PianoScope Probes Beethoven Now

Wednesday, Jun 02, 2021
Juilliard Journal
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Pianist Derek Wang performing in the lobby of Alice Tully Hall, as seen through the exterior paned glass and passersby who gathered for the popup performance are visible in the reflection of the glass

Return to Performance

By Aaron Wunsch

With the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth just behind us, where might his music lead us in the future? This spring’s piano department PianoScope project, Beethoven Now, seeks to answer this question. Twelve participating pianists have selected one Beethoven sonata movement to pair with one contemporary work from a diverse range of composers, including Margaret Bonds (who studied in Juilliard’s Extension Division in the 1950s), Lowell Liebermann (BM ’82, MM ’84, DMA ’87, composition), Shinuh Lee, John Adams, William Grant Still, and composition students Hannah Ishizaki, a third-year, and Tengku Irfan (Pre-College ’16; BM ’20, piano and composition), a first-year master’s student. As part of a series of seminars on Beethoven’s music, composer Melinda Wagner, the chair of the composition department, will speak about Beethoven’s influence in contemporary music. “My work is very informed by Beethoven, whose music is so narrative,” she says. “He uses anticipation and expectation and surprise so much and he’s obviously pushed the envelope, formally; I go back to Beethoven all the time.”

Other seminars, open to all current Juilliard piano majors, include Beethoven scholar Lewis Lockwood on the “Moonlight” Sonata manuscript; pianist and visiting faculty member Robert Levin on improvising in the style of Beethoven; and Carnegie Hall’s director of artistic planning, Abhijit Sengupta, on Beethoven’s music in today’s concert programming. There were master classes with pianists Shai Wosner (BM ’99, MM ’01, piano) and Conor Hanick (MM ’08, DMA ’13, piano), and all the student pianists will give performances in Morse Hall that will be livestreamed on June 3. They’re being shown as part of Lincoln Center’s Restart Stages initiative, and the pianists will speak about their selections as part of the performance.

“Beethoven’s music continues to flash lightning bolts across today’s polystylistic musical landscape,” says participant Derek Wang (BM ’20), a first-year master’s student. “I expect an exhilarating experience for us pianists, and for our audiences at Lincoln Center, as we together uncover layers of influence and inspiration across the plurality of times, places, styles, and practices represented on this PianoScope program.”

Performances take place at 5pm7pm, and 9pm on Thursday June 3