Piano Virtuoso Piotr Anderszewski Plays Finney Chapel April 3

March 19, 2019

Erich Burnett

pianist Piotr Anderszewski
Photo credit: Arts Management Group

Artist Recital Series performance showcases interpretations of two titanic master works.

Piotr Anderszewski was discussing a challenging work by Beethoven back in 2017 when he came upon a key tenet of his own musicianship.

“If you play it effortlessly, this is absurd,” the Polish pianist told the New York Times. “I want to hear a fight. I want to hear how hard it is, how the piece is an obstacle.”

Anderszewski went on to emphasize that difficulties in the music must be overcome. “How? By going sideways, by using imagination. If everything comes easily, you lose imagination.”

There is perhaps no more suitable pianist today to take on two of the ultimate works by two of classical music’s ultimate geniuses: Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations and Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II.

Anderszewski will do just that at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 3, in Finney Chapel, as part of Oberlin’s Artist Recital Series.

At the age of only 21, Anderszewski shocked judges and audiences alike when he played the Diabelli Variations in the 1990 Leeds International Piano Competition. (Later in the competition, he famously walked offstage when he felt his performance of a Webern piece wasn’t up to snuff.) He came away from it with a burgeoning reputation as a consummate interpreter of the daunting work—a reputation he has cemented over the ensuing years.

"It is a double privilege to hear Piotr Anderszewski in recital: first, because he has established himself as one of his generation’s most bracing and thought-provoking pianists, and second, because he is performing one of music’s most towering monuments, Beethoven's Diabelli Variations,” says Peter Takács, an Oberlin professor of piano and himself an acclaimed interpreter of Beethoven.

The work came about through an 1819 challenge by composer and publisher Anton Diabelli, who created a waltz and shared it with 50 Viennese composers, inviting each of them to write one variation, which would be published for a charitable cause. Every one of them—including Franz Schubert and an 11-year-old Franz Liszt—complied except Beethoven, who initially considered the exercise an insult to his genius. He later returned to the project, writing not one but 33 variations that run nearly an hour in length and touch on virtually every key facet of his style.

“It is a transformative experience for performer and audience alike,” says Takács. “And in the hands of a master performer like Anderszewski, it is a musical journey not to be missed."

Get Your Tickets Now: Tickets to Piotr Anderszewski at Oberlin are $35 ($30 for seniors, members of the military, and Oberlin faculty, staff, and alumni), with $10 tickets available for students. They are available by calling Oberlin’s Central Ticket Service at 800-371-0178, online at oberlin.edu/artsguide, or by visiting the campus box office in the Eric Baker Nord Performing Arts Annex weekdays from noon to 5 p.m.

Next up on the Artist Recital Series: The 2018-19 Artist Recital Series concludes April 17 with a performance by the Spring Quartet, featuring jazz luminaries Jack DeJohnette on drums, Cleveland native Joe Lovano on sax, Esperanza Spalding on bass and vocals, and Leo Genovese on piano.

The concert is part of a three-day symposium celebrating jazz at Oberlin, where the degree in jazz studies celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2019. Preliminary details about the symposium’s scheduled presentations, films, performances, and more can be found on the online arts guide.

Limited tickets remain for the Spring Quartet concert; get yours at oberlin.edu/artsguide.

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