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A Lifelong Love for Beethoven
The Huntsville Item
As a child, Clive Swansbourne learned to appreciate the varied personalities of classical composer Ludwig von Beethoven's work. The exciting melodies that explore every emotion and carry audiences through a myriad of feelings formed an impression on the young musician that remains to this day.
Now the director of keyboard studies at Sam Houston State University, Swansbourne said he hopes to initiate similar interest in Beethoven's work in Huntsville residents by performing a series of the composer's 32 piano sonatas.
The series began last month and will continue until March.
Swansbourne will perform the second installment of the series Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Killinger Auditorium at Beto Criminal Justice Center.
The English born and educated Swansbourne is taking on the task of performing the series of sonatas for the third time.
"The first time was the most difficult," he said. "I had to learn 10 new pieces for each performance, and now I no longer have to (worry) about learning the notes. I can just spend my time polishing and honing my performance of each piece."
Swansbourne performed the series twice while teaching at the University of Idaho.
"Playing this great music is an enormous privilege, and even though this is my third time performing the series, it is not just a process of reproducing what I did before," he said. "It will always remain a great challenge to do justice to it."
Since revisiting each sonata during the summer, Swansbourne now is spending several hours each day focused on the pieces scheduled for his next performance.
"This is something I love to do. I become somewhat absorbed in the music and it keeps my playing up and it keeps me working at my craft," he said.
Swansbourne said he sees the performances as a chance to attract new people to classical music and Beethoven's work in particular.
"Beethoven is so universal, anyone can enjoy his music," he said. "It's not hard to connect with Beethoven. His music has a direct and universal appeal, and the elemental power to move and inspire and make life more interesting."
The sonatas are a unique group of pieces that explore every emotional level, Swansbourne said.
"Even though it's classical music, it's really emotional and incredibly romantic at places," he said. "This is something unique to Beethoven. There are not many composers who have pieces with such varied personalities as Beethoven."
Much of his audience at the first installment of the series was made up of SHSU music and piano students, and Swansbourne said he hopes to see more young piano students and teachers at the next performance.
"It would be wonderful if more teachers brought their young students because that's when Beethoven won me over, when I was a kid," he said. "When children are young, it's easier to make an impression on them. And that is a time when kids are willing to learn music, and it's a craft worth going after."
The series is funded by an SHSU Faculty Research Grant and admission is free, but donations will be taken for the piano area enrichment fund and piano scholarships.
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