Beethoven & Arnowitt VIII - new program of Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas - description, Michael’s thoughts, and audience appreciation
Click here to read a nice review in the Washington Post of a concert I gave at the National Gallery of Art
This is the official web-site for news and information about my music performance activities as a classical and jazz pianist. I began this site in 1997, and it was redesigned in 2009. Thanks for visiting my web-site – I appreciate your interest in my music.
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Welcome to my web-site. The main portion of this site is devoted to a description of my activities as a pianist. I perform widely as a classical concert pianist, and I also play jazz piano engagements, both in concerts and in informal settings.
You can also find here various essays and articles I have written over the years on music topics; I hope you will find these pieces thought-provoking, and I post the more interesting comments I receive from readers in response to these articles. For shorter writings and thoughts I have begun using Twitter, and will soon be starting a blog called “Sweet Spontaneous” (this name is part of a line of poetry by e.e. cummings). In these tweets and blog posts, I recount interesting stories from the concert trail and offer insights on composers, music I’m currently working on or listening to, and aspects of piano playing. I hope these writings will give readers an enjoyable behind-the-scenes, “fly on the wall” view of my daily life as a concert pianist. Links to my social media sites are in the next section below.
Also on this site is a section with material about a few of my personal interests.
My blog “Sweet Spontaneous”
My general Twitter music page Piano_MA
I’ll be tweeting about my thoughts about music I’m preparing to perform; I also plan to use Twitter
for pre- and post-concert chats with the public, interviews, and piano audio clips from my home
A second Twitter music page MAPianoVt
Exactly the same tweets as above, plus additional tweets specific to performances I give in central and northern Vermont
Twitter account foodsong for my non-music personal interests
Facebook page “Friends of Michael Arnowitt”
Facebook group page “Michael Arnowitt”
These are endorsed unofficial pages administered and written by Karen Maxon. I am not on Facebook myself.
If you like receiving information via Facebook, sign up there.
Beethoven & Arnowitt VIII program information page, plus audience appreciation from Michael’s first performance of this program in February 2015
Review in the Washington Post of Michael’s special concert “1913” at the National Gallery of Art
A new “What’s New” (news about my most recent musical activities, written spring 2015)
Description of lecture-demonstration “Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and the Music of 1911”
Description of lecture-demonstration “The Music of Poetry” (updated March 2013)
Description of lecture-performance “The Life and Music of George Gershwin”
Description of new program “From East to West”
Link to Michael Arnowitt 50th Birthday Gala Concert
Current classical piano program offerings (updated March, 2013)
Short and medium-length descriptions of all current concert programs, including
Beethoven & Arnowitt VII, From East to West,
1913, the multi-media program Water Music,
some new recital programs including an all-Russian program and an all-Bach program,
Ligeti and his Influences, a piano duet program with Jeffrey Chappell, and more
Pdf version of color brochure of classical programs (downloadable to your computer)
“If Music Be the Food of Love...” (a multi-sensory event combining music and food)
Selected list of pieces performed in the last few years (updated 2012)
Discography of Michael Arnowitt (first-time ever discography page, with listings of what selections are on each recording)
Created a Photos and Press Materials main page
Private Teaching information page
Updates to existent web-pages:
Contact Information (updated March, 2013)
Calendar of engagements (updated April 2, 2015)
List of jazz tunes I play (updated March 2014)
Descriptions of original jazz tunes
Descriptions of Jazz and other Improvisational Music Performance Programs Classical and jazz mp3 sound samples (1 classical mp3 added, 7 jazz mp3s added)
Lecture-Demonstrations Information Page (updated March, 2013)
Site Map (complete list of all web-pages on this site) – updated May, 2012
(internationally-renowned flutist and composer – this statement written when Moyse was in his 90’s)
“During my long musical career, I have met few really great artists in the various disciplines of the field and I am very pleased to name Michael Arnowitt, pianist and musician as one of them.
“Michael combines all the necessary qualifications and qualities to express his art on the highest level. I have great respect for his technical skill, his interpretation and his way to communicate to any audience his feelings through his love for music.”
(written spring 2015)
about playing Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas, a bird encounter, a trip to Korea, new jazz tunes, and a musical trip to the West Side
2015 Starts Big
2015 began for me in a very exciting way, with my first time ever performing a concert program of Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas, op. 109, 110, and 111.
For many pianists, performing all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas (usually presented over the course of a single year) is the ultimate challenge – and a remarkable experience for both performer and audience. Starting back in 1989 I began my own project to gradually perform all 32 of the Beethoven sonatas chronologically, but with a bit of a twist – matching up my age as I perform the various sonatas with Beethoven’s age as Beethoven composed them.
I divided up the 32 sonatas into 8 concert programs and began the project in 1989 when I was 26 years old, the same age Beethoven was when he composed his first four sonatas. These lively early sonatas are full of energetic, dynamic music and it was my hope that I performed these first sonatas with the spirit of my own then-youthful nature.
As I have grown older, I have gradually tackled Beethoven’s famous middle-period works such as the Waldstein and the Appassionata, and have delayed until now, when I am 52 and hopefully more mature, to perform the late, transcendent final sonatas, music Beethoven wrote when he too was 52, near the end of his life. So instead of performing all the sonatas in one year, it has been for me a 26-year long odyssey.
In many ways, the series of eight concerts was meant to be a study in the psychology of aging and development: audiences hear how Beethoven developed as a composer, how I develop as a pianist, and the intersection of the two processes.
After 26 years, I have finally reached the end of my journey: 2015 will mark the culmination of the project with this final concert in the series, Beethoven’s sonatas 30, 31, and 32. I am sure you can appreciate that with the 26-year build-up, my going out on stage to perform this program was for me a very special, personal moment.
We all know these last three Beethoven sonatas are widely regarded as perhaps the finest, most spiritual pieces of solo piano music of all time. Yet I was unprepared for the depth and quality of audiences’ reactions to hearing this amazing music. More than a few people told me the experience was so strong emotionally it moved them to tears. If you click on this page, you can read some excerpts from some very interesting mail I received from audience members who were present at my recent Beethoven concerts, testifying as to the extraordinary spiritual power of this one-of-a-kind music.
I did my first performance of this program on February 8 and all tickets sold out a week in advance of the concert. I decided to offer a second performance of the sonatas later the same day, which also drew a nice crowd.
At the first performance, a very interesting thing happened in the “life imitating art” category. The final movement of Beethoven’s Sonata no. 31 in A-flat, op. 110 begins with a slow introduction which includes some freely rhapsodic, improvisation-like music not in a structured rhythmic meter. In these passages are some cryptic tied pairs of identical 32nd notes, repeated over and over again. As two 32nd notes tied together could be more cleanly notated as one 16th note, the consensus has always been that each note is meant to be struck despite the tie, but perhaps the second one of each pair might be quieter, as in “swallowed” notes in jazz. These tied pairs have been dubbed “bebung.” I call them cryptic, because it really is difficult to decide how to interpret them – the best I could come up with was to think of the lub-dub rebound of a heartbeat.
However, an interesting thing happened to me as I was performing this sonata. At the very end of the preceding second movement, I suddenly heard a bird outside the building where I was performing the concert, making bird calls. I had this aha! moment where I realized that perhaps these “bebung” were akin to the asymmetric, unbalanced two-note bird calls Beethoven might have heard while on one of his daily nature walks. My luck was in: the bird calls continued as I started to play the finale and I was able to “duet” with the real bird calls as I played Beethoven’s two-note pairs at that moment on the piano.
In many ways this final concert in my Beethoven project is the culmination of a lifetime of work, and so I am naturally eager to perform it to as many audiences as possible. I have some more concerts of this program scheduled for later this year and 2016, but if you have any ideas for additional places I can perform this program, feel free to let me know. I can be reached through the contact link at the top of any page on this site.
In the spring of 2015 I have two trips planned. In May I will be travelling to Texas to perform a piano concert as part of a physics symposium on dark matter and cosmology in honor of my father Richard Arnowitt, who died last summer. My father was a theoretical physicist who led a long and productive life enlarging our understanding of the universe, with over 300 published papers on a variety of physics topics. As part of what I will perform at the conference, I will be premiering a new composition I am working on, “Dark Matters.”
From May 30 through June 15 I will be in Korea. I am very excited about this trip as I am half-Korean, and frequently feel that I am by nature some mixture of East and West. I have an interesting musical connection in my family as my mother’s uncle was Lee Hung-Yul, a composer, conductor, and pianist who was well known in Korea in the mid-20th century. I am really looking forward to meeting his son (my cousin) Lee Young-Jo, who is a noted composer. I hope to combine giving some performances with tracking down some of my relatives - I have not been to Korea since I was 12 years old.
In addition to my time in Korea this June, I would like to plan a lengthier multi-country tour in eastern Asia for September and October of 2016. If you have any friends in eastern Asian countries that you think might be helpful in making connections for me for possible performances on either of these tours, please contact me.
Over the past year, I have written some new jazz tunes. The latest are “Midnight Forest,” “Elegy for Richard” (in honor of my father), “Sandy’s Song” (for my longtime friend Sandy Morningstar), “Searching,” “October’s Muse,” and “Still I Rise,” a song I wrote upon the passing of Maya Angelou last year. I am also currently trying to write lyrics for my jazz tunes “Street Strut” and “The Crying Candle,” the latter taking place in a future utopian world looking back empathetically to the sufferings of our time.
Two of my older originals, “The Crossing” (inspired by the Langston Hughes poem of the same name) and “Medium Message,” will be published in a forthcoming regional real book of original jazz tunes, a project being organized by Patricia Julien that I think is a wonderful idea. I am hoping to do soon a recording of my original jazz compositions. I am still in search of a recording studio with a first-rate piano, so if you have a suggestion, let me know.
I have also been concertizing with my “Jazz Suite from West Side Story,” an extended suite of eight sections based on material from Bernsteinís classic musical transformed in what I think are creative ways into jazz forms. I have been performing this program around the northeast with a wonderful jazz quartet of Dan Silverman, trombone, Robinson Morse, upright bass, and Caleb Bronz, drums.
That’s all the news for now. Thanks for your interest in my music!
What’s New - all past entries
about playing Mozart’s Concerto no. 25, thinking about the crowd noise music in Stravinsky’s Petrouchka, discovering the early 20th century composer Arthur Lourié, an all-Bach concert, writing some jazz lyrics, and preparing for a big celebration for a round-numbered birthday of mine
musings on playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 23 in A, K. 488, understanding two pieces by Olivier Messiaen through listening to the song of the wood-thrush here where I live in Vermont and considering how things grow in Nature, the premiere of a new collaboration improvising on the piano simultaneous with the creation live on stage of visual art, and some thoughts about the similarities between painting and music, and why perfect fifths have become my favorite interval these days
a chronicle of a tour I made to Europe with a jazz quartet, a story from a past tour of Russia, a little bit about getting to play with Pete Seeger, and some thoughts on my experience being the subject of a documentary film
I have posted on this web-site a number of music essays and articles I have written over the years. I encourage you to respond to any of these essays with your comments; I include below each article excerpts from the most interesting replies I receive. I am sure people would be interested to know the town and country you are from, so, if you’re willing, perhaps you could mention that when you e-mail me your thoughts.
There is a link on this site to the Ursa Minor Records web-page; this company carries most of my recordings. In addition to what is available by mail-order from Ursa Minor, there’s about 40 minutes of excerpts from various live piano performances on the audio track of the documentary film about me, “Beyond 88 Keys,” now available on VHS or DVD. Click on the film link at the top of the page for more information.
The film is the first release available of any of my live performances: all my other recordings are not from live concerts, although they have all been recorded in real halls rather than studios and none of my discs have any reverb added. My disc on the Musical Heritage Society label, “Classical/Jazz,” unfortunately, may be out of print – at least, it was when I last asked about five years ago.
Over the years, I have appeared on a variety of other musicians’ recordings, playing individual pieces here and there. I can’t totally endorse these albums as good examples of what I am trying to create artistically, as they are generally released without my being consulted about which takes to use or how to edit segments together. (Yes, I know, welcome to the real world ...) So, to get the best impression of what my music-making is like, stick to my solo piano recordings.
Your feedback about this site is valued. Unlike live performance, the internet is a medium where it can be hard to know how things are going over. So, we welcome your reactions – let us know what you particularly like on this site, or any suggestions you may have for improvements. Go to the “contact” link at the top of any page to find our contact information and phone, regular mail, or e-mail us as you prefer.
If you would like to stay in touch with me, we encourage you to join our mailing list. Click on the “mailing list sign-up” link in the header of any page, follow the instructions there, and you will receive the occasional flyer or e-mail about live performances near where you live, or new recordings as they are released.
If you have an idea for where I might be able to perform a classical concert or play a jazz engagement, please let us know. In addition to the obvious places where performances happen, such as concert series, festivals, schools of various sorts, and nightspots, I have also performed in places such as libraries, museums and art galleries, churches and synagogues, theaters, and town halls. Please let us know of any leads for where I might perform, especially if you know anyone connected to the organization and can put in a good word on my behalf to help get the ball rolling.
Also helpful are friends you might have in either Canada or Europe as I organize tours to those areas every couple of years. Even if the person you know there isn’t directly involved with a concert organization, any person who lives in a locality I may be touring to could be potentially helpful in providing information or leading us to someone who is more directly involved with the music scene. Hospitality and logistical help is also always appreciated when touring in a foreign country.
I would also be extremely interested to create a tour to eastern Asia. I have not yet performed in Asia but my mother was born in Korea and I have always been interested in the cultures of the Far East and Southeast Asia in particular.
I am occasionally also in need of a travel assistant for my tours, so if that would be of interest to you, please contact us and let me know what financial arrangements you would or would not require.
Also, if you have a suggestion as to where the documentary film about me might be shown, we’re trying to get more screenings and broadcasts of the film. There seems to be good interest from arts groups in showing the film, optionally in conjunction with some sort of live piano performance or question and answer period with me after the film is viewed.
The filmmakers have made an attractive brochure oriented towards organizations that might consider showing the film. If you have a connection to an arts organization, theater, school, library, or film festival that you think might be interested in hosting a film screening, let me know and I’ll send you one of these brochures and a DVD copy of the documentary.
Last updated: April 20, 2015 © 1997-2015 by Michael Arnowitt