Jun 202017

Please enjoy the pictures below from the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet’s recent June Series performance in Harrisburg’s stunning Whitaker Center.  I am grateful to Bonnie Schulte, Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications, for providing me the opportunity to perform piano music for guests that evening.  Special congratulation goes to members of the Youth Ballet, Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra players and staff for this successful event.

Thank you, William! You brought to June Series exactly what we hoped you would bring … a welcoming, inviting setting to an evening at the ballet.” – Bonnie Schulte, Director



Photo credits – Stephen Hume

 June 20, 2017  Posted by on June 20, 2017 Blog, Personal Thoughts No Responses »
Jun 122017

I recently had the privilege of volunteering at the Dauphin County “Music & Wine Festival” in Fort Hunter Park, Harrisburg, PA, sponsored by the M&T Bank.  The Brenner Family main stage featured performances by the Kelly Bell Band, We Are One Tribute X-Perience Band, and saxophonist, vocalist, and songwriter, Vanessa Collier.

Working closely with Larry Moore, program director, I assisted with guest performer and stage management, equipment transportation, green room and commodities preparation, audience interaction and assistance, and other setup and cleanup.  This “behind-the-scenes” look at the moving parts and individuals of a successful event gives me new leadership perspective.  The festival exposure also parallels my interning with the Harrisburg Symphony, where we are busy planning our July concert series.  We hope that our diligence in planning will yield a positive experience for musicians, staff, and valued audience members!

A beautiful venue and crowd.

With program director Larry Moore and emcee Dred “Perky” Scott!

 June 12, 2017  Posted by on June 12, 2017 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
May 162017

On Mother’s Day, 2017, my cellist and I performed a collaborative recital for the Pennsylvania Federation of Music Clubs Harmonia Association.  As an encore, we presented Dvořák’s “Songs My Mother Taught Me” in honor of our own mothers and the mothers in the audience who have sacrificed so much for others.  We were also thrilled to talk to audience members following the concert concerning the pieces and composers as well as the direction of the music industry.  A special thank you goes to officers Katherine Hoopes and Patricia Walter for making this event possible. We were also honored to perform in the stunning St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Sanctuary.

What a delight it is to know that classical music is in good hands (pun intended) with the next generation.  The musicality, technique, and articulation from both of you was exceptional.  But then, that’s why you are students at Eastman.  Congratulations on a fine evening, and a huge THANK YOU for the experience.” – Patricia Walter, Recording Secretary

Testing the sound and balance with my cellist, Paul Bergeron.

A post-recital photo with Ms. Walter (left) and Ms. Hoopes (right)!

 May 16, 2017  Posted by on May 16, 2017 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
Dec 162016

Les Misèrables, the 1862 French novel by Victor Hugo, is perhaps best known in the United States for its 1980 adaptation by Schönbergas a sung-through musical. While the original musical continues its runs on Broadway and West End, adaptations of the enduring story in other formats and media continue to emerge. The 2012 film adaptation of the musical, directed by Tom Hooper and starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway, cast the musical further into the public light and reinvigorated interest in the messages of the original novel that had been published 150 years earlier.

While the contemporary audiences in each case – the English-speaking world in 2012 versus post-Revolutionary France in 1862 – are wildly different, the common characters, storylines, and themes in both versions have helped shape our conceptions of redemption, revolution, and the struggles of the working class and those facing poverty. The 2012 film, though it faced criticism for its slimmed-down description of the historical French political environment and its removal of secondary characters, still holds true to the original message and artistic intent established by Victor Hugo (Gossard).

The original Les Misèrables story was set during a time of great change and upheaval in the early 1800s in France. It was set against the backdrop of the Bourbon Restoration in France, beginning with the downfall of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, including the 1830 July Revolution and overthrow of King Charles X, and concluding during the June Rebellion in 1832. Much of the book’s plot occurs in the two-year period following the July Revolution, as Hugo describes the events and feeling that fomented to trigger the June Rebellion. The reader gains an acute sense of the struggle of the working class in Paris following Charles X’s abdication in 1830 and during the recession under Louis-Philippe, Charles’s successor (“Revolutions of 1830”). Hugo uses events of the novel to cast this period of discontent and turmoil in the shadow of the Battle of Waterloo and the second defeat of Napoleon in 1815. Hugo’s characters are motivated and defined by economic and social turmoil in Paris following Napoleon’s defeat, and their individual struggles form a composite that helps the reader understand the broader political and social context of the era (“Napoleon I Emperor of France”).

Hugo realized at the time that his novel, only thirty years separated from its bloody and controversial subject matter, would be quite revolutionary for its target audience (Langness). He took pains to portray French history with accuracy and realism. While Hugo incorporates some dramatic elements into his characters, we still gain an accurate contemporary account of an unpleasant period in French history (Langness). His novel was a commercial success but was received poorly by critics, who derided him for his lack of sensitivity and his eagerness to dramatize the events of the revolutions and even his sympathy for the revolutionaries.

It is unfair to expect the 2012 movie, clocking at under three hours and describing events two centuries old, to achieve the same historical effect on its audience as a 1,500 page book describing events of the preceding three decades (Patterson). Yet where it lacks in detail and in explicit historical context, the film seems to succeed in identifying and imparting the same core messages that Hugo conveys with his novel. Viewers may not understand the specific historical triggers of the 1832 June Rebellion at the film’s emotional climax, but they can understand the sentiments of the characters and their obvious desire to overcome from their struggle (Gossard). Hugo never aimed to write a book purely on history; he aimed to use the history of his country and his city as a means to address universal themes like the suffering of working class under tyranny, the struggle of morality versus immorality, and pursuit of both love and redemption (Langness). Hugo was not unaware of his skills as an author, and he tried to present a story that would stand the test of time by addressing challenges that individuals continue to face around the world (Hugo 2).

Hugo’s character of choice to guide the audience along in this timeless story is Jean Valjean. The story opens as Valjean is released from prison in 1815, the same year as the Battle of Waterloo. He has been imprisoned since 1796 for the theft of a loaf of bread (Patterson). He ultimately encounters the Bishop of Digne, who urges him to abandon his criminal ways; Valjean later assumes an alternate identity as M. Madeleine, becoming a successful businessman and factory owner in the story’s second half. The audience also meets Fantine, who works at Valjean’s factory, and her young daughter, Cosette, who lives with the Thenardier family (Hugo). In these individual stories of these characters, Hugo wanted to emphasize and A-B-C structure in which a character’s origin (A) is fixed, but their journey through life (B) and their eventual destination (C) corresponds to an equivalent evolution of their souls (“Les Miserables”).

The movie did a great job of reflecting this change by lacing characters and events with even momentary appearances throughout the course of the story; the movie continually references itself to underscore the importance of these journeys to its audience. Fantine’s character, portrayed by Anne Hathaway, returns as a vision years after her death as Valjean is making his final prayer before his own death. After this, he and Fantine walk into the street and sing “Do You Hear the People Sing” once more. This text of “there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes” emphasizes that the struggle of the individual ultimately serves a higher purpose for guaranteeing the freedom of future generations.

Although Fantine’s character does not have much screen time in the movie, Hooper still establishes her struggle in trying to provide for Cosette. The scenes with Fantine’s hair being cut and tooth extracted are vivid. The song, “Lovely Ladies” underscores this sexual imagery and descriptions of prostitution with an insistent rhythm, making the viewer feel as uncomfortable and as violated as Fantine. Hooper’s use of intense and dark imagery that follows precedes Fantine’s song “I Dreamed a Dream.” Here, Fantine details the evil she has experienced and the innocence she feels is lost. Moreover, she says “life has killed the dream I dreamed,” foreshadowing her eventual fate before the end of the story. Here, the film chooses to focus on the turmoil that Fantine undergoes rather than her extensive backstory as described in the novel. Despite this departure from the source material, the viewer is reminded that her primary concern is her daughter Cosette as Jean Valjean arrives to take Fantine to the hospital. The depictions of the character’s struggle are different, but both methods achieve Hugo’s vision of conveying the importance of struggle and sacrifice for the betterment of future generations.

Hugo also strives to illustrate that anyone can undergo fundamental changes and that sometimes terrible circumstances are opportunities to grow in disguise. Napoleon’s fall overlaps with Jean Valjean’s release – Valjean must spend the rest of the story recovering from his own fall from the graces of society. Other characters like Fantine and Javert must also face questions of what is moral and even lawful, especially in desperate times. Marius faces a new beginning after his father’s death, transitioning from a Royalist to a Bonapartist and supporter of the former emperor. As Hugo describes, “a tremendous step had been taken. Where he had previously seen that fall of the monarchy, he now saw the advent of France. His orientation had changed. Where the sun had set, the sun now rose; west was now east. He had about-faced” (Hugo 572). Marius looks at the future of French government and a constitutional monarchy with a little more optimism, reasoning to himself that – as individuals can change – even the government might change and one day become a republic.


Les Mis Barricades

Barricades in the 2012 film adaptation of Les Misèrables – lesmiserables.wikia.com

The original novel is commonly lauded as one of the greatest works of the nineteenth century. It is a massive work of both breadth and depth, and a film adaptation was, for decades, not considered feasible because of the scope of the work required to remain faithful to the plot (McCarthy). Yet the 2012 film adaptation shows that even a shortened adaptation of the novel, in a different medium and in an entirely contemporary environment, can impart a similar and emotionally charged response (McCarthy). The compelling nature of the Les Misèrables story – the relatable struggles and hopes of its characters – is what endures and serves to bind the modern adaptations with the original novel. The abridged modern adaptations of Les Misèrables are often presented in different artistic ways, but the strength of the story as Hugo originally crafted it provides a foundation for continuity that overshadows any differences. The story is what matters most.

Godechot, Jacques. “Napoleon I Emperor of France” Encyclopedia Britannica. 22 July 2016. Web. Accessed 15 December 2016.

“Revolutions of 1830” Encyclopedia Britannica. 2016. Web. Accessed 15 December 2016.

Gossard, Julia. “Les Miserables: A Historian’s Review” 40 Acres. The Alcalde. 16 January 2013. Web. Accessed 14 December 2016.

Langness, David. “Les Miserables at a Century and a Half” Paste Magazine. 18 December 2012. Web. Accessed 14 December 2016.

Patterson, Troy. “Why is Les Miserable So Long?” Slate. 18 December 2012. Web. Accessed 14 December 2016.

McCarthy, Todd. “Les Miserables: Film Review” The Hollywood Reporter. 6 December 2012. Web. Accessed 14 December 2016.

Hugo, Victor. Les Miserables. Great Britain: Penguin, 2016. Print.

“Les Miserables” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 14 November 2016. Web.  Accessed 14 December 2016.

Les Miserables. Dir. Tom Hooper. Universal Pictures. 2012. Film.

 December 16, 2016  Posted by on December 16, 2016 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
Nov 052016

During the Revolutions of 1830, romantic artists responded to economic recession and political conflict with a number of aesthetic, emotional, and formal deviations in their work. Reflecting on pieces by Eugene Delacroix and Hector Berlioz, we can uncover intent to evoke reactions in individuals and empower revolutionaries with these artistic decisions.

The events leading to the Revolution of 1830 primarily included Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquest through Europe. Following his self-coronation in 1804, Napoleon’s reign lasted until 1815, where defeats in Russia and Leipzig led to his exile. The Allied powers devised the Treaty of Chaumont in 1814 and convened at the Congress of Vienna to try to put a stop to Napoleon’s warfare and redraw state boundaries. Most importantly, the Bourbon monarchs returned to the French throne with the formation of a constitutional monarchy. Louis XVIII took the throne, with a brief period in 1815 when Napoleon tried to stage an unsuccessful uprising. Charles X then took the throne in 1824. Economic recession and agricultural tariffs in 1827 to 1830 led to Charles’ controversial ordinances. One of the changes that abolished the Chamber of Deputies led to massive protest and strike. Following the July Revolutions, Charles X abdicated and Louis-Philippe took the throne.

In the 1820s, Romantic artists like Eugene Delacroix wanted to explore themes of nature, human mood, and suffering. Works like “The Barque of Dante” (1822) and “The Massacre at Chios” (1824) received mixed reviews for their gritty portrayals of death. One critic even labeled it a “massacre of art” (Delacroix). Other works like “The Death of Sardanapalus” (1827) continued this trend of intense contorted movement and use of vivid colors and brush strokes. One of the most popular works of Delacroix is “Liberty Leading the People” (1830), which depicts the July Revolutions of that year. Especially in this piece, we see Delacroix’s blending of classical and romantic elements. As one source notes, “[Neoclassicism] was an art that strove to preserve values thought to descend from ancient Greece and Rome. On the other was Romanticism…it was an association of ideas that delivered unprecedented freedom of imagination and expression, and encouraged artists to appeal directly to the emotions of their audience” (Brown).

Liberty Leading the People

“Liberty Leading the People” (1830) – eugene-delacroix.com

I feel that this piece really puts the focus on supporting the people of the revolution by highlighting individuals of different ages and social classes rallying behind the tricolour flag. Aesthetically, the balance between classical and romantic structures is evident with the focus on Liberty in the center of the portrait with mangled corpses that frame her. We also see an emphasis on color and texture in the blues, blacks, and beige of the different uniforms as well as the cloudy backdrop.

I think that Delacroix wanted to draw on the memories of the viewer in the months following the July Revolution. As one source notes, “all that stuns the soul, all that imprints a feeling of terror, leads to the sublime” (metmuseum). This focus on the individual’s reaction to a piece of art fits the context of the July Revolutions where the people once again rejected the reign of a monarch and were driven by their own convictions. Although Louis-Philippe’s subsequent reign was also as a King of France, his powers were more measured. This indicated yet another step closer towards an actual Republic. I feel that this exploration of human emotion and impulse was Delacroix’s endorsement of a nation ruled by the people.

Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique follows the life of an artist and functions similarly to Delacroix’s pieces with its “disruptions of traditional form to the aesthetic of the grotesque” (Ritchey). Berlioz took Beethoven’s lead in configuring the symphonic and orchestral structure to “accommodate his emotional expression” (PBS). In other words, Berlioz represents his own love for actress Harriet Smithson in his character, the artist.

Berlioz employs the idee fixe the represent an idea without having to use actual words. In addition, his love of Shakespearian plays and romantic literature creates a genre of instrumental expressif. The five-movement work creates a story that tracks Berlioz’s growth overt time. In particular, the “Reveries and Passions” movement presents his “knowing without experience” and covers key areas C, Eb, Ab and C (Barzun). Moreover, on harmony, Schumann notes, “we recognize in it the eighteen-year old awkward composer who is not over concerned with etiquette and rushes directly towards his main objective. If Berlioz, for instance, wants to get from G to D-flat, he does so without ceremony” (Schumann). The variety in orchestration and dynamic contrast in the idee fixe also establish his obsession with his love as recurring through the movement and work. This gives the listener a point of reference as to where the artist is in his emotional development.

The theme recurs in different forms as the piece presents new scenes and moods. The jovial nature of the second movement turns into a more solitude and folk-like third movement as the artist cannot escape the thoughts of his love. The contrast of the fourth and fifth movements “complement[ed] Beethoven’s ideal of life-inspired music…the Shakespearean ideal of dramatic construction in sharply characterized and contrasting scenes” (Barzun). In other words, Berlioz is striving for an exploration of human psychology as he tracks his own growth and thoughts through the music. The contrast of the fourth movement is clear with the “Prisoners’ March” that evokes images of a military band in the French horns and timpani. There is even an orchestral hit at the conclusion of the movement to symbolize the actual guillotine. This would have been very effective at evoking dark memories in the audience reflecting on the Great Terror and rampant death of the previous decades.

The fifth movement’s complexity in harmony and imagery is a further testament of Berlioz’s evolution through time. One source notes, “what it reflects- what the music may legitimately be associated with – is young love in dramatic contrast with nature, with the presence of death, and the forces of darkness. The caption ‘Episode in an Artist’s Life’ merely reminds us that the Romanticists regarded the artist as a culture hero, a representative man” (Barzun). I feel that Berlioz is presenting his own psychology through the guise of music. The use of Dies Irae, dance like tempestuous figuration, and windy atmosphere create sheer feelings instead of absolute truths. One review notes “he has only strived to reproduce the style and the melodic forms that characterize the singing of some of the people who lives among them, or the emotion that the sight of these imposing masses arouses, under certain circumstances, in the soul” (Revue de Paris). This imagery and even the feeling of non-diegetic music in the fourth movement really creates a sense of a poem or narrative represented through music, or a “musical novel,” similar to a film score. In this way, Berlioz preserves the emotional and psychological progression of his own life so that the audience can interact with it and draw their own conclusions. As one source notes, the piece is, “neither in choice of subject nor in exact truth, but in a way of feeling” (metmuseum).

Berlioz Witches' Sabbath

Depiction the Witches’ Sabbath from the fifth movement of Symphonie fantastique – npr.org

Some reviews were unfavorable, especially after the first premier in 1830. One critic notes, “The result, despite traits which show talent…is confusion, chaos, tedium, a lack of planning, all painful…This did not have the depth of wisdom, the calculated, spontaneity of Beethoven” (Revue de Paris). Another critic felt that, “Beethoven lies hidden in this Frenchman. But so wild that it needs restraint” (Borne). However, another critic points out that the concert was “for the benefit of the wounded of the July Revolution” (Le Temps). So despite some negative feedback, I feel that by adapting orchestral and structural features used by classical and early romantic composers to frame his own life and feelings, Berlioz actually provides a piece that is very accessible to a variety of viewers. Just like Delacroix, I feel that Berlioz is able to focus on the feelings of the individual viewer. Moreover, the variety of moods and characterizations, as well as use of sound effects and historical references provides plenty of material for each individual listener to draw his or her own conclusions. I think this is the essence of romanticism and the empowering of the revolutionaries.

As we see from romantic artists like Delacroix and Berlioz, they tried to create pieces that would empower revolutionaries. I feel that these artists tried to challenge formal structures of art and music in order to create material that a wide variety of people could react to and find meaning in. Reflecting on the historical context of these artists and works within the July Revolutions of 1830, I can appreciate how artists rallied behind the middle and working classes in an attempt to remind the monarchy of their increasingly measured powers within the French government.

Barzun, Jacques. “The Mind of The Young Berlioz” Musical Quarterly. 1949. Print.

“Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique” Keeping the Score. PBS. 2009. San Francisco Symphony. Web. Accessed 5 November 2016.

Brown, David B. Romanticism. Phaidon Press Limited. New York , NY. 2001. Print.

“Documents: Berlioz, Symphonie fantastique” – Primary Source of Critic Reviews and Program Notes.

Galitz, Kathryn C. Romanticism. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. October 2004. Web. Accessed 5 November 2016.

Godechot, Jacques. “Napoleon I Emperor of France” Encyclopedia Britannica. 22 July 2016. Web. Accessed 5 November 2016.

“Music Fueled by Desire – Hector Berlioz Symphonie fantastique.” Keeping the Score. PBS. 2011. San Francisco Symphony. Web. Accessed 5 November 2016.

“Revolutions of 1830” Encyclopedia Britannica. 2016. Web. Accessed 5 November 2016.

Ritchey, Marianna. “Echoes of the Guillotine: Berlioz and the French Fantastic. University of California Press Journals. 2010. Print.

Ed. Wolff, Konrad. Robert Schumann on Music and Musicians. Pantheon Books Inc. New York, NY. 1946. Print.

 November 5, 2016  Posted by on November 5, 2016 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
Oct 012016

“I will seize fate by the throat; it shall certainly never wholly overcome me.”  -Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven Full SizeBeethoven Full Size Text

Beethoven’s ideas of human freedom and fundamental rights aligned him with events of the French Revolution in the 1790s. Even before the decline of his hearing at the turn of the century, he was very idealistic in his thinking that people can forge their own destiny. He felt that different aristocrats were only a product of their birth, whereas, “there is only one Beethoven.” So in this way, in his life and music, he felt that he was a self made man and valued human perseverance through struggle and misfortune.[1]

In April of 1802, he sought a place of solitude for a six-month reprise. He traveled to Heiligenstadt, but ended up working hard on new pieces. Moreover, his brother Carl and pupil Ferdinand Ries were busy helping him arrange and sell different pieces to publishing companies. Beethoven’s hearing would soon deteriorate further and push his morals and courage to the test. All the while, Beethoven had been somewhat interested to writing a work in commemoration of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was increasing in rank and popularity. However, these early years of the 1800s show an interesting transition for Beethoven, who ultimately denounced Napoleon while finding the strength to push through his own turmoil and personal struggles. This gives Beethoven the chance to forge a new style of writing and expression while giving him the means to craft more overarching political and philosophical statements through his music.[2]

In 1800, Beethoven was already trying to create complex ideas and write pieces for active listening. Meanwhile, art like Napoleon Crossing the Alps by David emphasize Napoleon’s rising authority. In the following years he would gain more and more leverage and even crown himself emperor. David’s Coronation of Napoleon emphasizes this moment. Beethoven like many initially thought Napoleon was a “freedom fighter.” But he changed his stance with these developments, believing Napoleon would “place himself above everyone and become a tyrant.”[3] Ultimately, he feared that Napoleon’s individual will would be at the “expense of free will of others.”[4] As Beethoven soon had to pick himself up out of a depression and forge ahead with his art, he would denounce Napoleon, most noticeably with his removing of the dedication to Napoleon in the Eroica Symphony.[5] I feel that this was the ultimate test of will power for Beethoven, but represented a different impact than Napoleon.

By reflecting Beethoven’s works, we really see how his soul and convictions evolved in this early period around 1802-1808. On the surface, there are new aspects of his compositions including motivic links and similarities between movements, harmonic and rhythmic complexity, and even different overtones and orchestration.[6] His pieces were also more expressive and at times shocking, moving towards the idea of a symphony as more of a stand alone event. [7] But ultimately what Beethoven accomplishes is to present complex ideas about human struggle and perseverance.[8]

The overall form of many of his compositions in this period was a tripartite narrative of fate, conflict then ultimately triumph.[9] With Beethoven’s Tempest Sonata Op. 31 No. 2 that he worked on at Heiligenstadt around 1801-1802, this idea of struggle and enduring was very personal. The first movement opens on a dominant chord and explores different harmonic areas with intense figuration and dissonance. There is even a pedal area in the middle where the sound floats on an improvised line, like he is thinking out loud about what is to come. In the second movement there is more inconclusiveness and a steady ¾ meter with rhythmic pulsation throughout. Then the third movement has recurring figuration with more areas of dissonance. One of my favorite spots is before the coda where the same overtones emerge and Beethoven thinks out loud again. This moves into the final statements of the theme with some clearer texture and precise rhythmic ending, indicating some clarity of mind after the turmoil.[10]

With the suicide note to his brother, Beethoven detailed the cause of his pain and uncertainty to be his hearing loss. He felt betrayed that his passion was hampered by something he could not control or fix. He also felt hurt that he could not effectively communicate with people or enjoy the intricacies of their conversation and company. For this reason, he felt misunderstood and like an outcast. It was not that he did not like to be around others, but that he felt he could not effectively be a part of society in a social context. What is so amazing is that although Beethoven prayed to God, he did not put extra meaning into what was happening. He knew that his hearing would most likely not improve and there was little chance that he would experience joy or happiness again. Ultimately he had to consider his options and search for a reason to live in such misery. This development in Beethoven’s character occurred when he decided that he still had more art to create and that he alone was in charge of what he accomplished. I feel that this is the ultimate display of free will and even defiance against his fate.[11]

With his art a primary motivation not to commit suicide, Beethoven had the platform and opportunity to explore complex ideas of the human spirit. Some notable examples include his opera Fidelio from that he worked on from 1803-1805 and the Fifth Symphony that he worked on from 1804-1808. This idea of overcoming political tyranny and struggle in search of triumph was very prevalent.[12] In the Fifth Symphony, we again hear the tripartite narrative of “fate knocking at the door” with the famous opening four note motive, followed by some theme and variations with some ominous motivic development, and finally an optimistic coda in the fourth movement ending in C Major. [13]

With this commentary on human will and triumph, Beethoven wanted his music to have meaning not just for the present day but also for future generations. While he was composing into his later style, Napoleon’s rule was beginning to fade. Works like Reading of the Bulletin of the Grand Army from 1807 and Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau from 1808 depict not only Napoleon’s withering appearance but also death and uncertainty for the every day soldier and citizen. As Beethoven predicted, Napoleon’s will and power did not necessarily speak for the collective or individual will of the people, particularly as he further sought to expand his power and empire. Moreover, it was at the expense of countless lives in Europe. Beethoven on the other hand valued the idea that one could create his/her own destiny.[14]

By pushing through his own struggles, Beethoven embodies the ideals he strove to write about in his music.   Beethoven’s own survival makes him the perfect authority to comment on the nature of the human spirit to endure. In this way, Beethoven is able to ascend past just being a composer and becomes an immortal force for his present and future audiences. In this way, he did not need to waste more time worrying about Napoleon and instead leads by example in his pursuit of art and higher ideals of unity and free destiny. For this, Beethoven surpasses Napoleon as a force for good, even with the absence of his own joy.


[1] Johnson, Stephen. “Beethoven the Revolutionary.” The Beethoven Experience. BBC. 2014. Web. 1 October 2016.

[2] Swafford, Jan. Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. Print.

[3] Johnson, Stephen. “Beethoven the Revolutionary.” The Beethoven Experience. BBC. 2014. Web. 1 October 2016.

[4] Pollitt, Ben. “David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps.” Khan Academy. Web. 1 October 2016

[5] Johnson, Stephen. “Beethoven the Revolutionary.” The Beethoven Experience. BBC. 2014. Web. 1 October 2016.

[6] “Beethoven’s Tempest.” The Art of Piano Performance. 23 April 2012. Web. 1 October 2016.

[7] Woods, Alan. “Beethoven: man, composer and revolutionary.” In Defence of Marxism. Marxist.com. 1 May 2006. Web. 1 October 2016.

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] Swafford, Jan. Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. Print.

[11] Swafford, Jan. Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. Print.

[12] Johnson, Stephen. “Beethoven the Revolutionary.” The Beethoven Experience. BBC. 2014. Web. 1 October 2016.

[13]“Beethoven Symphony No. 5” La Salle University. Web. 1 October 2016.

[14] Brown, David B. Romanticism. New York: Phaidon Press Limited, 2001. Print.

 October 1, 2016  Posted by on October 1, 2016 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
Jul 102016

I recently returned from a week in Vermont at the scenic Adamant Music School. There were nearly thirty attendees to perform in and observe the week of master classes with renowned Irish pianist, John O’Conor. The classes culminated with recitals on Friday and Saturday, with all events open to the public.

With John O'Conor after a performance!

With John O’Conor after a performance!

The emphasis on musicality and sound really brought out the best in everyone and positively transformed our playing for the final recitals. This intense focus on score studying, listening and style helped pianists of all levels make strides in their playing. The wonderful facilities and tuned pianos were of great benefit throughout the week, and the beautiful green mountains and lake trails were an added bonus!

Beautiful Vermont "Green Mountains"

Beautiful Vermont “Green Mountains”

Above all, I was so impressed by the support and encouragement amongst the audience and fellow pianists. We discussed practice strategies and productivity, as well as music in general. Regardless of the age, level, or musical background coming into the program, we all shared the same passion for piano practice and personal reflection and refinement.

A special thanks to the wonderful Dr. Deirdre O’Donohue and Frank Suchomel whose coordination and correspondence ensured a successful week for all.


 July 10, 2016  Posted by on July 10, 2016 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
Jul 102016

In honor of Edvard Grieg’s birthday (June 15, 1843- September 4, 1907), I performed some of his lyric pieces with Dr. Craig Jurgensen. Dr. Jurgensen has been championing works of Grieg for much of his life. He fostered a love of Grieg’s music as he continued to hone his piano skills into college.

Just as Grieg envisioned, we strove to create an intimate performance setting in a house concert. These pieces from Op. 43 and Op. 62 emphasize Grieg’s love for his homeland, nature, and dance. To conclude the program, Dr. Jurgensen and I had been collaborating on a four hands arrangement of “Morning Mood” from Peer Gynt. We were so pleased by the warm reception from the audience in attendance and especially their genuine interest in learning more about this great Norwegian composer!

Happy Birthday Grieg!

Happy Birthday, Grieg!

 July 10, 2016  Posted by on July 10, 2016 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
Jun 292016

I recently traveled to Philadelphia to hear a concert of the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Justin Freer. They performed the world premiere of John Williams’s musical score to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), accompanied by the film.

Stage view in the Mann Center.

Stage view in the Mann Center.

I was so impressed by the quality and cohesiveness of the music. It was clear that the orchestra and conductor had put a lot of work into preparing and rehearsing the concert. The sound within the music tent of the Mann Center was extremely clear and resonant, and the layout of speakers and screens throughout the grounds provided a great viewing experience for all others in attendance. The entire show also ran so smoothly, even throughout the frequent applause and cheers from the audience – the conductor and orchestra were able to stay focused and continue playing all the way through the end credits. I had no idea that the music had resumed on several occasions, as it was so seamless with the atmosphere and action of the film. This marriage of film and sound in a live concert was truly captivating.

Above all, the audience’s enthusiasm and genuine love for the film, music and story were overwhelming. The amazing turnout of people is a testament to the lasting impact of film and music.

So much of what we do is ephemeral and quickly forgotten, even by ourselves, so it’s gratifying to have something you have done linger in people’s memories.” – John Williams

Here are a couple of articles I found that talk about the cues from the score and other musical information-

JW Collection

JW Fan Network

A great turn out on the grounds of the Mann Center!

A great turn out on the grounds of the Mann Center!

A view of rainy Philadelphia!

A view of rainy Philadelphia!

 June 29, 2016  Posted by on June 29, 2016 Personal Thoughts No Responses »
May 222016

If you have recently attended a classical concert with a themed program, you have probably noticed similarities in musical style or most evidently the composers’ nationalities. Upon closer look at two recent concerts I attended, I also noticed strong connections in the origin stories of each work.

I was thrilled to hear Evgeny Kissin perform the Rachmaninoff second piano concerto with the MET Orchestra under the lead of Maestro James Levine this past week. Sergei Rachmaninoff wrote his second concerto as a continuing healing effort to overcome writer’s block and performance insecurities. He premiered the work in 1901 to great acclaim and even dedicated the work to his therapist. (Extracted from Carnegie Hall Playbill, May 2016, David Hamilton).

“With the Second Piano Concerto, Rachmaninoff’s compositional block was lifted at last, and the score is dedicated, with eloquent simplicity, ‘To Monsieur N. Dahl,’ the composer’s hypnotherapist.” (Playbill 2016)

Pianist Evgeny Kissin and Maestro James Levine after a rousing performance.

Pianist Evgeny Kissin and Maestro James Levine after a rousing performance.

The concert also included Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” Symphony No. 6 in b minor.  Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was also struggling with uncertainty and doubt in his work, even contemplating destroying parts of the symphony. However, scholars feel this work is one of his most honest compositional efforts, as Tchaikovsky preserves the despair and turmoil he was enduring at the end of his life. The symphony premiered in 1893, the same year of his death. (Extracted from Carnegie Hall Playbill, May 2016, Jack Sullivan).

“Part of the power of the ‘Pathétique’ comes from Tchaikovsky’s decision to conclude the work not with a desperate life-affirmation, as he’d done in his two previous symphonies, but with defeat and resignation, a completion of the tragic gesture rather than a defiance of it.” (Playbill 2016)

The previous week, my family and I had seen Ann Schein perform Rachmaninoff’s third piano concerto. Rachmaninoff composed and premiered this piece in 1909 for his tour to the United States. This Harrisburg Symphony concert also featured Dmitri Kabalevsky’s The Comedians, written in 1938 for a play at the Central Children’s Theater in Moscow, which was also the venue for Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.  In addition, the symphony performed Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony in f minor, written in 1925 as a graduation project at the Leningrad Conservatory. Shostakovich had been playing the piano in a movie house the year before, as film music was on the rise in the early 20th century.  (Extracted from Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra Playbill, May 2016).

Speaking with Ms. Schein after her thrilling performance.

Speaking with Ms. Schein after her thrilling performance.

Not only was it eye-opening to learn how similar a context these pieces played in the lives of their creators, but it was also inspiring to hear such a high caliber of playing from the symphonies and soloists.  This is not the first time Evgeny Kissin and Ann Schein have performed these amazing works, and it will not be the last. Performances are in a way a snapshot in time of the pianist’s current take on a piece and culmination of years of ideas and experience. Learning repertoire and even playing a musical instrument can be so enticing because it is such a open-ended pursuit. We can never be “finished” with a piece, as there is so much to learn and refine. Today when we think about great composers like Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky, we cannot forget the struggles they endured through their lives and artistic pursuits.  At some point, these composers took the final plunge and published these massive works for all to hear and judge.

 May 22, 2016  Posted by on May 22, 2016 Personal Thoughts No Responses »