Beethoven for lunch at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center
Cellist Alexandra Roedder and pianist Lynn Schugren have teamed up once again this summer to present a stunning two-concert cycle of Ludwig van Beethoven’s works for piano and cello. Beethoven, whose music is perhaps some of the most recognizable classical music in the world, even to non-classical fans, wrote five sonatas for cello and piano over the course of his lifetime, which spanned some of Europe’s most tumultuous years, 1770-1827.
“These sonatas not only represent the most polished of Beethoven’s writing for these two instruments, but also clearly define his early, middle, and late compositional styles,” said Schugren, who has frequently performed the sonatas throughout her career.
“Like all composers, Beethoven’s style changed throughout his life as new aesthetics and trends emerged,” she said. “What he wrote when he was 26, a fresh-faced young composer eager to collaborate with a famous cellist, sharply contrasts with the works written at the end of his life (hint: the famous cellist was a jerk to him and he found someone else to work with). As Beethoven aged, as he lost his hearing and learned to cope with his disability, so too did the Europe of his youth change. By the early 19th century, of course, revolution had spread across Europe, much of the monarchy had lost their heads, and Beethoven’s music reflects those changing times.”
Schugren also points out that over the course of Beethoven’s life, the sonata itself transformed: “The first two are clearly sonatas for piano, with the cello accompanying and occasionally playing melodic material. By the fifth sonata, both cello and piano have equally important — and difficult! — parts to play.”
Roedder and Schugren have collaborated often since they met in 2015. Schugren, who maintains a teaching studio in Nevada City and concertizes across the state, says “it’s a real joy” to work with Roedder, whose musicality is informed by her scholarship on historical performance.
“I hear something new each time we rehearse,” she said.
“It’s not about playing Beethoven exactly the way people might have heard it back then,” Roedder said. “It’s about taking our knowledge of the past and making the present more interesting.”
Roedder holds advanced degrees in performance and musicology from UCLA and the Royal Conservatory of the Hague, the Netherlands.
“We’re playing on modern instruments, for a modern audience,” she said. “Many of them know these sonatas well. So our hope is to first and foremost delight them for an hour, and secondly to maybe draw their attention to something they didn’t notice before. Working with Lynn on all five sonatas at the same time has been a truly exceptional journey.”
The two concerts will take place as part of the “Bach’s Lunch” series held Tuesdays at noon at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center in Grass Valley. The first concert on July 23 will include Sonatas 2 and 4; the second concert on July 30 features Sonatas 1, 3 and 5. Tickets are $15 per concert or $40 to all three concerts in the series. Call 530-265-1907 to reserve tickets, or purchase at the door.
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