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Orchestra dazzles audiences

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is famous for taking classical songs and transforming them into powerful rock ballads.  (credit: Courtesy of Mandj98 ) The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is famous for taking classical songs and transforming them into powerful rock ballads. (credit: Courtesy of Mandj98 )

When the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) played at the Benedum Center the night of April 4, it wasn’t an average concert. The typical light and sound shows were present, certainly, but the atmosphere was very different from that of a small club or a large amphitheatre.

The TSO comes to Pittsburgh every year as part of its winter tour, in which the musicians play selections from their Christmas-themed albums.

However, the most recent performance was part of their Beethoven’s Last Night tour, which focuses on the namesake album as well as the recently released Night Castle. Though many audience members had already seen the TSO in concert, this was a new experience for everyone.

The TSO was originally conceived as a progressive rock band by its creator, Paul O’Neill. Its shows are rock operas and the group’s rendition of Beethoven’s Last Night was no exception.

As the lights dimmed to begin the show, the band started into a rendition of the famous composer’s final night. As the clock strikes midnight, the devil Mephistopheles appears to him and offers him a bargain. At this point the dramatic reading stops, the lights come on, and the music begins.

These two atmospheres were interspersed throughout the show. Over the course of the evening, the audience was transported back to 1827 and experienced the trials of Beethoven’s last night with him.
The monologues advanced the plot while the music evoked the emotions of Beethoven, his beloved Princess Theresa, and the insidious Mephistopheles, among other characters. By the end of the show, the audience was as eager to follow the story as they were to hear the performance.

Despite the nontraditional format, there was no mistaking the TSO’s performance for anything but a rock concert. The Benedum Center shook with bass chords and cymbal crashes, while the light show alone made the audience applaud throughout the night.

After the TSO finished the Beethoven’s Last Night lineup, they treated the audience to selections from Night Castle.

This album, released last October, features adaptations of famous classical works like “Carmina Burana” and “In the Hall of the Mountain King” (“The Mountain” on the TSO album), but it consists mostly of original compositions that draw from classical and modern musical traditions.

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is a unique group, and Beethoven’s Last Night was a unique performance. Like the band’s music, the show took seemingly different sources and combined them into something completely new.