SMTD begins yearlong Beethoven concert series

Dean Vaglia, Staff Reporter

Ludwig van Beethoven has composed some of the most iconic musical works in human history, inspiring and influencing musicians of all genres for over 200 years. In celebration of the German composer’s 250th birthday, Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance (SMTD) is putting on a piano concert series in his honor.

“As a department, [the piano program] has been growing very rapidly, and so I have always wanted to do a project that includes the entire piano program, including all our students and faculty,” Dr. Tian Tian, associate professor of music, said. “Knowing that Beethoven’s 250th birthday is coming up and we love his repertoire so much, it seems like it is the perfect time to do something like that.”

For previous concerts, the piano department has always focused on a theme that students can build a varied repertoire around, according to Tian. The specific focus on a single composer is a deviation from this norm.

Thirty-two concerts will take place on 10 dates between Oct. 13, 2019, and Dec. 20, 2020, and will span the entire repertoire of Beethoven. Most dates will showcase three sonatas performed by piano department students, though guest performers, such as Jerry Wong (Feb. 10, 2020), an alumni-performed concert (March 22) and different formats like a lecture/recital (April 18) are also part of the concert series.

Most concerts will take place at Varner Recital Hall, though the series will go around southeast Michigan to places like Grosse Pointe (Jan. 18) and the Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church in Detroit (March 29).

The sonata selection for each event varies in focus. The Oct. 13 event had a piece from Beethoven’s early, middle and late periods, while the Feb. 10 event will focus on the works that influenced and were influenced by Beethoven.  

“We are ending with 111, which is his last piano sonata on our last concert,” Tian said. “We felt like that was very fitting. It is the last thing he wanted to say through this genre that he had composed so many pieces for.”

Even with the varied nature of each event’s selection, concertgoers should expect a diverse sound despite each sonata coming from the same composer everytime.

“[Beethoven] is one of those composers where it does not matter how many times you have played a work, there are always new findings,” Tian said. “There are always different perspectives that you can see and hear and feel as you go through. I think that is why he is a timeless composer.”

Elizabeth Heilig is one of the student performers for the Nov. 19 event and a fan of Beethoven. She will be performing “Quasi una fantasia” and “Moonlight Sonata.”

“It feels awesome to be a part of this concert series,” Heilig said. “‘Moonlight Sonata’ is one of his most popular pieces, so I feel honored that I get to play it.”

Concerts are scheduled for the Varner Recital Hall for Nov. 10; Feb. 10, 2020; March 22, 2020; and April 18, 2020. A full list of dates and times can be found on the SMTD website. All concerts are sponsored by the Judd Family Endowed Fund and admission is free.