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Frank Glazer, dean of Maine pianists, begins season of Beethoven sonatas

Frank Glazer, a pianist of international renown whose professional career began during the 1930s, begins his 2009-10 survey of the complete cycle of 32 Beethoven piano sonatas with a concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18, in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, 75 Russell St.

All performances in the series and a related Nov. 8 lecture are open to the public at no cost, but tickets are required. For more information contact 207-786-6135 or use this olinarts@bates.edu.

Glazer’s series coincides with a parallel effort by the Auryn Quartet, which resumes its performances of the Beethoven string quartet cycle at Bates in January, presented by the Bates Concert Committee.

Asked about the characteristics of Beethoven’s music that particularly strike him, Glazer points to the composer’s imagination — one so fertile that he scarcely needed to reuse an idea.

It was this capacity that enabled the composer to, as Glazer puts it, “modulate to any key from anywhere.” More broadly, Beethoven had “the ability to extend a simple idea and have it continue and evolve. He also had such a sense of proportion that, at the point when you are just about to become bored, he changes — he knows just where to change so that you’re always alert to what he’s doing.”

“Frank Lloyd Wright once told me that Beethoven was his favorite composer,” says the 94-year-old Glazer, “because he was a great constructer.”

Taking the Beethoven cycle chronologically, Glazer’s September concert comprises the three Op. 2 sonatas and the Op. 7 sonata. He performs the subsequent installments, all in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, at:

7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9, in a program composed of the three Op. 10 sonatas and the Op. 13 (“Pathétique”);

7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, with the Op. 14, 22, 26 and 27 sonatas, the last set including the popular “Moonlight” sonata;

3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, with the Op. 28 and the three Op. 31 sonatas;

3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17, with the Op. 49, 53, 54 and 57 (“Appassionata”) sonatas;

3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, with the Op. 78, 79, 81A and 90 sonatas;

7:30 p.m. Friday, March 19, with Op. 101 and 106 (“Hammerklavier”);

and, finally, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 9, with the Op. 109, 110 and 111 sonatas.

In a related lecture, Glazer discusses his approach to and preparation for this musical feat at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, in the Olin auditorium. A reception follows. The event is sponsored by the Bates College Friends of Music.

Glazer has taught at Bates since 1980, coming from a faculty position at the Eastman School. “This being my 30th year at Bates, I thought it would be a good idea for me to do all the sonatas,” he says. In a professional career spanning more than 70 years, “I have played all of them but four.”

In a era whose pianists often strive for the gloss of mechanical precision and a big sound, Glazer instead makes all else secondary to the music’s own message. “He has thought everything through and tried to get at the core of what the music is about. Everything he does is about that,” says colleague James Parakilas, a pianist himself and the James L. Moody Jr. Family Professor of Performing Arts at Bates.

Glazer, of Topsham, has had a distinguished career that includes numerous recordings, solo recitals and performances with orchestras and chamber ensembles, including the New England Piano Quartette, of which he was a founder. With his wife, the late Ruth Glazer, he founded the Saco River Music Festival, held for many years in Cornish, Maine.

In October 2006, Glazer celebrated the 70th anniversary of his 1936 New York City debut by performing that debut program at Bates. Last March, he reprised the program that he played in his Carnegie Hall debut, 60 years ago to the day.



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