Piano notes

Beethoven Awareness Month

DistlerWed 16th November 2011

New York radio station WQXR pays tribute to the composer

In a year where everyone’s been fixated on Franz Liszt’s 200th birthday (and rightly so), all of a sudden my friendly neighbourhood New York classical music radio station, WQXR has proclaimed November 2011 Beethoven Awareness Month.
 
I’m doing my part. As pianist in residence for the station’s Q2 Music streaming show, Hammered! I’m programming this Monday through Friday a keyboard show with all 32 Beethoven sonatas featuring a different pianist for each sonata, interspersing them with new piano music. The four Monday shows that I personally host are available to stream any time online, and you can click here to find out more.

The fun part has been combing through both my own collection and the radio station’s holdings to come up with a wide range of Beethoven players, living and dead. For example, Maurizio Pollini’s intense and focused Op 111 was my clear first choice from the start, but I had completely forgotten about Zoltán Kocsis’s gaunt, disciplined Op 2 No 1 on Philips. Although the station’s copy of Maria Tipo’s spontaneous and supple Op 2 No 3 appears to be misfiled (and my CD also is missing in action), Rudolf Buchbinder’s wonderful new performance from his recent live RCA/Sony Beethoven cycle easily fit the bill. The immensely undervalued New York pianist Jeffrey Swann has no less than two Op 101 recordings to his name, both out of print, I believe, and I programmed one of them, along with Peter Serkin’s fleet, jazzy, emotionally three-dimensional Hammerklavier that he recorded on a Steinway for Pro-Arte in 1986 (not to be confused with his 1983 performance on a Graf fortepiano). You get the picture.
 
And hopefully I can attend at least part of a November 20th marathon event at the Greene Space when WQXR offers a 12-hour marathon of all the sonatas featuring a whole slew of great young pianists, including Inon Barnatan, Alessio Bax, Jonathan Biss, Jeremy Denk, Benjamin Hochman, Valentina Lisitsa, Natasha Paremski, and Joyce Yang, plus a coterie of young Juilliard lions and lionesses. It’ll be streamed live at www.wqxr.org.
 
Meantime, I’ll be attending the annual Lucerne Piano Festival next week, and will report on an amazing line-up of classical concerts and jazz events in between bites of chocolate and gulps of designer espresso! Stay tuned…

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