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‘Beethoven is a revolution himself’

Beethoven specialist Buchbinder holds Beethoven sonata, Diabelli recitals in Korea

Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder speaks during a press event held at Cosmos Art Hall in southern Seoul on Monday. (Vincero)
Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder speaks during a press event held at Cosmos Art Hall in southern Seoul on Monday. (Vincero)
Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder says he always finds new joy in Beethoven, who is a revolution unto himself.

Beethoven specialist Buchbinder, 74, went onstage at the Seoul Arts Center on Tuesday, presenting five beloved Beethoven sonata pieces, including No. 8 “Pathetique,” No. 14 “Moonlight” and No. 21 “Waldstein.” He will have more recitals here throughout the week.

“I never get tired of Beethoven. I always find new joy. He has been the center of my life and always will be,” Buchbinder said during a press event held at Cosmos Art Hall in southern Seoul on Monday. The interview was translated from German to Korean.

“Beethoven is a revolution himself. The 30 sonatas are a reflection of his life. Each sonata reflects the joy and sorrow that Beethoven felt at the time, showing the life that Beethoven lived,” the Austrian pianist said.

Beethoven has been a lifelong journey for the pianist.

“My childhood was difficult as it was after World War II. My family was very poor. But there was a small piano, radio and scores of Beethoven at home. I was captivated by his music,” he recounted. “This is why I could become the youngest student ever to be admitted to the Vienna Academy of Music at the age of 5.”

The pianist admits his take on Beethoven has changed over the years.

“When I was young, I tried to meticulously express every small detail like a soldier or a scholar. I was not flexible, nor patient,” he said.

“A critic once told me, after 30 years of playing the piano, my Beethoven performance has finally become freer. I agree. As I get older, I realize that I have become more liberated,” Buchbinder said.

On Wednesday, Buchbinder will take the stage at the same venue, presenting the repertoire from his “The Diabelli Project,” a recording released under the classical music label Deutsche Grammophon in 2020.

The recording features old and new takes on the Diabelli Variations, featuring Anton Diabelli’s Waltz in C Major and Beethoven’s 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli in C Major, Op. 120, along with new interpretations of the Diabelli Variations by 11 contemporary composers selected by Buchbinder himself, such as Toshio Hosokawa and Tan Dun.

“In light of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, I thought about how his music could be interpreted these days. I wanted to share the potential of composition,” he said.

Fully vaccinated, Buchbinder received exemption from the 14-day quarantine rule from the Korean government.

“Korean audiences are passionate and responsive. Many concert halls in Korea have great acoustics. I love Korean food, too,” Buchbinder said. “We have to prepare for the ‘with coronavirus’ times. It is only fair. We are learning to live together.”

After the Seoul engagements, Buchbinder will go onstage in Daejeon on Thursday with the piano sonata recital and in Daegu on Sunday with “The Diabelli Project” recital.

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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