BEETHOVEN CONCERT 40 of 40 – Time for a big virtual family hug

It feels a bit self-indulgent to be filled with a sense of accomplishment for simply having experienced Michael Houstoun perform all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas this year. But in the interest of full disclosure and no censorship, I do.

I feel as if I have been a part of something that will be remembered as a significant moment in New Zealand’s musical history for years to come. And maybe that is what is so affecting about a project like this. Retrospectively I now have a belief that what Michael really signed up to this year was to be the conduit, the master of the music, the all important connector of the great Beethoven to the people (us!).

Before I get carried away with this notion I have to acknowledge that mountains of credit and adulation must of course go to Houstoun who never failed to wow us, the people, with his utterly brilliant interpretations of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas. Which, I might add, he performed multiple times in varying programmes totalling 183 sonata performances in forty concerts with barely the snippet of a score in sight on the music stand (insane right?!).

Michael Houstoun performs Les Adieux at the Michael Fowler Centre

Michael Houstoun performs Les Adieux at the Michael Fowler Centre

As the four and a half kilograms of confetti rained down on our Michael (yes I think we can call him our own) at the very last BEETHOVEN reCYCLE concert earlier this week I thought back to the 40 accounts I have published from audience members around the country on this blog. I thought about how each one of these accounts uncovered someone who had been moved or enlightened in some way by Michael, through Beethoven’s music (or perhaps by Beethoven, through Michael’s hands).

The confetti raining down on Michael.

The confetti raining down on Michael.

And as the rows and rows of appreciative people continued to clap and cheer in a standing ovation for the pianist, I realised that if every seat sold in all the forty concerts (more than 15,000 seats!) held a person who had been as affected as the 40 people chronicled in our blog (a mere 0.2% of the total attendances) then … well wow – that is a big family indeed.

A big BEETHOVEN reCYCLE family, headed by Michael Houstoun, that I now have the pleasure and privilege to be a part of.

With that realisation and in the days following the finale of the cycle all that I have felt is the need to reach out and give everyone in my newly found BEETHOVEN reCYCLE family a giant virtual family hug.

To Michael, to Beethoven, and to every person who was part of the reCYCLE  journey in any way….

Let’s do it again sometime! See you in 20 years for a reunion?

Michael air kisses

– written by Candice de Villiers, Chamber Music New Zealand.



  1. Anne French · · Reply

    It’s months now since the last chord of the last performance of the last sonata died away – and I am still driving around with the concert programme on the passenger seat of my car to remind me of what I felt that night.
    The ReCycle series was wonderful, but it was Michael’s performances of the very last sonatas that were sublime. Transcendent. Words fail me.
    I think I will never forget that evening. It is now one of the three favourite concerts of my life (another being a remarkable performance of the Quartet for the End of Time in the late 1970s; and the third being an extraordinary reading of Shostakovich). My ears and musical understanding have come on a lot since the 1970s, of course, but on the final ReCycle night I had the sensation of being the recipient of a direct communication from Beethoven himself, in the form of the most remarkable music – still as fresh and futuristic as the day it was written.
    Thank you, Michael

    1. Anne, thank you so much for sharing this wonderful comment! Words cannot express how fantastic it is to hear from those who were part of the reCYCLE series and came on the journey with us and Michael. While nothing can of course replace having been at the concerts live, Michael is releasing a recording of all the sonatas very shortly, so keep an eye out – we’ll definitely be telling everyone about it as soon as it is available. – Cheers, the CMNZ team.

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