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Jacobs School of Music students to perform all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas


Jacobs School of Music will present its third concert of the Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Auer Hall. The concert is one of twelve ,and Jacobs students will perform them in the spring and coming fall.

Professor David Cartledge, co-chair of Jacobs' piano department, said the festival is one of Jacobs’ ways of celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday. Six concerts will be performed this spring and six will be performed in the fall.

“It’s an opportunity over the course of a year to really get exposed to the amazing contribution Beethoven made to the development of the repertoire for the piano,” Cartledge said.

Beethoven published 32 piano sonatas in his lifetime, and ideally one student will perform each sonata, Cartledge said.

In the two previous concerts, three sonatas were performed each time, but there will be two on Tuesday night.

The two pianists are Benjamin Elliott, a senior studying piano performance, and William Chiang, a first-year masters student studying piano performance. Elliott will perform Sonata in A Major, Op. 101, and Chiang will perform Sonata in E-Flat Major, Op. 7.

The students were selected by a nomination and competition process, Cartledge said. The faculty in the piano department nominated students for specific sonatas. Sometimes, more than one student was nominated for a sonata, and a group of faculty made the decision blindly by listening to recordings of each student performing the sonata without knowing whose recording it was. The piano department is in the process of deciding which students will perform in March.

“There are some professional pianists that have been celebrating by performing all 32, and that’s long been a huge achievement,” Elliott said. “But to do it as a department is a real opportunity to showcase the students that we have in the school.”

Beethoven’s work is divided into three periods — early, middle and late.The series does not showcase the sonatas in order, Elliott said. Listeners will be able to hear music from more than one period at a time.

Chiang’s piece is one of Beethoven’s very first piano sonatas, while Elliott’s is from the composer's late period after he had gone deaf.

“It’s among the less-played of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas,” Chiang said of his piece. “It’s the first one that he wrote that was on a really revolutionary scale.”

Jacobs will also present Beethoven’s five piano concertos, Cartledge said. The first three will be performed in the spring. 

Jacobs quartet-in-residence, the Pacifica Quartet, is playing Beethoven's sixteen string quartets in a series of six concerts to celebrate.

The fourth concert will be on Feb. 21. Tuesday’s concert is free for everyone and does not require tickets.

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