BBC Music Magazine 11/2019
Boris Giltburg plans to learn and broadcast videos via YouTube of all 32 sonatas throughout the commemorative year, and will play a selection at St Johns Smith Square on 27 February. Giltburg also features in a three-part BBC TV documentary about Beethoven, due to air in April, and will play the Fourth Piano Concerto with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in the same month.
To mark the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 2020, pianist Boris Giltburg has created Beethoven 32, a ground-breaking project which will see him learn all 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas, the majority of which are not currently in his repertoire. Working with brand new audio-visual label Fly On The Wall, he will film his performances and share them as live, uncut visual albums at regular intervals throughout the year with a global audience via Apple Music and YouTube.
Of the project, Giltburg comments: “This year I will be intensely living through Beethoven’s 32 sonatas and am excited about the huge challenge as much as the ensuing journey of discovery. What started as a crazy idea is fast becoming an all-consuming obsession. With this intensity of feeling comes an overwhelming desire to share, both the process and the results – although I know that these results can hardly be final, as years of continued exploration await. I hope to capture and share those fleeting changes of emotion, of falling in love with the music, of discovering a grand architectural plan to a movement or a tiny detail in one bar; of grappling for days with a section that is proving elusive and then, sometimes, the happiness of finally finding it, whatever ‘it’ is.”
To bring the project together, Giltburg will launch a dedicated website beethoven32.com later this year, where he will post additional supporting written material and video content to help his audience connect with the sheer scale of the undertaking.
Beethoven wrote the sonatas over a period of almost 30 years, with the first three composed in 1795 and the final instalment, Opus 111: Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor written in 1822. By choosing to learn and film them in chronological order, Giltburg hopes to follow the composer on his original path of development. Giltburg explains: “I will attempt to view each sonata - or most of them, at least - as the highest point of what Beethoven could achieve at that time, which makes every sonata interesting in itself, not only for its position in the cycle.”
The depth and complexity of this sonatas cycle mean that musicians could easily dedicate a lifetime of work and thought to learning and finessing their interpretations. In this instance, Giltburg has chosen a different approach because he is drawn to the challenge of capturing the essence of the pieces in a very short timeframe to mark the anniversary year. He hopes that by sharing not only the finished filmed performances, but also a behind-the-scenes look at the daily challenges and obstacles faced by a concert pianist in learning the sonatas, his audience will gain a deeper insight into the process and ultimately, a greater appreciation for the masterpieces.
Alongside this landmark project, Giltburg will complete his recording cycle of the Beethoven Piano Concertos with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Vasily Petrenko for the Naxos label in the same year. The first volume of the cycle will be released on 11th October 2019 featuring Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2, with the second set for release in October 2020 and the third in early 2021. In February 2020, Giltburg will perform all five of the Beethoven Piano Concertos in three consecutive days in Brussels with the Brussels Philharmonic directed by Thierry Fischer as part of the Flagey Piano Festival. On 23rd April 2020 Giltburg will perform Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.
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© Boris Giltburg