What’s better than a Beethoven concert? How about two?
BRATTLEBORO -- It seems Sharon Robinson didn’t learn her lesson the first time.
Five years ago, Robinson, her husband Jaime Laredo and Joseph Kalichstein performed all of Beethoven’s piano trios in one exhausting three-concert marathon in Brattleboro.
Now, she’s at it again, this time conspiring with her dear friend Benjamin Hochman on another Beethoven-athon of sorts.
This Sunday, Robinson and Hochman will open the Brattleboro Music Center’s 2013-14 concert season with a performance, in two concerts on one day, of the complete cycle of Beethoven’s sonatas and variations for piano and cello.
Together, Robinson and Hochman will tackle these works in concerts at 3 and 7 p.m., at Centre Congregational Church, 193 Main St.
"I think Beethoven is so fantastic to take the chronological journey with," said Robinson. "It’s so interesting to see how Beethoven’s reach for the cello changed."
These performances of Beethoven’s body of work for cello and piano takes listeners on a unique trek through the composer’s creative life. The five sonatas span Beethoven’s three major creative periods: the first two were written in 1796 when he was producing his breakthrough early piano sonatas; Sonata No. 3 in A was composed during his most productive compositional period in the middle of his career; and the final two sonatas date from the beginning of his mystical late period.
In the early pieces, the piano is definitely the star, and the cello is a bit of a second class citizen, said Robinson. Later, perhaps inspired by the playing of some of the top cellists of his day, especially two brothers named Duport, Beethoven elevated the cello to "equal or better partner."
"They must have inspired Beethoven to really sing with the cello," Robinson said. "The giant humanist in Beethoven comes out. ... The depth of his expression is definitely exposed."
Individual cello sonatas have been part of Robinson’s repertoire for a while, but the idea of this Sunday’s feast of sonatas was born from a concert the Brattleboro Music Center put on last spring. Hochman and Robinson played the A Major Sonata, which one scholar has called "the king of all sonatas." They enjoyed it so much, they cooked up the idea of playing them all.
The two played the program on Sept. 15 in Westchester, N.Y., and found out they could indeed withstand the rigors of all that Beethoven in one day.
Other concerts of the program are scheduled, and the hope is to one day make a recording. For now, Beethoven and Robinson are companions in practice, as she spends time every day reviewing these pieces.
"I love having Beethoven on my stand," she said.
Winner of the Avery Fisher Recital Award, the Piatigorsky Memorial Award, the Pro Musicis Award, and a Grammy nominee, cellist Robinson appeared with orchestras worldwide and divides her time between teaching, solo engagements, performing with her husband, violinist and conductor Jaime Laredo and touring with the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio. Robinson and Laredo live in Guilford and serve as the Brattleboro Music Center’s Artistic Advisors.
Hochman’s eloquent and virtuosic performances blend artistic bravura with poetic interpretation. He performs around the world as a soloist, recitalist and chamber music partner. He is currently on the piano faculty of Bard College and the Longy School of Music. Hochman is a Steinway Artist and lives in New York City with his wife, violinist Jennifer Koh.
Tickets for one concert on Sunday are $30, $20, $10. Prices to attend both concerts are $45, $30, $15. Lowest price tickets have limited viewing.
Concert-goers may also join the BMC for a special dinner buffet at Blue Moose Café between concerts. Cellist and Chamber Series Artistic Director Zon Eastes will speak about the sonatas. Reservations are required; $30 per person (tax and tip included). Seating is limited.
For tickets and dinner reservations, call the Brattleboro Music Center at 802-257-4523 or visit www.bmcvt.org.
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