ZACHARY HUGHES takes on an Olympian task: Performing the complete BEETHOVEN PIANO SONATAS in a concert series at the GREENVILLE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST FELLOWSHIP!

The year 2020 marks LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN’s 250th birthday, and in celebration of this landmark, Julliard-trained pianist ZACHARY HUGHES will perform all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, and tell stories about these most revered and loved touchstones of music history. This series of concerts, which Hughes has titled “THE BEETHOVEN ODYSSEY,” will be on select Sundays at 3pm throughout 2020 at the Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, located at 1135 State Park Rd. The first performance is on Sunday, January 12th. 

Check out WYFF’s recent story about Zach’s efforts HERE.

Here’s the full performance schedule:
February 9 – Sonatas Op. 2 no. 2 and Op. 7

February 23 – Sonatas Op. 10 nos. 1, 2, and 3

March 22 – Sonatas Op. 14 nos. 1 and 2, and Op. 13

April 19 – Sonatas Op. 26 and Op. 22

May 3 – Sonatas Op. 28 and Op. 27 nos. 1 and 2

***Fall dates are tentative and subject to change***

September 13 – Sonatas Op. 31 nos. 1 and 3

September 27 – Sonatas Op. 31 no. 2 and Op. 53

October 11 – Sonatas Op. 49 nos. 1 and 2, Op. 54 and Op. 57

October 25 – Sonatas Op.79, Op. 81a, Op. 90, and Op. 101

November 8 – Sonatas Op. 78 and Op. 106

November 22 – Sonatas Op. 109 and Op. 110

December 6 – Sonata Op. 111

A word from Zach about the origins of this project:
“Along with the great Polish pianist Mr. Rubinstein, I possess a wholehearted love for women and wine (in that order). And I too have often invested my time accordingly. However, there is one thing in life I love more dearly, and that is Beethoven. The great Ludwig van. When I was thirteen or fourteen, I heard my first live piano concert, which included the Appassionata Sonata. I was floored. Ecstatic. To this day, I can count on one hand the musical experiences I’ve had that compare to that first brush with Beethoven live. From that night on, I knew that Ludwig would play a huge role in my life.”

At 18, I found myself in New York City, an incoming freshman at The Juilliard School. I was a small-town kid suddenly surrounded by every pleasure and delight known to man. The ensuing four years were a whirlwind of new experience, challenge, and growth.

After graduating from Juilliard in 2015, I gradually realized that my innate and simple love of music and Beethoven had slipped through my fingers somewhere along the way. It had been replaced by a lot of knowledge, a lot of professional experience, and a certain coldness to music that I couldn’t shake.  

In 2018, while serving as principal keyboardist for The Knoxville Symphony, I had the sudden idea to learn all of the Beethoven sonatas and take them on the road, playing them for audiences who had never heard the entire “32”. For the first time since high school, I felt the spark returning. I started devouring all the Beethoven-related knowledge I could get my hands on to prepare for this project.

Today, of all the good things in life, sharing the Beethoven piano sonatas with people is the thing I am excited about most. I have found that a life lived in this music is a life well lived.

This Olympian effort of playing a cycle of all 32 Beethoven sonatas is no small feat; it’s been done before, but generally by some of history’s most renowned piano virtuosos.

This concert series will take place on a magnificent 1988 Bösendorfer Imperial Concert Grand Piano, generously given to the fellowship by Greenville native and longtime Unitarian Universalist Rem Stokes. The “chautauqua-concerts” are entirely donation based, with suggested donations of $20 for adults and $10 for students. However, guests are encouraged to give more or less as they are able, so that this music can continue to be shared.

In addition to his celebrated abilities as a composer, Beethoven was a superb pianist and improvisor, and it is not strange that he chose the piano as a vehicle for many of his most daring and personal musical outpourings. Dubbed “The New-Testament” of piano literature by Hans von Bulow (Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier being the “Old-Testament”), these 32 sonatas were written over the course of 27 years, contain more than 600 pages and 11 hours of music, and narrate the story of one of humanity’s most exceptional and inspiring life-journeys.

The Beethoven Odyssey is a labor of love dedicated to sharing this music and telling its story. You are invited to come experience it in person!

If you’re in the mood for a little more beautiful Beethoven music after Zach’s performances,
come check out the Classical Room at Horizon!

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