Local Favorites Play Unique Program in Chamber Music Quad Cities Concert Print
Music - Feature Stories
Tuesday, 22 January 2002 18:00
It’s doubtless Beethoven was a genius of rare proportion and that his music stands as a monument in the canon of classical music, yet his placement on the musical timeline put an unusual burden on his output. On one hand, he was a classicist, falling at the end of the classical period and tutored by one of its masters, Franz Joseph Haydn. But Beethoven often discarded the classical convention of emotional distance from the music, preferring instead to imbue his later compositions with a piece of his own soul.

Among Beethoven’s most remarkable works are his 32 piano sonatas. Widely performed and universally loved, the sonatas are a world unto themselves. Any emotion and any mood can be found within the collection.

On December 29, music lovers in the Quad Cities were treated to a unique program of chamber works that included two of Beethoven’s piano sonatas (including the beloved “Moonlight” sonata) and works of lesser fame, such as a Haydn trio for piano, violin, and cello. But the music on the Chamber Music Quad Cities program was not the only pleasure; hometown favorites Thomas Sauer on piano, Greg Sauer on cello, and Serena Canin on violin performed the works.

Sauer held the stage himself to conclude concert, playing both of Beethoven’s Opus 27 piano sonatas. Though No. 2, the “Moonlight” sonata, is one of Beethoven’s most famous piano pieces, the No. 1 was also mesmerizing.

With both sonatas, Beethoven used a somewhat reversed structure. He begins with a slow, introspective movement and concludes with a longer, fiery sonata-form movement. Beethoven shifts intensity and emphasis from the beginning of the Opus 27 sonatas to the end.

In the “Moonlight” sonata, Sauer handled the prelude-like first movement as well as anyone, and his playing captured the emotional essence of the work. The concluding Presto stretched Sauer’s technical skills, and every step of the way, he met the challenge, playing with an urgency that expanded on the already intense movement.

The evening’s program began with Haydn’s Trio in E Flat Major; the composition and the performance demonstrated why people (myself included) should listen to more Haydn. The piece is lyrical and pleasant and typifies Haydn’s groundbreaking work with unconventional forms. Aside from a few missteps by Canin, the performance was faultless, expressive without pushing into romantic interpretation, and moving without being forced or overbearing.

Following the trio, Greg and Tom Sauer performed Prokofiev’s Sonata for Cello & Piano in C Major. Unlike the trio, which stayed within a confined musical realm, the cello-and-piano sonata alternated between rough, modern passages, soaring romantic interludes, and delicate dance-like sequences. It also highlighted the cello’s expressive qualities, as Greg Sauer moved effortlessly through the piece’s emotional and technical transitions. Tom Sauer’s piano-playing was poignant without drowning out the cello voice.

In its 10th season, Chamber Music Quad Cities has consistently brought in Tom Sauer, Greg Sauer, and Serena Canin to perform for local audiences. As this late December concert proved, their technical ability, expression, and amiability should be cherished.