University of Vermont

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Humanities Center

Pianist Arnowitt to Launch New UVM Concert Series with Feb. 3 Beethoven Performance

Michael Arnowitt
Pianist Michael Arnowitt will perform Wednesday, Feb. 3, at UVM. (Photo: Jim Lowe)

Michael Arnowitt, the Vermont-based pianist described by the Washington Post as a “technically brilliant” arranger and performer with “an exquisite sense of touch,” will perform “Beethoven’s Last Piano Sonatas” on Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 7:30 p.m. in the UVM Recital Hall to launch a new University of Vermont concert series.

Admission to the concerts is free and open to the public.

Arnowitt, who lives in Montpelier and is known for his unique and creatively constructed concert programs, will give a short introduction before playing Opus 109: Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major; Opus 110: Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat major; and Opus 111: Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor. The triptych of somber yet complex Beethoven sonatas, written between 1820 and 1822, closed out the great composer’s contribution to the genre as he descended into deafness.

In 1989, at age 26, Arnowitt began an unusual odyssey, performing each of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in eight separate concerts at an age that matched Beethoven’s when he wrote them. The 26-year odyssey, which he completed last year, explored the psychology of aging as much as the beauty of Beethoven’s innovation. Arnowitt's UVM concert reprises his final performance in this series.

Vermont filmmaker Susan Bettmann made a 2004 documentary about Arnowitt called Beyond 88 Keys. The film contains footage from live performances in the United State and Europe covering masterpieces by Bach, Mozart, Schumann, Brahms, Stravinsky and American composers.

“To watch Arnowitt as he plays, sitting quietly at the keyboard, you might expect soulless music-making, but you could not be more wrong,” Joan Reinthaler wrote in her 2013 Washington Post review of the pianist’s performance at the National Gallery of Art. “He doesn’t go for cheap effects. He listens intently. His dynamics are calculated for their particular context, his music moves with tantalizing inevitability, and he produces the most rewardingly supple lines.”

The UVM concert series continues Wednesday, March 30, with an array of music from the 19th to the 20th century, including vocal performances of songs by Fauré, Hugo Wolf and Chausson, short piano works by Debussy and the Ravel String Quartet. The quartet will bring together Vermont Symphony Orchestra cellist John Dunlop with musicians Mary Bearden and Laura Markowitz on violins and Stephanie Taylor on the viola.

Funding for the concerts, called the President’s Concerts for Music and the Humanities, is provided by UVM president Tom Sullivan.