November 25, 2019 – Amarillo College Piano Series: Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas – Jim Rauscher and Lucy Tan

Not a thread, but a chain of heavy linage connects two concerts of the Amarillo College Piano Series sponsored by Art Force: namely, the corpus of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas.

The consistency becomes most impactful considering Amarillo, specifically this series at Amarillo College directed by Dr. Diego Caetano, stands as the only place in Texas, where, this year, lucky audiences will hear all thirty-two of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas. It’s just the Panhandle’s way of saying, “Happy 250th birthday, Ludwig!”

Dr. Jim Rauscher
Plays Beethoven
AC Concert Hall Theatre

Dr. Jim Rauscher, retired chair of the Amarillo College Music Department, performed at the Concert Hall Theatre on October 8, playing three works: Sonata No. 8 in C Minor; Sonata No. 22 in F Major; Sonata No. 15 in D Major. The work that stood out was the Sonata No. 8, also known as the Pathetique.

The sheer power of this sonata demanded a stronger instrument frame with a wider keyboard. A married couple in Vienna engaged in piano-making, the Streichers, began customizing pianos to fit LVB’s needs: hence, the beginnings of the concert grand!

Written in 1798 when the composer was twenty seven and premiered in 1798, the piece was named Pathetique by the publisher who felt the Sturm und Drang embodied in the work.

The exception to the emotional vortex is the second movement, whose lyrical cantabile has been appropriated in modern times for stage musicians, television, cinema and radio programs.

This section has a soft tenderness analogous to a mother cradling her baby and reveals an emotional facet of Beethoven’s makeup otherwise masked by the fierce complexity of much of his other work.

The audience felt fortunate to again hear Jim’s artistry on the incomparable Shigeru Kawai grand, whetting our musical appetites for more of Beethoven’s sonatas.

Dr. Lucy Tan
Beethoven Concert
AC Concert Hall Theatre

Dr. Lucy Tan, artist-in-residence at Oklahoma Panhandle State University played three more of Beethoven’s sonatas in a November 12 concert at the AC Concert Hall Theatre: No. 26; No. 21; No. 16.

The sonata with the most telling story line is No. 26, titled Les Adieux.

The probable genesis for this work is Bonaparte’s attack on Vienna in 1809, which forced the government, including the emperor, to flee.

Beethoven’s had previously manifested his detestation of the little Corsican’s kleptomania of other countries and their cultural treasures: evidence his dedicatory switch in Symphony No. 4. No surprise that the composer’s sympathies did not lie with the Grande Armee.

The first movement variously posits a triad theme, aligned to the syllables of Lebewohl (Farewell) to portray both the turbulent and pensive qualities associated with this Austrian exodus.

The second, Abwesenhiet (Absence) is very emotional with the artist allowed a rhythmic latitude to amplify the feeling. But that feeling is one of heartache, not of heartbreak.

The third movement, Das Wiedersehen (The Return) is happy with intense arpeggiation, like a faithful dog on again seeing its master.

This sonata embodies elevated emotions of a national character, which pose a challenge to any concert pianist. Dr. Tan not only rose to that challenge but raised the bar on its performance. She threw her entire being into No. 26, deftly modulating the composer’s thematic intricacies for the benefit of the listeners.

And to think that we, out on the barren plains of the Texas Panhandle, should be blessed with artists like Lucy Tan and Jim Rauscher to musically reveal Beethoven’s sonatas in this special anniversary year is truly a magnum mysterium.

That this series stands as the only one in Texas to bring all of Beethoven’s sonatas to the stage is due to the vision of Dr. Diego Caetano, AC Professor of Music, the generosity of the Art Force and the collaboration of Amarillo College.

And, do not forget the receptivity of a very enlightened and appreciative audience, all of which allows us to aver “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!!”

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