Stephen Beus, Pianist, New York Piano Academy/Klavierhaus

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Donald Isler
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Stephen Beus, Pianist, New York Piano Academy/Klavierhaus

Post by Donald Isler » Mon Dec 05, 2022 7:48 pm

Sunday Evenings at Klavierhaus and The New York Piano Academy presents:
Stephen Beus, piano
December 4th, 2022
West End Presbyterian Church

165 West 105th Street
New York, NY, 10025

Felix Mendelssohn
Sonata No. 1, Op. 6, in E Major

Charles-Valentin Alkan
Prelude, Op. 31 No. 8
Etude, Op. 39 No. 12
"Aesop's Feast"

Ronn Yedidia
Grand Etude No. 20 (NY Premiere)
Prelude No. 16 (World premiere)
Grande Etude No. 7

Samuel Barber
Sonata in E Flat Minor, Op. 26

This was my first opportunity to hear the pianist Stephen Beus, and the first chance in a long time to hear again the music of composer Ronn Yedidia, whom I have long respected. I was very glad to hear the work of both last night via the Klavierhaus livestream.

Aside from the monstrously difficult Barber Sonata, none of the music Mr. Beus played is regularly heard in concerts. Of course, one has to be quite fearless to attempt most of it!

Mr. Beus began with the wonderful E Major Sonata of Mendelssohn, which I don't recall ever having heard in concert. (I know it from recordings of Murray Perahia and Karl Ulrich Schnabel.) The first movement opens with great charm, optimism, and a feeling of well-being, despite the recurring diminished arpeggios. The second movement, which I guessed to be a scherzo, is actually marked "Tempo di Menuetto." It's in F-Sharp Minor, sprightly, staccato and witty, though it has a lush trio section in D Major.

The second movement is followed by a recitativo-like section with the somewhat radical marking "Adagio e senza Tempo". It sounds forlorn and anxious. This is followed by a dream-like reappearance of the first theme from the beginning of the work in F-Sharp Major. Then, after some further modulations, Mendelssohn delivers us into the virtuosic last movement in the home key of E Major. It whizzed along so fast I could barely appreciate the fantastic finger work, though I'm sure every note was in place! Despite the speed, Mr. Beus brought out the beautiful lyric second theme, which appears in the tenor voice in the dominant key in the exposition, and returns in octaves in the tonic key in the recapitulation. The peaceful conclusion of this dramatic work was very beautiful, indeed.

The Alkan Prelude, a very effective piece I hadn't heard before, was quiet, and haunted, with a basso ostinato in the left hand playing against a slow right-hand melody in (I believe) G-Sharp Minor. The music later became louder and faster, went into the major, but then returned to the minor, and faded out in the end.

The Alkan Etude which followed did not sound as edgy as in the recording of Raymond Lewenthal, but was stunning nonetheless. At times humorous, at other times martial-like, it also includes a chorale-like section and (among many other things!) fast right hand melodies in octaves, a section of right-hand melody against bizarre left hand accents, stupendously complicated passagework, a threatening coda, and a frightening final chord.

Ronn Yedidia's music, I was reminded, is modern, sophisticated, emotional, and accessible.

The Grand Etude No. 20 features virtuosity, yet also warmth and delicacy. Though in a different idiom, it reminded me somewhat of the E-Flat Major Prelude of Chopin.

The Prelude No. 16 was lovely and sensitive. (For me, it also brought to mind the E Minor Prelude of Chopin.)

Etude No. 7 is longer than the other two works, seemingly also more adventurous technically and harmonically. It features a left hand whirlwind, the mood of which changed throughout the piece, a somewhat Impressionist aesthetic, and it concluded with an explosion!

The second half of the program consisted of one work: the Barber Sonata. Before performing it, Mr. Beus talked about its history. Originally, the composer intended it to conclude with the slow third movement. However, Vladimir Horowitz, who was to give the first performance, requested that he add a fourth movement which, Horowitz said, should be a four-part fugue. Barber took some time getting around to this despite several reminders from Horowitz, whereupon the pianist deployed his “enforcer” - Mrs. Horowitz - to pressure the composer to complete the sonata, and this objective was then achieved.

The first movement has a violent opening, a sense of tragedy and hysteria, but also a contrasting reflective theme. Mr. Beus described the second movement as "schizophrenic" and, indeed, it has an "off-center" dizzying charm, and was weirdly delightful.

The third movement is dirge-like and intense, much of the time with tones hanging there, waiting to be resolved. It has a quiet end, following a long winddown.

The concluding fourth, jazz-influenced movement has a wild fugal theme, numerous different textures, and is terrifically complicated, despite which Mr. Beus kept everything clear to the ear. It has a cataclysmic end.

Stephen Beus played one encore for the enthusiastic audience, his own lovely transcription of Jerome Kern's song "Can't Help Lovin' That Man of Mine."

It was a memorable evening!

Donald Isler
Donald Isler

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Re: Stephen Beus, Pianist, New York Piano Academy/Klavierhaus

Post by Rach3 » Tue Dec 06, 2022 3:27 pm

Many thanks !

Plan to hear this recital soon as now at YT:

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Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:17 am

Re: Stephen Beus, Pianist, New York Piano Academy/Klavierhaus

Post by Rach3 » Fri Dec 09, 2022 6:38 pm

Rach3 wrote:
Tue Dec 06, 2022 3:27 pm
Many thanks !

Plan to hear this recital soon as now at YT:
Indeed, wonderful playing, and a wonderful discovery for me of Yedidia’s music.Thanks again.

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