whatever medium, it touches us deeply, says the philharmonic's music director Robert Franz.
"What's hardest to describe about it is that it taps into the universal sense of being," Franz says. "You know, the trick to being an artist is getting out of the way of the art. And Beethoven embodies that in the Ninth symphony. It's so pure that the art transfers through it and connects to us immediately."
For this concert, Franz paired the Ninth with Beethoven's First. Simple and more intimate, the First creates a stark contrast to the powerful Ninth.
"The arc between the two illustrates where Beethoven was going with his music," Franz says.
This is the fourth time Franz will pick up the baton on the Ninth. Each time, he does the work to reconnect to the piece and dive even deeper into its structure and the composer's intentions.
Beethoven wrote the First Symphony at 30, at the beginning of his career and just as his hearing began to fail. He wrote the Ninth at 54, three years before his death. By then he was completely deaf from tinnitus.
After its first performance in 1824, Beethoven had to be turned around so he could see the audience applauding. At that moment, he wept when he heard nothing.
"He was always a difficult person, but as he lost his hearing he became angrier ... that's also when he wrote his most transcendent works," Franz says. "It's extraordinary to think that on top of that you're dealing with someone who is channeling the universe. But he's hearing with his inner ear, which is way more sensitive, way stronger."
Beethoven structured his Ninth like most classical symphonies and his previous works, but there was something more.
"It's structured very much like the Fifth," Franz says. "You start in darkness and you end in light. It's the same trajectory, the universal theme. What is different is that the fourth movement isn't just a recap of what came before - it's a symphony in and of itself. It has a beginning, middle and an end."
The first movement contains an unstable and erratic rhythm.
"He does a great job in music describing a sense of primordial chaos," Franz says. "Now to our modern ears, we think of chaos sounding much different because music got so extreme after that. That's why context is so important."
The second is a scherzo - a fast, playful rhythm - that in Beethoven's hands really drives, Franz says.
"There is a relentlessness to it that I find very interesting," Franz says. "It has this sense that the Earth just keeps going around and around, and there's nothing you can do to stop it."
Then in the third movement, the world as we know it changes.
"As much as the fourth movement is where everybody loves to be, the third movement is the soul of this piece," Franz says. "It's where he goes, 'Stop! Just listen.' All of a sudden, out of nowhere, he creates a still point."
The Ninth starts in chaos, then everything is moving, and then it just stops.
"Then you're in the zone - and you're yanked out of it by the fourth movement, and he catapults you into a whole other world," Franz says.
The music builds up to the choral finale in the fourth movement. Beethoven set Friedrich Schiller's poem "Ode to Joy" to music. It opens with:
"Oh friends, not these tones!"
"Rather, let us raise our voices in more pleasing"
"And more joyful sounds!"
These words have been captivating fans of the piece since the beginning, says Boise resident and classical music fan Paul Collins: "In the end, this is perhaps the most important message we all need to work towards - JOY!"
NOTE: Both concerts will be at the Morrison Center because of a scheduling conflict with the Swayne Auditorium in Nampa.