Sarah visits home bringing Beethoven and Bach

September 18, 2018 by Arts Editor
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Internationally acclaimed Australian pianist, Sarah Grunstein, returns to the Sydney Opera House by popular demand, to perform two concerts in 2018.

Sarah Grunstein

While Sydney-born Grunstein is distinguished for her interpretation of Bach’s works, described as “tempestuous” and “imbued with a luminous calm”, the praise she has received is not limited to her performances of this composer.

The first Sydney Opera House concert will be a programme of three of the composers she most loves to play: Beethoven’s Sonata in E major, Op. 109, Brahms’ Fantasien, Op. 116, and Schumann’s Fantasie in C major, Op. 17. Grunstein remarks, “Each work is highly structured, yet also highly improvisatory, each in a vastly different way. It is the improvisatory qualities that suggest the poetry and pliability of Romanticism, yet also hark back to the influence of the 18th century.” Of Grunstein’s Beethoven performance The New York Times wrote: “Beethoven’s Sonata in D was delivered with a directness that only heightened the tragedy that propels the central Largo; the surrounding three movements danced with appropriate grace…”

The second concert will feature Grunstein playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which is perhaps one of the most challenging works in the keyboard literature. Her recent performance of the Goldberg Variations has led to her being acclaimed as the “shining light” among the Bach pianists of this generation.

Sarah Grunstein has achieved renown as an impassioned performer of Bach. From her early studies with Australian pedagogue Nancy Salas, she learned about 18th-century styles, character, dance, emotion, and improvisatory performance. This was at a time when most people were still performing Bach in a very “rigid” way. She remarks, “People ask me how I do what I do. I’ve studied and played a lot of Bach, and have read much about 18th and 19th century style – not just musical style, but compositional style, improvisation, improvisatory performance (slightly different from improvisation), and the language of various arts genres including dance, visual arts, and literature. Even though I am playing music that was composed for the harpsichord, I treat the piano as a piano and let my ‘pianist-voice’ speak. And keeping in my mind and heart Bach’s compositional language and what I believe his creative intent was, I go to town with it.”

Many will remember Sarah Grunstein as the pianist who, as a young teenager, performed the soundtrack for Bruce Beresford’s early Australian film, “The Getting of Wisdom.” Sarah Grunstein soon after moved to New York, graduating from The Juilliard School (where she was later appointed as a Teaching Fellow), and earned her doctorate at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her career has included concerts at London’s Southbank Centre, New York’s Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Italy, Austria, Hungary, the U.K., New Zealand, and her homeland.

Described by The New York Times for her “penetrating musical intelligence” these two concerts will be a rare chance to hear one of Australia’s finest international pianists.

Venue Utzon Room, Sydney Opera House

Bookings 02 9250 7777 or sydneyoperahouse.com

Sunday 23 September at 5pm

Beethoven: Sonata in E major, Op. 109 Brahms: Fantasien, Op. 116 Schumann: Fantasie in C major, Op. 17

Monday 29 October at 7.30pm

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988

 

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