Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

American Beethoven Society's Third Biennial Convention

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

American Beethoven Society's Third Biennial Convention

Article excerpt

San José, July 9-11, 2009

Over eighty members of the American Beethoven Society participated in the various activities of the Third Biennial Convention held at the Beethoven Center from July 9-11. The convention included recitals by Malcolm Bilson on the Centers replica of a 1795 Dulcken fortepiano, by Susan Kagan on a 1927 Steinway, and by Andrew Willis on the Centers original Jakesch fortepiano of 1827. The Thursday afternoon paper session focused on the groundbreaking but infrequently performed Righini Variations of 1790/91 Henry Neiger ably assisted at the piano by Susan Kagan), the order of the songs in the Geliert Lieder and the relationship of their ordering to key characteristics and the meaning of the set (Paul Ellison), and the complexities of the part-writing in the late string quartets as they related to Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier (Amy Caxr-Richardson). Three aspects of Beethoven biography and reception history were the subject of the Friday morning session: a detailed examination of what the statuette of Brutus and the Egyptian phrases meant to Beethoven (John Clubbe), an exploration of George Bernard Shaw's modeling of a central character in Love among the Artists on Beethoven and the characteristics of the Romantic genius artist (Donna Beckage), and a wide-ranging investigation into the history of the question "Was Beethoven black?" (Michael Broyles). Friday afternoon was devoted to a passionately delivered lecture-demonstration by Malcolm Bilson on "Reading Beethoven: How Long Is an Unmarked Quarter Note?" followed by his brilliant recital of works by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Saturday morning's session was devoted to the important question of the historical place of "Moonlight" music and the relationship of Beethoven's Sonata quasi una fantasia to that category of works (Sarah Clemmens Waltz), an exploration of Beethoven's psychological traits and their relationship to his creativity (François Mai), and a lecture on and beautiful performance of Ferdinand Riess last sonata, Opus 176, of 1832 (Susan Kagan). The final session included a talk on an additional fifty Schulz Beethoven cartoons not featured in the exhibit "Schulzs Beethoven, Schroeder's Muse" (William Meredith) and a brief pre-concert talk and performance of Beethoven s "Mount Everest" sonata, the Hammerklavier, by Andrew Willis. It was the rarest of treats to hear this work performed so passionately on an original Viennese fortepiano of 1827.

The convention also included many opportunities for members to mingle socially, including the annual "Beethoven Summer Bash," a sumptuous potluck dinnet held at the spectacular hillside home of ABS members Doris and Richard Davis. As a special after-dinner treat, the Davis's daughter Deborah performed the first movement of Beethoven's Cello Sonata, Opus 102, no. 1, with cellist Laurel Brobst Gilbert, and the Clarinet Trio, Opus 11, with clarinetist Ande Jacobson and cellist Gilbert. At the convention banquet, pianist Malcolm Bilson was awarded the Society's Lifetime Achievement Award for Beethoven Performance for his incredible contributions over the past decades to our understanding of how Beethoven's music sounded on the fortepianos of his day. Along with the award came an early edition of the Pathétique Sonata (1830) edited by Carl Czerny and containing his detailed fingerings, which Professor Bilson carefully added to his briefcase to study that evening on his long flight to Australia, where he was beginning a tour.

Special thanks must be accorded to the Program and Education Committee of the Society, and to Patricia Stroh, Kathy Fox, Rachel Knight, and Corey Keating.

Program Abstracts ana Biographies

Thursday, July 9

AFTERNOON SESSION: Beethoven's Creativity

Henry Neiger (NY) and Susan Kagan (emerita, Hunter College, emerita): "Beethoven's First Piano Variations"

"Hugely popular in the 1780s and '90s, Beethoven's early variations have faded from view even though sevetal sets are significant. …

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