Bargemusic Presents Pianist Beth Levin 7/13

Bargemusic Presents Pianist Beth Levin 7/13Bargemusic proudly presents an evening recital with Brooklyn-based virtuoso pianist Beth Levin on Friday, July 13th at 8pm. Levin is celebrated as a bold interpreter of challenging works, from the Romantic canon to leading modernist composers. The New York Times praised her "fire and originality," while The New Yorker called her playing "revelatory." Part of the treasured Masterworks Series, this program will feature Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major, Op. 106, "Hammerklavier" and Handel's Suite for keyboard No. 3 in D minor, HWV 428.

Friday, July 13, 2018 at 8pm
Fulton Ferry Landing
Brooklyn, NY
Tickets: $40; $35 Senior; $20 Student

On the Program:

Masterworks Series

Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major, Op. 106, "Hammerklavier" Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

I. Allegro

II. Scherzo: Assai vivace

III. Adagio sostenuto

IV. Introduzione: Largo... Allegro - Fuga: Allegro risoluto

Suite for keyboard No. 3 in D minor, HWV 428 George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)


Allegro: Fugue



Air, with five variations


Notes on the Program by Gil Reavill:

Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major, Op. 106, "Hammerklavier" by Ludwig van Beethoven

The colossal twenty-ninth piano sonata of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), Op. 106 in B flat
major, the "Große Sonate für das Hammerklavier," is known more simply as the Hammerklavier-or, more simply still, by a pianist's shorthand which somehow gets at the piece's elegant, monumental brutality, the "Hammer'k."

A live performance of the work is a spellbinding event, and pianist Beth Levin's artistry and dynamic approach to the keyboard adds to the excitement. She will perform the Hammerklavier in concert with Handel's Suite in D Minor at Barge Music, Fulton Ferry Landing, Brooklyn, New York, on July 13 at 8 pm.

The Hammerklavier's genesis makes for an interesting story. In spring of 1817, his hearing deteriorating rapidly, his attention distracted by a stubborn court case, Beethoven took a summer apartment with his nephew Carl in the Mödling district of Austria. Written in the margins of the sonata's holograph: "A small house here, so small, that alone, one has only very Little Room! Only a few days in this divine Brühl! Longing or yearning, liberation or fulfillment." He composed the classic solo keyboard work over the course of months, summer 1817 to fall 1818, while the majestic Ninth Symphony was also germinating.

The gift of a piano might have spurred great man's compositional tour de force, a six-octave Broadwood and Sons concert grand featuring a heavier, English-style action that Beethoven adored. (Afterwards presented to Franz Liszt, who refused in a spasm of very un-Liszt-like humility to play on keys that the master had pressed, this most famous instrument is now lodged in the Hungarian National Museum at Budapest.) The name day (17 April) of Beethoven's patron Archduke Rudolph of Austria acted as added inducement for beginning the composition, and the Hammerklavier is indeed dedicated to the royal amateur pianist.

Whatever the provenance, the sonata stands as one of the pinnacles of piano composition, an engrossing creation that encompasses whole worlds within its breadth and scope. The tone of aching, bittersweet sadness is impossible to escape-Beethoven characterized B-flat as "the black key," and employs it to devastating effect. The Hammerklavier as a whole, and its third movement in particular, has always elicited mournful superlatives from commentators. Musicologist Wilhelm von Lenz famously characterized the Adagio as a "mausoleum of collective sorrow," while composer, author and classical scholar Jan Swafford writes of "spinning roulades like streams of tears," and terms the third movement "a sublime performance of sorrow and transcendence by a singer who has known every shade of grief and hope."

At once a product of the human condition and one of its greatest expressions, the Hammerklavier sonata seems to accept fully the consequence of mortality, perhaps prefiguring Walt Whitman's triumphant embrace, a half century later: "Come lovely and soothing death, undulate round the world." In that embrace, in that acceptance, Beethoven achieves a sense of redemptive joy.

Suite for keyboard No. 3 in D minor, HWV 428 by George Frideric Handel

The story of young George Frederic Handel (1685-1759) and his "spinet in the attic" must be filed under the rubric "unverified, but too fantastic not to be true." When the future composer was a boy, his barber-surgeon father expressly forbid any musical education for his son, in fact forbade even visits to homes where there were musical instruments. But George Frederic managed to sneak a tiny clavichord to a small upstairs room, and played and practiced softly while his family slept.

Handel's keyboard music will be front and center when pianist Beth Levin performs a sterling example, the third suite in D minor, HMV 428, from the composer's epic series, The Eight Great Suites.

Handel's reputation as a composer for solo piano is always obscured and eclipsed by his brilliant operatic and oratorio work. In addition Handel, born the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach, has been somewhat overshadowed on the keyboard by his contemporary's piano masterpieces. With Handel, we think opera, we think Messiah, but at the piano he was equally a virtuoso. Too long, Handel the keyboardist has been hidden in the attic.

Published in 1720, and composed originally for the harpsichord, The Eight Great Suites represents dazzling mash-up of German folk dance music, Italian vocal themes, sonata flourishes, Bach-like counterpoint and Handel's trademark ability to dish up a good tune. Recently the work enjoyed something of a revival, with jazz pianist Keith Jarrett and other modern masters attracted to its fresh, rollicking, and improvisatory quality, distinct from the lockstep organization of the great Bach piano exercises.

The third suite (not be confused with another Handel suite in D minor, HMV 436) has long been outshone by its more famous cousin, the number five suite in the series, more commonly known as the favored air of piano students everywhere, "The Harmonious Blacksmith." Nevertheless, the third has its attractions, from the dazzling D minor arpeggios of the opening to the presto finale. This last may ring familiar, since Handel often sampled the finale's themes in later works.

Handel's place in the pantheon of great composers of the high baroque might largely be based on his works for the human voice, and perhaps on Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks. But his compositions for solo piano are in no way minor creations. As epitomized in Beth Levin's performance, his Suites are effervescent, intricate paeans to life, in all its vibrant, glorious incarnations.


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