The Hippo


May 24, 2020








Irina Muresanu. Courtesy photos.

“Beethoven Forever” by Symphony NH

In Concord: At the Concord City Auditorium, 2 Prince St., Concord, Friday, Jan. 23, at 8 p.m. There’s also an event preceding the concert at the Concord Public Library, 45 Green St., Concord, Friday, Jan. 23, at 4:30 p.m., presented by Robert Hoffman. He will explore the history, context and special musical moments found in the music of Beethoven.
In Nashua: At the Keefe Center for the Arts, 117 Elm St., Nashua, Saturday, Jan. 24, at 8 p.m. Hoffman presents the same program at the Nashua Public Library, 2 Court St., Nashua, on Tuesday, Jan. 20, at 5:30 p.m.
Contact: 595-9156,
Admission: Tickets are $12 to $48; however, for youth ages 5 to 15, admission is free with purchase of adult or senior ticket, and student tickets are always $12.
“The Emperor’s Key” by Gregg Pauley
Where: Concord Community Music School, 23 Wall St., Concord
When: Friday, Jan. 30, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20

Beethoven bonanza
Two weekends of Beethoven

By Kelly Sennott

Over the next couple weekends, New Hampshire residents have a few opportunities to hear Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous and lesser-known works, still relevant nearly 200 years after his death. 

Symphony NH’s “Beethoven Forever”
Symphony NH’s next concert happens twice, first in the Concord City Auditorium Friday, Jan. 23, then again at the Keefe Center for the Arts Saturday, Jan. 24.
“Beethoven Forever” tackles Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Symphony No. 1, and guest artist, Russian-born violinist Irina Muresanu makes her third symphony appearance to perform Beethoven’s violin concerto.
It’s the first fully themed Beethoven concert in years. Much of the featured music in “Beethoven Forever” isn’t so well-known to the general public. But maybe it should be.
“I love Symphony No. 1,” said Eric Valliere, Symphony NH executive director. “It’s not played that often because it’s overshadowed by his more famous symphonies.”
What’s amazing, Valliere said, is that it was his first. It’s very difficult, maybe impossible to hear any other musical influence in Symphony No. 1.
“When you listen to early Mozart, you could confuse it with any dozen and a half composers. But with Beethoven, from literally the first bars, he makes his presence known,” Valliere said. 
Well-known among violinists, however, is his violin concerto. When it debuted, critics weren’t impressed; Muresanu said the violinist playing the concerto didn’t have time to practice because Beethoven didn’t finish in time. Or perhaps the violinist wasn’t technically skilled enough to express the depth of the piece. Or maybe audiences weren’t ready, which isn’t unusual among the greats. 
“He was moving well ahead of the general public’s taste,” Valliere said. “They were still getting used to Mozart’s violin concerto.”
The piece is now considered one of the greatest violin concertos in history.
“He set the bar pretty high for anything after that. And there are a lot of great ones after it,” Muresanu said. “His melody is very simple, but because of its simplicity, it will be longer-lasting in someone’s memory. … He makes something universally appealing … and has the power of communicating with large audiences.”
Granted, it takes a while to get to the meat of it; while most concertos last between 20 and 25 minutes, this one is 45 to 50. Just the introduction spans three minutes and can be frightening for soloists. It needs to be smooth, dramatic and transitional, and it’s challenging.
“First of all, you have to figure out a way not to get terribly scared and leave,” Muresanu joked. 
But it’s well worth the effort. She compares it to conquering Mount Olympus. 
“Every time I perform this piece and get to the last 50 bars, there is such an excitement,” Muresanu said. “There’s this titanic feeling of brightness that the music inspires.”
Gregg Pauley’s 32 Beethoven Sonatas
New Hampshirite Gregg Pauley is halfway through playing all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. He began the endeavor a year and a half ago, and when through, the project will comprise nine concerts over three years and countless hours practicing. He’s said in past interviews it’s the “Mount Everest for pianists.”
His concerts have bunched three to four sonatas and been grouped on theme. This one, called “Emperor’s Key,” is about the composer’s favoritism toward E-flat. It happens at the Concord Community Music School Friday, Jan. 30, at 7:30 p.m. 
“Every composer gravitates toward a particular tonality or key sense,” said Pauley, who teaches at the music school, St. Paul’s School and Tufts University. “Some of his most important and lasting works, like his third or fifth symphony, are written in E-flat, and I wanted to explore the sonatas written in this important key center.”
Pauley’s been squeezing rehearsal time between lessons and in the day’s very early hours (he can’t rehearse until 1 or 2 a.m. like he used to) and during the summer and winter holidays. 
“One of the things I’ve sort of discovered is that it’s harder than I thought,” Pauley said. “I knew it would be challenging. I knew it would be difficult, but given that I teach 40-plus hours a week and have children and a life beyond music, finding time to dedicate and devote is really challenging.”
But he’s been noticing details and nuances about the music he hadn’t before.
“What I’ve really enjoyed, personally, is seeing the development of his compositional style. One thing that I keep coming back to as I talk about these pieces in concerts: Early sonatas tend to follow a formula. But he tends to manipulate and embellish that formula. Halfway through, he no longer even fits the form, but rather, the form fits him. He makes the form fit his expressive needs. It’s amazing. No other composer really was able to change the form itself in order to suit his own needs,” Pauley said.
Audiences, Pauley said, have been responding with interest and awe at the scope of the project. It’s a great deal of work to learn and perfect just one of Beethoven’s sonatas, never mind all 32.
“The amount of literature is so vast and both intellectually and technically difficult. I couldn’t think of a challenge equal to this. But I’m surviving and learning about my ability to focus and concentrate and be dedicated to an idea. I feel like if I were climbing a mountain, I would be surprised at how well it was going,” Pauley said. 
As seen in the January 22, 2015 issue of the Hippo.


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