BEETHOVEN CONCERT 11 of 40: A force of nature on the piano

Music student Melody Deng continues our special extra Beethoven blogging in Auckland with this post about the Beethoven reCYCLE Part One Tempest concert…

Melody with Michael after the concert

Melody with Michael after the concert

I arrived an hour before the concert as Chamber Music NZ has conveniently put up free pre-show talks by Professor Heath Lees. Heath managed to introduce the four major sonatas, give quirky details about some of the works and gave an ‘in-a-nutshell’ kind of analysis of these four sonatas in just a matter of 30 minutes! For example, Czerny supposedly described the third movement of the Tempest Sonata as a ‘Horseman riding through a storm’, and that Op.101 helped Beethoven’s student Baroness Ertmannheal’s spiritual recovery from having lost her child. All-in-all, Heath Lee’s mini lecture on the concert to be followed was entertaining, informative and made my concert experience more worth-while.

The concert started with Houstoun humbly entering the stage where the Steinway sat waiting. I’m not going to hide the fact that I was a bit worried about the Steinway- only the night before there was a major technical issue with the piano when Houstoun played the ‘Waldstein’. Houstoun had to make the decision to end the concert after the first movement of the much anticipated Waldstein Sonata. To my relief, the Steinway on this night lived up to its reputation. Under Michael’s impeccable technique and interpretation of some of the greatest music ever written, the sounds fabricated from the instrument captured my attention from the beginning to end.

‘Tempest’ sonata was played with much tension- the thrilling crescendos and the dream-like Largo sections in the first movement all add to the drama of the music. One can almost hear the distant thunder rolling represented by the pianissimo left hand passages at the end of the first movement. One of the most beautiful moments in the concert happened when Houstoun played the second movement – the modulation to the dolce dominant F major section was played with remarkable warmth and tenderness that only the best pianist can accomplish.

One of the most memorable moments of the concert was when Houstoun announced he will be playing the last two movements of the Waldstein to make up for the interruption from the night before. Before he could even finish the sentence the hall had burst into applause- for his generosity and the extra treat we were about to experience. The Waldstein was nothing short of extraordinary- Houstoun’s spectrum of sounds and effortless technique was a force of nature on the piano and this time there was nothing to stop him. The standing ovation he received was more than justified and I’m sure this concert will be remembered by those who attended it decades on from now.

– Melody, 24.04.13


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