'Beethoven liberates musicians': Beethoven specialist Rudolf Buchbinder

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'Beethoven liberates musicians': Beethoven specialist Rudolf Buchbinder

Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder listens to reporters’ questions during a press conference held at Cosmos Hall in Seoul, Monday, to promote his recital series in Korea, which is planned to be held from Tuesday to Oct. 24 at venues across the nation. Courtesy of Vincero

By Park Ji-won

Known as one of the best Beethoven interpreters in the world, Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder has been placing Beethoven at the “center” of his life. He has performed Beethoven’s Complete Piano Sonatas more than 50 times over the last 60 years of his career. He also owns a wide range of original, first-edition scores and music-related documents which include up to 12 and a half of Beethoven’s signed scores.

When the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world and many of his recitals had to be canceled last year, the 74-year-old recorded “The Diabelli Project” under the classical music label Deutsche Grammophon, which covers composer Anton Diabelli’s original 33 variations on a waltz; 11 variations from world-leading contemporary composers such as Rodion Shchedrin, Max Richter and Lera Auerbach; and 9 variation from highly regarded composers of historical significance in the world of Western Art Music.

He also released “Beethoven: Piano Concerto no. 1 in C Major, Op. 15” in September 2020.

He was planning to hold a recital in Korea last year to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, but had to cancel due to the pandemic. After getting a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine, he came to Korea for the first time in two years to hold four recitals throughout the nation. The recitals’ program includes Beethoven’s Sonatas, the Diabelli Project’s variations of Beethoven’s works and Anton Diabelli’s works.

During a press conference to promote the recital tour on Monday, he stressed Beethoven’s music liberates him and other musicians and he always encounters joy and finds new aspects in the music of the great composer.

“Beethoven’s music liberates musicians … I have been playing Beethoven but I never get bored. I always find new joy from his music. Beethoven is at the center of my life and my program,” Buchbinder told reporters.

Stressing that the composer is romantic and revolutionary, he said the Sonatas of Beethoven reflect his emotions.

However, it took some 40 years for him to interpret Beethoven with his own variation as he was stubborn and not confident enough to play in an unconventional way.

“When I was young, I was narrow-minded and impatient. At that time, I tried to be exact in every detail in playing the works of Beethoven as I was such an academic person … But after 30 years since starting playing Beethoven, critic Joachim Kaiser told me ‘you are ready to make some musical variations and be free.'”

On Tuesday and Wednesday, he is performing at the Seoul Arts Center. He will be performing at Daejeon Arts Center on Oct. 21 and Daegu Concert House on Oct. 24.

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