Sonatas played to seduce
Beethoven ReCycle Programme Four
Regent on Broadway, Palmerston North, 26 June 2013
Reviewed by Tina White, Manawatu Standard, 27 June 2013
An open letter to Michael Houstoun: last night, sir, you seduced me in the most auditory way possible. I had never heard you play in person (I was out of New Zealand for a long time) and at your concert of five Beethoven piano sonatas at the Regent on Broadway, there were times when I could hardly believe my ears. Every crystal note you played seemed to have a life of its own, spinning musical stories and building mind-pictures.
Beethoven's music is lyrical, dramatic and emotional, and I've been listening to it (well some of it, and a few of the sonatas) for years.
Listening, yes. But last night, Mr Houstoun, you made me hear it.
Now for the facts: the concert opened with the Sonata No.20 in G, Opus 49 No.2, with its second movement minuet; then on to Sonata No.3 in C, Opus 2 No.3, dedicated to Haydn: crashing waves and scudding clouds followed by a whirl of butterflies on the keys.
Next, the Sonata No.24 in F Sharp, Opus 78, dedicated to Beethoven's friend, Therese von Brunsvik; the Sonata No.16 in G, Opus 31 No.1 (composed at a time when Beethoven's deafness was worsening); and the finale, after which the Palmerston North programme was named: the Appassionata, dedicated to Therese's brother, Franz von Brunsvik. Beethoven never named this sonata, No.23 in F Minor, Opus 57, but it is an apt label for its depth of feeling. Last night's five sonatas were written between 1794 and 1805 and reflect different periods in Beethoven's often stormy life.
Houstoun, one of the world's most gifted pianists, will be back at the Regent on October 15, with the Moonlight programme.