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Matthew Van Hoose

From the first notes of Beethoven’s Sonata in F minor Op. 57 pianist Matthew Van Hoose creates a world where musical themes intersect with other musical themes, where notes chase one another across the 88 keys of the piano. Incredibly intricate, but compelling, the complexity and passion of the music draws the listener to the composition.

Composed in 1804, 38 years later it was given a name—Appassionata or Passion, and if there is one word that defines this piece it would be passion.

The piece is, perhaps, a reflection of Beethoven, a man given to extremes of emotion—and that is what at the heart of this music.

The first movement, Allegro assai, begins with beautiful rich chords and an almost tuneful melody. The chords begin to ascend and tension builds, the melody becomes a series of rapid notes soaring over the chords, the chords themselves losing the full rich resonance of the first few bars to become part of the swirling world of sound that Hoose brings from the piano.

Beethoven was known as an incandescent, passionate man, and that is what this music is. Tension builds, notes soar from the keys of the piano, and, when it seems that it can go no farther, that beautiful theme reappears, to be subsumed again by the passion and tension of the movement.

Then it ends, almost abruptly, and after a pause the second movement, Adagio con moto, takes shape. Slow moving with each note, each chord seeming to tell its own story, the movement acts as a balm to senses assailed by the first movement.

The soothing, peaceful sounds end suddenly, the chords discordant and tense and, unlike almost all classical music, there is no pause between the second and third movements.

The third movement, Allegro ma non troppo, recalls the first movement, with a building tension alternating with an easily followed melody line, but now that melody becomes faster and faster—not the tempo, but the notes.

The entire composition is a testament to one of the finest classical composers at the height of his powers—and the ability of Hoose to bring that music to life generated a memorable evening.

The second part of the recital featured the music of Chopin.

Hoose began with a selection of Chopin’s nocturnes. Generally thought of as beautiful evocative music, these nocturnes certainly had those element in them, but as he interpreted them, what came to the fore was how rich, diverse and complex the music was.

The composition, though, that seemed to confirm the genius of Chopin was the Barcarolle in F-sharp major, Op. 60.

A barcarolle is the type of song that would typically be sung by a Venetian gondolier, and there are elements of that musical form running throughout the piece.

The music has a lyrical, tuneful character to it. But what makes this such a compelling work is how this beautiful Italian song seems to emerge from the rhythm and chords.

Imagine the sounds of the city filling the air, and then, from beneath a bridge, the Ponte della Paglia or Ponte di Rialto, a gondolier appears singing an Italian aria. Then he passes and the melody fades and once again the cacophony of the city reigns.

Chopin’s Barcorelle has been interpreted in a number of different ways, and Hoose brought a reflective, thoughtful style to the piece. Not slow, more like a gondola leisurely floating on the waters of the Venetian canals.

It was a beautiful, masterful interpretation of a Chopin masterpiece.

Chopin would have been proud.