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Swansbourne to Play Beethoven Series

Clive Swansbourne

For the first time, many Texans within an easy Sunday drive of Huntsville will have the opportunity to hear all of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas in a single series, starting this Sunday and ending at the end of March.

This marathon project will be undertaken by Clive Swansbourne, director of keyboard studies at Sam Houston State University. The concerts will take place in Killinger Auditorium at the Beto Criminal Justice Center.

Recitals will be on Sunday afternoons at 4 p.m. Admission is free, but donations will be gratefully accepted and will go towards the piano area enrichment fund and piano scholarships.

This will be the third time Swansbourne has traversed the sonata cycle, a project he said he finds more absorbing and exhilarating than any other. The series is funded by an SHSU Faculty Research Grant.

This Sunday's program will feature the well-known "Waldstein" sonata.

"I am hoping, in addition to giving pleasure to already established concert-goers, to make some converts and spark a lifelong interest in newcomers to this music," said Swansbourne.

"There is nothing elitist about Beethoven. His music has a direct and universal appeal, and the elemental power to move and inspire and make life more interesting. He is still considered by many to have been the greatest composer ever, and his popularity continues to increase after nearly two centuries."

Swansbourne, who as born and educated in England and studied at the Royal College of Music in London, said that the music of Beethoven was the first to "fire my imagination" at the age of 11.

"I became addicted to it and it altered my life by convincing me that music was what I had to pursue above all," he said. "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. It will always remain a great challenge to do justice to it."

Not only will Swansbourne perform on the piano, but his introductory remarks will delve into Beethoven's life and times, the atmosphere of the Vienna of his day. Beethoven music is a favorite of many who love to listen to classical music and to many performers such as Swansbourne as well.

"Although I love playing music by a wide range of composers, I feel particularly at home in Beethoven," he said. "His music is to me a completely satisfying blend of enormous rhythmic vitality, emotional range and endless inventiveness. The most incredible thing is that he never repeats an idea, and yet every piece is unmistakably Beethovenian. His is perhaps the most varied and distinctive voice of any composer."

Swansbourne said that when he performs Beethoven's music, he can feel a personality that is almost reborn.

"In some of the most tempestuous movements I find myself carried along by his 'demon' - one of life's great highs," said Swansbourne. "The spiritual force of Beethoven's personality was felt by all who met him, and it won him many friends.

"The test for the performer is to project this big personality in his music, and that includes frequent moments of humor and light-heartedness."

There is little doubt that Swansbourne is qualified to tackle the 32-sonata task.

Of his Beethoven performances, the New York Times wrote, "interesting and individualistic playing... his readings often had the quality of passionate improvisations."

The Frankfurt Neue Presse praised his "complete artistic and technical sovereignty."

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SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Sept. 18, 2002
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