Masterpieces come to life

Last updated 08:09 29/10/2013

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Acclaimed New Zealand pianist Michael Houstoun is on the final leg of his historic year-long concert series performing all 32 Beethoven piano concerts throughout the country.

These are the final concerts of Chamber Music New Zealand's Beethoven reCYCLE: Part Three and Houstoun will be performing the Pathetique programme at St Andrew's Church in New Plymouth on Wednesday, November 6, at 7.30pm.

The Listener describes his performance as: "Outstanding Beethoven all round. The special attraction is the rare spiritual dimension in Houstoun's playing of the serene finales. It's as though Beethoven were no longer of this planet when he wrote them."

The Pathetique programme includes - Sonata in A, Op.2 No.2, Sonata in C minor, Op.13 'Pathetique', Sonata in E flat, Op.31 No.3.

Houstoun says that performing the Beethoven sonatas on this tour expanded and deepened his knowledge and feeling of Beethoven's greatness.

"It seems to suggest that we can only see what we're ready to see - or capable of seeing - despite our best intentions," he explains.

"There is always more to be found. The privilege of being able to live so close to these masterpieces is not lost on me and I am very happy to be heading into the last concerts."

Houstoun adds that the Appassionata concerts performed in 10 centres were a highlight of the year-long project.

"The tremendous power of that programme generated strong reactions, such that it is impossible not to acknowledge the universality and timelessness of the feelings and spirit that Beethoven's music elicits."

Houstoun is not only New Zealand's foremost Beethoven pianist; internationally he ranks among the great Beethoven pianists of our age.

After his spectacular sweep of final prizes in the world's three most prestigious piano competitions - the Van Cliburn International Piano competition (1973), Leeds competition (1975) and Tchaikovsky competition (1982), Houstoun chose to return to New Zealand.

Hugely in demand for concertos with our finest orchestras and chamber concerts the length of the country - his regular CMNZ tours with the winner of the Michael Hill International Violin Competition included - he has been based here ever since and is adding increasing solo recitals to his repertoire with his recent Goldberg and Beethoven Diabelli Variations.

Last year, he was appointed CNZM in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services as a pianist, and returns to Beethoven at the very height of his powers.

He celebrates his 60th birthday with this historic cycle of 32 Beethoven sonatas, some of the supreme treasures of human artistic endeavour.

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"The thing about Beethoven is that he somehow synthesises human psychological truths, with all of their subtlety and all of their range, into music," Houstoun said.

The famous names of the Beethoven sonatas - Moonlight, Pathetique, Appassionata - have all entered popular culture; film, television, dance and drama have all taken inspiration from these iconic pieces and are loved by pianists around the world.

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster 0800 111 999 or For more information visit

- © Fairfax NZ News

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