The Aiken Symphony Orchestra will celebrate strings, the foundation of the orchestra, and the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven at two upcoming concerts.

'Glorious Strings'

In its second chamber series performance of the season, the Aiken Symphony Chamber Orchestra will feature music dominated by works that glorify strings, the backbone of the symphony orchestra, according to a news release from the orchestra.

The orchestra, led by Maestro Donald Portnoy, will perform American composer Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”; Anton Arensky’s “Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky, Op. 35A”; and “Serenade for Strings, Op. 48, C Major.” by Peter I. Tchaikovsky.

Guest Conductor, Nisan Ak, will present an interpretation of “Romance, Op. 42, C Major,” by Jean Sibelius.

The concert will begin at 3 p.m. Jan. 19 in St. John’s United Methodist Church at 104 Newberry St. N.W.

Tickets are $40 and are available online at or by calling the Aiken Symphony Orchestra office at 803-220-7251.

Tickets will be sold at the door depending on availability. Chamber Series tickets are not sold at the Etherredge Center box office at USC Aiken.

Composed in 1936, Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” was originally the second movement of his “String Quartet, Op. 11.” Barber, a graduate of Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute, composed the piece while spending the summer in Europe with his partner, Gian Carlo Menotti, who was a fellow student at the institute.

In 1938, Arturo Toscanini, conductor of the NBC Orchestra, performed the work for the first time. It was later performed by a number of renowned American orchestras and has become an important composition of the 20th century.

The eight-minute work has been described as “evoking a deep sadness in those who hear it because of its tense melodic line and taut harmonies.” The work has been used numerous times in motion pictures including the 1986 movie “Platoon.”

Anton Arensky’s “Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky” was written in 1894, one year after Tchaikovsky’s death, as a tribute to that composer, who exerted the greatest influence on Arensky’s musical compositions.

Employing an unusual scoring of violin, viola and two cellos, the work was originally written by Arensky as the slow movement of his “String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 35” and based on one of Tchaikovsky’s “Songs for Children, Op. 54.” The work was so well received that Arensky arranged it as a separate piece for string orchestra, in which form it has remained among the most popular of all Arensky’s works.

Jean Sibelius’s “Romance for String Orchestra, Op. 42, C Major” is a miniature, five-minute composition written in 1904. By this time Sibelius had already achieved national hero status in his home country of Finland, following the release of his most popular work, “Finlandia.”

Unlike this large-scale work, the charm of “Romance” comes from a simple setting of a characteristic melody, with effective and straightforward use of the string orchestra. “Romance” is formed of three main sections, a slow, andante beginning; a more rapid middle section; and finally another slow section. The middle section is set apart in tempo, but melodically this little crowd pleaser is nicely knit together, according to the release.

Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings” was written and orchestrated in September and October 1880 and first performed publicly at St. Petersburg in October 1881. The work, which was composed in homage to Mozart, has four movements: Allegro Moderato (moderately fast); Waltz (waltz tempo); Larghetto (broad, somewhat faster than largo); and the finale, Allegro con spirito (fast with spirit). It has been said that the work evokes something “between a symphony and a string quartet.”

'Happy Birthday Ludwig'

In commemoration of the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth, the Aiken Symphony Orchestra, led by Maestro Portnoy, will present Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 7, Op. 92, A Major,” and in a return engagement, the Eroica Trio will perform Beethoven’s “Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano Op. 56, C Major (Triple Concerto).”

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 in the Etherredge Center on the campus of USC Aiken at 471 University Parkway.

Tickets are $40, $45 and $55 and are available online at or by calling the Aiken Symphony Orchestra office at 803-220-7251.

Advance tickets are not be sold at the Etherredge Center box office; however, tickets will be sold at the door on the performance evening, depending on availability.

Beethoven’s “Symphony #7, in A major, Op. 92” was composed in 1811-1812 was first performed in Vienna on December 8, 1813, conducted by Beethoven himself.

The work is in four movements: Vivace (lively); Allegretto (between moderate and fast); Presto (very fast); and Allegro (fast). The work’s second movement (allegretto) was the most popular segment and had to be encored at its first performance. That movement remains tremendously popular today and has been used in numerous movies, including“The King’s Speech,” “Immortal Beloved,” “Apocalypse” and “The Fall,” among others.

Although Beethoven’s deafness was well advanced at the time of the first performance, his animation on the podium was as if he physically heard every note.

The work as a whole is known for its use of rhythmic devices suggestive of a dance, such as dotted rhythm (short-long, short-long) and repeated rhythmic figures.

Beethoven’s “Concerto for Violin, Cello, Piano and Orchestra in C Major, Op. 56,” otherwise known as the “Triple Concerto,” was first performed in 1808.

The work employs the traditional concerto form of three movements: Allegro (fast); Largo (very slow, broad); and Rondo a la Polacca (triple meter in polonaise form).

The concerto was written for Beethoven’s royal pupil, Archduke Rudolf of Austria, who became an accomplished pianist under Beethoven’s tutelage. It is the only concerto Beethoven ever completed for more than one solo instrument.

The Eroica Trio will be the featured musicians for the “Triple Concerto.” Its members are Erika Nickrenz, piano; Sara Parkins, violin; and Sara Sant’Ambroglio, cello. The Trio take their name from Beethoven’s “Eroica Symphony” and have toured and recorded widely.

All are Juilliard trained, and in addition to being accomplished musicians, the Eroica Trio have attracted attention in the chamber music world from some as “physically attractive, stylishly dressed women.”

The group has been together since 1986, has won numerous award and are best known for their performance of Beethoven’s “Triple Concerto.”

​Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.