Honoring some of classical music's most distinguished creators, The Smith Opera House's “Great Composers Birthday Celebration” continues on Dec. 16 with pianist Francis Heilbut honoring Ludwig van Beethoven on the 234th anniversary of his birth. The performance begins at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets to the recital are $15 general admission and $7 for students and senior citizens. Call 781-LIVE (5483) or toll-free 866-355-LIVE (5483) for more information or to purchase tickets. The Smith accepts MasterCard, Visa and Discover.
Heilbut will perform Beethoven's “Sonata in B-Flat, Opus 22,” “Sonata in B-Flat, Opus 106” and “Hammerklavier” on The Smith's Steinway D Concert Grand piano.
Paris-born pianist/conductor/composer Francis Heilbut was a pupil of Pierre Monteux and Maria Carreras. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University and from the Mannes College of Music where he studied conducting with Carl Bamberger. Heilbut has toured extensively as piano soloist throughout the United States and Europe, having appeared at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy, the Wigmore Hall in London, the Brahms-Saal in Vienna, Town Hall, Avery Fisher and Carnegie Hall in New York City. A frequent performer on radio and television, notably on “Camera Three” for CBS Television and in “The Beethoven Years” on Channel 13 Public Television, he was the featured pianist in “The Belle of Amherst,” starring Julie Harris as Emily Dickinson. Mr. Heilbut has performed all of the 32 sonatas of Beethoven in public, has made five recordings of solo piano music, and gave the first performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams' “Suite for Pianoforte” in England, America and Europe. Hailed by The New York Times as “exceptional,” an “imaginative pianist,” “engrossing musician,” Heilbut's playing has also been acclaimed in Europe: “Thoughtful and muscianly,” said the London Times; “Most convincing sense of form and style,” noted Vienna's Der Kurier; and “Titanic pianism and poetic lyricism,” wrote Hamburg's Die Welt.
Associate Conductor for the Friends of French Opera, Heilbut was on the music staff of the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Opera, and also served on the faculty of Westminster Choir College. He has appeared at the Smith Opera House in Geneva as conductor of an anniversary concert performance of Mozart's “The Magic Flute” in 2001 and a revival of Charles W. Cadman's American opera “The Sunset Trail” in 2003. He celebrated the life and music of Brahms at The Smith in may. Co-founder of the Busoni Foundation, Mr. Heilbut is founding director of American Landmark Festivals and the Richard Tauber Institute of Vocal Art.
Ludwig van Beethoven was born on December 17, 1770, in Bonn, in the Rhineland of Germany. He lived in Vienna from 1792 until his death in 1827. Beethoven's Father and Grandfather were court musicians. Ludwig carried on the family tradition in exemplary form, becoming one of history's greatest composers.
Beethoven's dynamic musical style infused his compositions with his confidence in human action. Again and again dissonance and turmoil are resolved with enthusiasm and rejoicing. Fate is trampled by triumphant music. Turbulence in his personal life, including his becoming incurably deaf at 29, tested his optimism. He surmounted his difficulties through a rigorous regime of composition. In his later career his music was even more free and imaginative.
On his deathbed Beethoven was planning a tenth symphony, a composer to the very end. Despite his notoriously brusque manner, Beethoven was revered by Viennese society as its greatest celebrity. His funeral was attended by 20,000 friends and admirers.
The final concert in the “Great Composers Birthday Celebration” is scheduled for Feb. 3 when pianist Siiri Schutz performs the work of Mendelssohn.
The Smith Opera House is located at 82 Seneca Street in Geneva. The Smith and the “Great Composers Birthday Celebration” are generously supported with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, the City of Geneva, the Town of Geneva and by individual contributing members.