January 2, 2020: Top Ten for 2019 #5-#1

Grand Prize Winner
AMOA’s Biennial 600

The #5 spot belongs to the Amarillo Museum of Art and the exhibition entitled Biennial 600, a juried occasion held every two years and open to artists within a 600 mile radius of Amarillo.

The theme this year was Textiles + Fibers and prompted hundreds of submissions as it explored how textiles move from the utilitarian to the conceptual.

This was a compelling show, which emphasized the transformational potential realized by imagining the creative inherent in the common. Thanks to director Alex Gregory as well as the staff and artists for putting together a show worth multiple visits.

The Division of Dance, the University Chorale and the WTAMU Symphony Orchestra collaborated to stage Carl Orff’s iconic Carmina Burana, which stands as unique in my half century of experiencing the work. This was sufficient to garner the #4 position in the Top 10 countdown.

This work, inspired by poems and letters written by male university students in the Middle Ages, reflect static male attitudes which over the centuries are anything but academic, often garnering the piece an R rating from moralists.

The Medieval Latin and German posed no problem for the chorale, and the orchestra was spot on in the pulsing score. Dry ice fog served as a filter for O Fortuna while In Taberna Quando Sumis six female dancers offered convincing portrayals of terpsechorean inebriation. And, lines of male and female singers came to stage front to antiphonally yet flirtatiously dialogue Veni, Veni, Venias.

Finally, two of the soloists stood out. Tenor Matt Oglesby dished up a superb rendering of a roasting swain in Olim lacus colueram, while colleague Sarah Beckham-Turner hit Dulcissime, one source for the R rating, with ease and conviction, a high bar often missed by sopranos in performance.

Dr. Mark Bartley, the conductor of the orchestra, revealed that this production wanted to offer something more than sit-and-play and stand-and-sing. It did, to the bona fortuna of the audience.

Duo Miroirs
Piano Series
Amarillo College

Two concert/recitals in the same location win the #3 place. The Amarillo College Piano Series, arranged by Dr. Diego Caetano, AC Professor of Music, brings a sequence of internationally-acclaimed pianists to the college, with only two of the programs noted here.

Antonello D’Onofrio and Claudio Soviero, based in Milan and recognized as one of the world’s outstanding four-handed piano duets, played a twenty-finger, single instrument concert which included works by Beethoven, Ravel, Shostakovich and Bernard Herman, which more than justified their reputation.

Andrey Ponochevny
AC Piano Series

The second artist, among the many world-class performers brought to the concert hall stage, is in a class by himself: Texanized Andrey Ponochevny, bronze medalist at the 2002 Tchaikovsky Competition, who played the last three of Beethoven’s piano sonatas.

AC, let it be known, is the only place in Texas where in this celebratory year, one can hear all thirty-two of Beethoven’s sonatas.

The maestro played #30 – #32, and the audience realized from the first phrases of #30 why the artist was a medalist. Every note and nuance of Beethoven’s compositions sang with vibrant clarity and for an hour Amarillo College was the center of the Beethoven piano universe.

CMA Concert
“Toward the South Plains”

Drum roll please, to reveal the #2 fine-arts event of 2019: Toward the South Plains, a collaborative concert by Chamber Music Amarillo and FASO, the organization from St. Andrews Episcopal Church which sponsors concerts, usually featuring the world-famous Aeolian Skinner 1024 organ.

This concert, held at St. Andrews, featured a world premier, Toward the South Plains, by Harlan Hodges, the Amarillo Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra conducted by Dr. Mark Bartley, and a youthful chorus made up of middle school and high school directed by Lizzie Manfredi.

Rick Land, organist for St. Andrews, played two Handel organ works, and the Amarillo Virtuosi played Introduction and Allegro by Edward Elgar. The entire concert was like a rich German Chocolate Cake with an extra layer of icing.

Harlan Hodges
Toward the South Plains

The genesis of Toward the South Plains stemmed from a request by the composer for Chamber Music Amarillo to premier the work, which require both a chorus and a large orchestra. Rick Land also contacted David Palmer, artistic director of CMA offering the performance venue of St. Andrews where Land could also play some organ works. So, a perfect storm coalesced for the premier, with Palmer offering the composer a space, a chorus, a small orchestra and the orchestral capacity of the 1024, and a deal was struck.

In the words of the composer, this work is a journey of body and spirit back to the South Plains, while pondering the ever-present effect of change in our lives.

In the words of this listener, the piece was a transcendent tone poem on the plains. Another audience member maintained this piece more spiritual than anything she’d heard in church. Thanks to CMA, FASO, the Amarillo Virtuosi the young singers, and especially Harlan Hodges for making this event possible.

It’s hard to conceive that this spectacular event could be surpassed.

But it was, by a #1 that was both past incredible and awe-inspiring. I speak of Beethoven’s Ninth, performed by the Amarillo Symphony, the Master Chorale and the First Baptist Church Sanctuary Choir.

Beethoven’s Ninth

Performed in Amarillo for the first time in thirty years, several factors combined to make this event world-class. The Amarillo Symphony, directed by Jacomo Bairos, played in perfect tandem, with French Horn and tympani soloists totally on target.

The vocal soloists embraced Beethoven’s torturous vocalistics, with tenor Dominic Armstrong hitting the high one on Sie ein Held zum Ziegen, oft the sound of only a croaky choke.

The chorus raised the bar on any similar performance I’ve heard anywhere in the world in the last fifty years. The astute direction of Nate Fryml and Dan Baker, vocal talent and choral discipline contributed equally to this ultimate reality.

Imagine Panhandle folk singing Deutsch better than the Dresden Staatskapelle Chorus!

And the apex, often called the greatest expression of the human voice, when the females, who altogether would ascend seventy high A’s, sang out Seid umschlungen Millionen! Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt! with other parts joining in rounds, was truly transcendent!

So the Top 10, with some fudging, serves notice of the rich array of the arts which are in the Panhandle DNA. In quality and variety, the Amarillo arts scene in 2019 is the envy of much larger metropolitan areas.

The best of the best then become the platform for a New Year’s resolution for 2020. “Keep on Keeping Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in that Rear View Mirror!!!”

December 30, 2019: Top Ten for 2019; #10 – #6

2019 was year one for keepamarilloarsty.com, and, in a twelve month period, the seventy or so blogs addressed perhaps sixty percent of the quality art in this locale.

Yet, appropriating a good measure of artistic ego and hubris, I will pick my Top 10, a critics choice, if you please, of personal faves. I readily admit to cop-outs in the form of combination and compromise, but, hey, it’s my blog, and omnia pro gratia artis!

Opera Cowgirls
Fine Arts Recital Hall

The #10 spot goes to the Big Apple-based Opera Cowgirls, visiting fellow member Sarah Beckham-Turner, now on the WTAMU voice faculty. The ladies, divas all, Bransomized an array of arias, which, if anything, elevated their artistry. They showed their versatility by signing at several venues, including church, a jazz club, and Sunset Center.

They also, in commemoration of WWI, sang of series of songs taken from the letters of woman from both sides left behind. Stunning was too mild a word to describe the effect. Bravi and ya’ll come back soon. Y’hear?

Curtain Call
Heathers – The Musical
Amarillo College

The #9 spot goes to a trio of plays, all musicals, which dealt with edgy material and collectively mocked the conservative characterizations of this area. In the arts of Amarillo, conservatives need not apply.

Fun Home was staged at Amarillo Little Theatre’s Adventure Space; Heathers-The Musical was performed at Amarillo College; WTAMU hosted Spring Awakening.

Collectively the performances depicted mass murder, abortion, homosexual kissing, homo and hetero intercourse, suicide, coming-out, S & M and group masturbation. All here in supposedly conservative Cowboy Country.

Congratulations to the directors, casts, crews and sponsoring institutions for delivering such provocative and profound drama.

Curtain Call
“Fireflies of Terezin”
Amarillo Opera
Amarillo College

#8 returns to the lofty theme of opera, specifically the recrudescence of Amarillo Opera, now under the inspired direction of Mary Jane Johnson. Two of the productions offer a gauge of the impactful potential of this organization.

The first, Fireflies of Terezin, asked a lot of a young cast and of the audience, as it was created to entertain children of Theresienstadt concentration camp, an actual killing field masking as a resettlement paradise to fool the outside world.

This production was a putative world premier, resulting from several streams of musical and archival scholarship, and translated from Czech. The backstory informed the whole production, the art saying “Never Again!” in defiance of the Holocaust deniers and right wing hate groups.

Curtain Call
Die Fledermaus
Amarillo Opera

Die Fledermaus marked the rebirth of Amarillo Opera’s grand vision, namely to bring the finest in the operatic repertoire to the High Plains. This time “The Bat” brought belly laughs, as well a trouser role. The cast, many recruited from across the county, had wonderful comedic chemistry in this spectacular production. To MJJ we say Grazie Bella Donna while to all involved we say Bravi!

Tuscon Boys Choir
Polk Street United Methodist

#7 was a good-for-us serendipitous coalition that brought the Tuscon Boys Choir, the nation’s longest-running, secular boys chorus along with the combined choirs from Oklahoma Panhandle State University and Amarillo College, complimented by area musicians, to perform John Rutter’s Mass for Children.

A separate singing for the boys from Tuscon illustrated why the high church of the Middle Ages and the Church of England today credit these young male voices with the purest sound. The group sang selections from Vivaldi to Country-Western, sometimes in eight-part harmony!

Combined Choirs
Rutter’s Mass for Children

Rutter’s work, a non-liturgical Missa Brevis, was first performed in 2003. This performance saw the collegiate choirs crowd the stage while the boys divided antiphonally. This performance was exceptional, showing that sometimes the stars do align in our favor.

#6 represents a distillation of all that is quality in one of America’s premier fine-arts programs. I refer to the Rededication Concert of the acoustically-upgraded Mary Moody Northern Recital Hall at WTAMU.

In fact, prior to the concert, Dean Robert Hansen introduced the Hall, now the world’s leading variable acoustical space, as the star of the show. None of the performers, most especially the Hall, disappointed, with the audience growing accustomed to the almost Star Wars like whirr and whine of side and stage speakers to actualize the potential in each performance.

Mary Ann Kile
Carmen: Habanera

Imagine the syncopated pulse of the Buffalo Marching Band Drumline, where every instrument is heard! Or, the Habanera from Carmen sung by Mobile mezzo Mary Ann Kile, who, by the grace of the Hall, made Carmen sound even more sultry and seductive.

Sarah Beckham-Turner
Matt Oglesby
Wagner: Gotterdamerung

Or Sarah Beckham-Turner and Matt Oglesby, singing a duet from Gotterdamerung, auf Deutsch, with complete clarity. Or the ennobling effect of the hall on the Symphonic Orchestra’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Coronation March for Czar Alexander III, used for the dedication of Carnegie Hall, followed by the premier of Pathway to Polaris by B.J. Brooks.

The Hall spoiled the audience early on, and to think that this was only the first of many performances with this space.

But the above represent only #’s 10 – 6. Stayed tuned for #’s 5 – 1. Bottom line, 2019 makes it a no-brainer to say, “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!”

December 21, 2019: WTAMU Christmas Concert

WTAMU Combined Choirs
Symphony Orchestra
Karl Jenkins Gloria I

Gloria! Music of the Christmas Season, the much-anticipated WTAMU choir and orchestra concert was held twice on December 8 in the now world-class acoustical space of Northern Recital Hall. The performance did not disappoint.

The orchestra began with something of a Christmas prime time musical icon, Overture to Miracle on 34th St, followed by a complete volte face, the Ave Maria by Vladimir Vavilov. Though of disputed attribution, the silky soprano solo, sung by Victoria Loustaunau, shows why this piece ranks in the trio of reigning Aves, along with Gounod and Schubert.

The transition from orchestra to choir was to the audience singing of Angels We Have Heard on High. Amazing how much grander the sound became as the WT Chorale filled the risers.

The choir’s portion featured a pure pullensque (< Dr. Sean Pullen: Director”) setup. The singers first delighted the audience by his own own arrangement of Jingle Bells, followed by Rachmaninoff’s first movement from his All Night Vigil, commonly mistranslated as Evening Vespers.

Immediately the listener was drawn into the majestic spiritual aura of Russian Orthodoxy, with its resonant bass and powerful harmonies, all clarified by the new world-class acoustics.

The choir sang in Russian and without music. Their delivery showed their potential to sing all fifteen movements. Wonder how many other collegiate choirs, not from Cowboy Country, capable of rising to this challenge? Lemme think: try zip!

Then, to three verses of The First Noel, the audience entertained the choirs as they exited, leaving the orchestra in sole possession of the stage.

This time the Symphonic Orchestra played Chaconne in E Minor by Dietrich Buxtehude, an influential German composer who once inspired a young Bach to walk 250 miles just to be in his company and learn.

Late in life and about to retire, Buxtehude offered his job as church organist to Handel, on condition that Georg Frederic marry Dietrich’s oldest daughter. Handel left the next day.

The oeuvre of the composer remains large, though much has been lost. The Chaconne, originally for organ, has been variously orchestrated. The version played tonight was by Carlos Chavez who included wind instruments.

Though a Baroque piece, the swelling melodic interplay evokes tendencies of the Romantic era. The influence on Bach, especially his Toccata and Fugue resonates in this work which built to a magnificent crescendo.

Bravos to both Bartley (Dr. Mark Bartley: Director Symphonic Orchestra) and Buxtehude: a bravura performance!

The last two numbers, with combined choirs and orchestra and composed by Welshman Karl Jenkins, were interesting choices with compelling messages.

The Armed Man, subtitled A Mass for Peace, was drawn from the Ordinary Mass and unabashedly anti-war, with the Benedictus seraphically intoning “Peace on Earth.” What message could be more appropriate for a fractured planet?

The piece featured a serene opening that continued for about a third of the length with female voices softly singing Benedictus, then gradually joined by the males.

At the two-thirds mark all singers join in a powerful Hosanna in Excelsis which then softens to the opening Benedictus.

The Randall High School Chorale sang with the soon-to-be professional collegiates with both comfort and confidence. Probably a number will decide, based on this experience, to commit to WTAMU.

The final number was The Proclamation from Jenkin’s Gloria I. The piece opens with a strong brassy, percussive assertion, with the females first singing out Gloria followed by the males. Jenkins apparently believes in ladies first in both manners and music.

Then the piece, at Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis, conveys a very languid and reassuring mood only to return to the emphatic dynamics of the opening. The work truly evoked a celebration.

So what could be more appropriate for the final sing-along than four stanzas of Joy to the World, followed by a choral coda and loud applause?

From Rachmaninoff to Buxtehude to Jenkins with caroling to satiety – only in the Panhandle and once a year at WTAMU.

Exiting into the cold High Plains night, warmed by Christmas cheer and buoyed by the hope of “Peace on Earth,” we can all be grateful to the Music Department at WTAMU and their special role to help “Keep Amarillo Artsy, Keep Austin Weird; Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!”

Amarillo Opera: Messiah Sing Along; December 7 2019

Rick and Genny
Handel’s Messiah Tee’s
First Presbyterian Church
December 7, 2019

First Presbyterian Church, on December 7, was the site for the second annual Messiah sing along, sponsored by Amarillo Opera and underwritten by People’s Federal Credit Union and Dr.’s Victoria Thompson and Ray Martin.

The event filled the auditorium, with the chorus, all Messiah junkies from the community, sitting in loosely-defined sections. Together we sang five numbers, variously directed by Jerry Perales, Dr. Steve Weber and Billy Talley.

The orchestra was the keyboard of the incredible Goad organ, played in turn by Rick Land, Norman Goad and Michael Mitchell. News flash: Amarillo now has two world-class calliopes; the Aeolian-Skinner at St. Andrews and the Goad at First Presbyterian.

Mary Jane Johnson, international opera star and leading lady of the Metropolitan, now on the Amarillo College faculty and Artistic Director of Amarillo Opera, gave all a down-home Panhandle welcome, and enjoined all to start warbling.

Three of the eight soloists, all professional vocalists, are noted. Antonio Charles and Sean Milligan, baritone and bass, gave strong performances in Thus Saith the Lord, and For Behold, Darkness Shall Cover the Earth. Their voices, as befits trained opera singers, were strong, confident, and resonant.

Antonio Charles Baritone
Michael Mitchell Organist

Paige Brown’s sparkling soprano sang with clarity in three recitatives, beginning with There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Fields, and effectively followed by the ad hoc chorus singing Glory to God in the Highest. Not bad for a one and done!

The Hallelujah Chorus was a true stand and sing! The combined effect of the bonified as well as aspirant singers was thrilling! For anyone present not feeling the full charge of Christmas spirit, there’s probably a part for Ebeneezer Scrooge that needs your audition.

Congratulations to Mary Jane and Amarillo Opera for an even more successful seasonal Messiah. Gratitude is also extended to the sponsors, soloists, performers and directors who made it possible for singers from the community-at-large to take part.

This is just another reason to say, “Merry Christmas!” and “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!”

Andrey Ponochevny: AC Piano Series – Beethoven Sonatas

Andrey Ponochevny
AC Piano Series
December 3, 2019

The last Tchaikovsky Competition winner I remember in Amarillo was a night in January, 1966, in the full blow of a Panhandle blizzard, to hear a Texan named Van Cliburn.

Fast forward to December 3, when a lucky few heard a transplanted Texan, Andrey Ponochevny, bronze medal winner of the 2002 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, give a mesmerizing performance of Beethoven’s last three sonatas.

This program was arranged by Dr. Diego Caetano, Amarillo College Professor of Piano, and sponsored by Art Force. In his brief pre-concert remarks Diego remarked that securing Andrey’s commitment to play these three sonatas was the inspiration to devote this year’s series to performing all thirty-two.

And, in case readers missed an earlier brag, Amarillo College is the only place in Texas where one can hear every sonata!

The audience realized, after Maestro Ponochevny’s first phrases, why he is a Tchaikovsky medalist. Every note and nuance of Beethoven’s compositions sang with vibrant clarity , and for an hour Amarillo College was the center of the Beethoven piano universe.

LVB composed No. 30 in 1820 and dedicated the piece to the daughter of a friend. He allegedly took time from the Missa Solemnis to work on another manuscript, when his secretary suggested that a sketch from this new work might satisfy a sonata requested by his publisher. So, he killed two birds, as it were.

Half of this sonata involves the third movement, in which Beethoven appropriates considerable liberties with the traditional form. Which means, among other things, that Beethoven doesn’t allow comfort to burden the listener, having no problem going, in only one note, from peaceable kingdom to charge!

If such dynamics and mood shifts posed a challenge, Maestro Ponochevny seemed to embrace and relish them. This movement, by turns, is lyrical, then bouncy, then manic with arpeggiation, then menacing, with the left growling in the bass cleft, then concluding with the deliberate keyboarding of the beginning.

Sonata no. 31 was composed in 1821, with final delivery complicated by bouts with jaundice and rheumatism. Apparently Ludwig had more to deal with than deafness.

The third movement has doubles of “Langsam” and “Fuguish,” which often results in this section’s declaration as two separate. It becomes quite involved , terminating with strong chords and melodic runs. As always, Beethoven taunts the complacent.

Sonata no. 32, bridging 1821 – 22, was dedicated to the composer’s friend and patron, the Archduke Rudolf.

Unusually, this piece has only two movements, but they pack a punch. The Maestoso has a bipolar opening, alternating twixt anger and playfulness, connected by intense runs.

This playful quality, in the Arietta, exudes an almost jazzy vibe, anticipating the new American sound by nearly a century. But, this harbinger is sandwiched by sections that possess hymnal, ethereal and mystical qualities.

Perhaps the composer, after the chaos of the Napoleonic era, is calling for order in the world. Or maybe, just maybe, he’s still messing with our minds.

The audience enjoyed the rare privileges of hearing a truly world-class artist playing some of Beethoven’s most demanding sonatas, and all from the head and the heart. No scores, and this made the Concert Hall Theatre truly a musical paradise.

As the only Texans to have this opportunity, we exult in the addage, “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!”

December 4, 2019: Chamber Music Amarillo-WTAMU Brass Quintet

WTAMU Brass Quintet
Chamber Music Amarillo
Fibonacci Space
November 2, 2019

If one describes music as “transporting” in its aesthetic effect, the adjective assumed the literal on November 2 when the WTAMU Brass Quintet lifted the audience from the High Plains of Texas only to settle them in the transept of San Marco Cathedral in Venice.

Dr. Guglielmo Manfredi revealed in the pre-concert talk that when the Quintet performed in Italy, the Italians, normally a critical audience, loved their playing. The Amarillo audience would soon concur.

The first work, Five Dances from “The Danserye” by Tylman Susato, a Flemish composer, set the tone. Interesting that the composer was the first in the low countries to use movable type and his establishment in Antwerp flaunted the marquee, At the Sign of the Crumhorn!

La Mourisque was splendid with an incredibly regal sound. The dynamics touched the incredible, all the more impressive as the tuba served as a tonal anchor.

Bransle Quatre Bransles featured a trumpet lead with trombone and French Horn supplying depth with the result assuming an almost madrigal sound.

All instruments came together in the final movement, Basse Danse Bergeret, creating an absolutely joyful sound! All of this overlaying the continuo of Harley’s and diesel pickups going down Sixth Street.

In the pre-concert talk, trumpet player Bill Takacs observed that the brass quintet, which originated in Canada, has been in existence long enough to generate a substantial number of scores, rendering transcription largely unnecessary.

Nevertheless, Dr. Manfredi noted that Bach originally composed for the keyboard, but good musicians did then what they do now: appropriate the tune for different instrumentation. Is that another way of saying, “stealing?”

In the two works from Bach, Contrapunctus IX from Art of the Fugue, and My Spirit Be Joyful, the two trumpets, which set at the ends of the five musician semi-circle, created their own antiphonal effect.

That amplified the counterpoint, with each of the other instruments then tuning on the trumpets, creating a magically Baroque sound.

The admitted favorite of the group, The Iron Horse, by Kevin McKee and originally commissioned by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, took the listeners on a steam-powered locomotive ride through northern California.

This piece evoked the American West with its mountainous landscape, and, like an engine gathering power, begins slow, then accelerates, first to double and then triple tonguing complimented by whistle blasts from the lower bases. That sound might have put some Harleys in their place.

According to Dr. Manfredi, Venetian Giovanni Gabrieli convinced clerics that the instruments in his compositions replicated the human voice, so the prelates allowed Gabrieli’s compositions in San Marco. Gabrieli’s connivance then set the trend for composers of religious music throughout Europe.

Canzones 2 and 4, made famous by the Canadian Brass, were on tonight’s program. Asked whether the antiphonal arrangement with much larger ensembles for Gabrieli’s works necessitated any modification by the quintet, the answer was no, referencing again the placement of the end trumpets.

The, just for fun, the quintet concluded with The Saints Hallelujah, a mash-up of Handel and Satchmo. It had the audience wanting to stomp and clap!

So, as the days shorten and the winter looms, we in the isolated ranch land of the Panhandle heard Bach and Gabrieli in all their brassy glory.

With such quality and unique artistry, we can affirm with certain augery, “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!!”

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!!!!”