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Chichester Music Society: David Owen Norris: ‘A path of his own discovery’: Beethoven at the piano

25/11/2020

Wed 9 Dec 2020 7:30pm, Chapel of the Ascension, Bishop Otter Campus, University of Chichester. Links below.

David Owen Norris is a pianist, composer and broadcaster. He won the Prize of the City of Geneva in the Geneva Competition, and the Accompanist’s Prize at Leeds; and since his appointment to the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award, has performed all across the world, with four appearances in the BBC Proms, concert tours of Europe, Australia and North America, including performances at Sydney Opera House, the Kennedy Centre, Lincoln Centre, Ravinia Festival Chicago, the South Bank Centre etc. and a discography of 60 commercial CDs including his own Piano Concerto with the BBC Concert Orchestra, and his oratorio Prayerbook. His other compositions include a Symphony, a Piano Sonata, the oratorio Turning Points, and the multi-media tribute to the passing seasons, HengeMusic.

His Chord of the Week programmes on BBC2 television were a popular feature of the Proms for six years. His Perfect Pianists is often shown on BBC4. He has contributed to programmes on Parry, Vaughan Williams, Mendelssohn & Elgar, including ninety minutes on BBC2 dedicated to Elgar’s Piano Concerto, with a full, filmed performance with the BBCSO. His first TV presentation, The Real Thing? from 1990, was hailed by the Daily Telegraph as ‘the most literate and probing programme on music for many years’, and his most recent Chord of the Week was reviewed by the Observer as ‘the most consistently intelligent three minutes you’ll watch on this or any other television this year’. The Beethoven 9 app for which he wrote the book and the analyses won the Best Music App Award.

His many radio presentations have included the Playlist series on Radio 4, and In Tune and The Works on radio 3, where he made his 28th appearance on Building a Library last December. Recordings recently released include Mozart on fortepiano for Hyperion, featured in the New York Times, and the complete Chamber Music of Grace Williams, which was a Guardian CD of the Week. He will shortly conclude his complete survey of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s songs on Chandos.

In this evening’s lecture/recital David Owen Norris begins by tracing the development of Beethoven’s stylistic traits from the variations: triple-time Adagios, such a metrical minefield for performers throughout his work; the ridiculous jokes, the baffling dynamic shifts, the exploitation of each end of the keyboard, even the boldness of tonality – all is here in embryo.

He then turns his attention to Beethoven’s two most remarkable sonatas composed before deafness put an end to his performing career: the Sonate Pathétique, Op. 13 (1799) and the Fantasy-Sonata Op.27 No.2 (1802 – the Moonlight Sonata). Op.13 shows us how Beethoven’s pianism came out of his harpsichord playing – the first edition describes it as being ‘for harpsichord or pianoforte’, and Beethoven arranged many of its details with that in mind. The Moonlight, from the same year as the Heiligenstadt Testament, Beethoven’s open letter of despair to the world, can be read as a personal response to the onset of deafness – it is dedicated to the pupil he had hitherto hoped to marry.

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