There's a special excitement that surges through the audience when a great pianist sits before the keyboard on the iconic Carnegie Hall stage. Five keyboard legends perform spectacular variations, inventive transcriptions, magnificent sonatas, and more from composers spanning Beethoven to John Adams.
The Los Angeles Times wrote that Denis Matsuev is a “virtuoso in the tradition of Gilels, Richter, or Horowitz,” and this is a program that demands a master’s exalted pianism. Beethoven’s sonata requires both muscle and dexterity, as well as emotional acuity to negotiate its shifting moods, while Chopin’s Ballade No. 4 is no less expressive, but more technically complex and theatric. There is drama in Prokofiev’s gripping wartime sonata as well—a work noteworthy for its blazing outer movements and lyrical Andante.
Denis Matsuev, Piano
BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 3 in C Major, Op. 2, No. 3
Hear inventive treatments of popular themes and homages to great masters in this program. Bizet’s dramatic variations owe much to a classic set by Beethoven, but also contain a quote from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. Liszt honored Beethoven with a transcription of his song An die ferne Geliebte, while Schumann’s Beethoven-worship finds its voice in his deeply personal Fantasy. Inspired, in part, by an effort to raise funds for a Beethoven monument, Schumann’s tribute is a first-movement allusion to An die ferne Geliebte.
Jeremy Denk, Piano
BEETHOVEN Five Variations on "Rule Britannia" in D Major
Sir András Schiff performs music by Schumann and Janáček, two composers with whom he is closely associated. Schumann’s Davidsbündlertänze is a brilliantly characterized set of dances, while his Piano Sonata No. 1 juxtaposes the turbulent and tender. Janáček’s darkly shaded On the Overgrown Path—its name comes from a Moravian wedding song—is based on his deeply personal reminiscences. A melancholy mood also colors Janáček’s Sonata, an intensely emotional two-movement work of great power and beauty.
Maurizio Pollini has been called “the Italian arch-aristocrat of the piano” by The Independent (London), and praised for his “searching musicianship and exquisite pianism” by The New York Times. This great master, brilliant in repertoire that spans Mozart to the present day, returns to Carnegie Hall for an afternoon of music played with his trademark poetry and power.
There’s melody, melancholy, and perhaps a touch of madness in the two late Schubert sonatas framing a gentle early work. The Sonata in A Minor, likely written when the composer learned of the gravity of his venereal disease, is a dark-hued journey from its disconsolate opening to jittery finale. The Sonata in A Major flows with some of Schubert’s most fetching melodies, but the rampaging scales, trills, and clusters that interrupt a tender second-movement theme suggest nightmare or hallucination—perhaps Schubert’s cry of misery from the effects of disease.