Joseph Swensen was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and grew up in Harlem, New York City. He currently holds the post of Conductor Emeritus of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, where he was Principal Conductor from 1996-2005. He is Principal Guest Conductor of the Orquesta Ciudad de Granada, in Spain, and Artistic Partner of the Northwest Sinfonietta, in the United States. He has served as Principal Guest Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris from 2009-2012 and has held positions at the Malmö Opera (2008-2011), Lahti Symphony, and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Swensen is the Starling Professor of Music, violin, at Indiana University, Jacobs School of Music. He has also been awarded an honorary doctorate from St. Andrew’s University, Scotland, and was invited to give a TEDx Talk with the title “Habitats for Music and the Sound of Math,” about music education and the developing brain, at the New York Institute of Technology. Joseph and Victoria Swensen are the founders of Habitat4Music, a non-profit organisation devoted to establishing participatory music education programs for children in underserved areas world-wide.
Ludwig Van Beethoven composed his Second Symphony during the summer and autumn of 1802 and conducted the first performance on April 5, 1803, in Vienna. In June 1801, he had confessed to his friend Dr. Franz Wegeler, “For almost two years I have ceased to attend any social functions, just because I find it impossible to say to people: I am deaf.” Nonetheless, as he wrote to his brothers in the infamous Heiligenstadt Testament, he didn’t fail to see the irony of “an infirmity in the one sense which ought to be more perfect in me than in others.” This was the effrontery under which he composed his most energetic, joyful, and gregarious, Second Symphony.
At its premiere a critic affirmed that “the First Symphony is better than the later one because it is developed with lightness and is less forced, while in the Second the striving for the new and surprising is already more apparent.” A rich and dramatic theme is slowly introduced by the first movement, followed by one of the longest slow movements in the composer’s repertoire. The third, a Scherzo: Allegro, maintains an unprecedented edge as it spurts nervous energy and in the end, a fiery finale concludes the work, written in rondo form. Beethoven finished this boisterous finale only days before he confessed thoughts of suicide in the letter to his brothers. Hector Berlioz once remarked that "this Symphony is smiling throughout." It is assumed that the piece's verve perhaps provided Beethoven with comfort and eased his tumultuous emotions. Still, his contemporaries applauded the Second Symphony as a significant piece full of power and depth.
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator