Author: Christine Richard OBE FRSA

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Thursday, August 27th, 2015 at 4:37 pm
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Music Reviews

…Charms to soothe the Savage Breast

Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder’s performance of the Beethoven sonatas ended on 26 August at the Playfair Library Hall in the University of Edinburgh’s Old College. He played brilliantly, to a rapt audience.

The physically and mentally exhausting performance by this brilliant pianist combined technical expertise and feeling, fun as well as drama and sudden changes of pace.  We were entranced and entertained in equal measure by the sonata in E major, opus 109, the sonata in A flat major Opus 110 and finally the sonata in C major opus 111. 

Many people, including myself, believed William Shakespeare wrote the lines ‘Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.’ Because I was not absolutely certain of the provenance I checked and in fact, poet William Congreve penned those words of comfort in 1697. How true, and beautifully exemplified by this recital.

Beethoven, in the Romantic imagination, wrote his last piano sonatas as well as string quartets for himself and posterity, in ivory tower isolation from the world. More prosaically, we are told they were composed for a friend, publisher or patron… If, like me, readers are of a musically romantic disposition, the former is my preferred explanation.

Perhaps because my own father, Ludwig Christian Saam, was a talented pianist I have always enjoyed piano music, listening and playing, (though not to the high standard of both my father  and Buchbinder!) and I have always admired Beethoven as a composer – and for his courage and persistence when many would have given up. If nothing else I feel now inspired to buy a new piano! I hope others will do the same before the physical art of learning and playing without electronic assistance is lost for ever, although whatever suits the individual best is his/her choice!


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