Keyboard Conversations: listeners connect with classical music

Jeffrey Siegel’s Keyboard Conversations series returns to Scottsdale. (submitted photo)

Music may be a universal language, but sometimes it needs translating.

Enter pianist Jeffrey Siegel, who speaks fluent music to thousands of classical fans in more than 20 cities annually. Mr. Siegel’s Keyboard Conversations, a series of concerts-with-commentary, returns to Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts for the 39th season, according to a press release.

In four appearances, starting in December and ending in April, Mr. Siegel will play virtuoso works for the piano by a broad range of composers, offering verbal annotation from the stage before the performances, followed by fast-paced Q-and-A sessions with the audience.

Jeffrey Siegel

While many classical series offer verbal insights into classical music, Keyboard Conversations is different, in that Mr. Siegel is a seasoned concert pianist first, and a commentator second. Parallel with Keyboard Conversations, he has appeared in concert with the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra and Boston Symphony Orchestra, among many others.

Every Keyboard Conversations program includes uninterrupted, full-length performances of the scores Mr. Siegel discusses, the press release stated. Mr. Siegel was among the first to combine commentary with classical music, starting nearly four decades ago in Chicago; Keyboard Conversations has been an annual feature at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts since it began.

Mr. Siegel shapes each of his Keyboard Conversations around a single composer, or a theme that connects different composers.

Here is the schedule for his appearances at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, all on Tuesdays starting at 7:30 p.m., in the Virginia G. Piper Theater:

  • Keys to the Classics, Dec. 5: Franz Josef Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven form the triad of composers who defined the classical era (1750-1825). This program will feature Haydn’s Sonata in D, Mozart’s Rondo in A minor and Beethoven’s Sonata in C minor, op. 13, the Pathétique. Mr. Siegel will connect the stylistic methods that make these works “classical.”
  • Virtuoso Variations, Jan. 23: Composers throughout the centuries have managed to extend single themes by altering them in successive variations. Mr. Siegel will explore how composers Ludwig van Beethoven, Frédéric Chopin, Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Liszt crafted variations to make their themes more engaging.
  • Bach and Chopin: A Musical Kinship, Feb. 20: J.S. Bach (1685-1750) and Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) lived in different centuries and composed in strikingly different styles. But Mr. Siegel links them by virtue of two commonalities: the prelude and dance forms. Both composers used these forms in different ways.
  • Leonard Bernstein at 100: A Musical Celebration, April 3: The year 2018 marks the centennial of the birth of the man who was arguably America’s most important classical musician in the 20th century: Leonard Bernstein. Mr. Siegel will perform piano arrangements of songs from Bernstein’s West Side Story, plus two works associated with Bernstein: Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which Bernstein both played and conducted, and Aaron Copland’s El Salon Mexico, an orchestral composition that Bernstein arranged for solo piano.

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts is at 7380 E. Second St. in Scottsdale. Tickets prices range, discounts available for students, veterans and seniors.

Visit: www.ScottsdalePerformingArts.org.

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