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Arts Desk

You Love This Music...Now Here's The Story That Deepens Your Connection

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Do you know the story behind Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata?"

Every great piece of music has a story behind it. Telling those stories and performing those works has become an all-consuming career and a popular concert format for pianist Jeffery Siegel.  WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more on Siegel's Keyboard Conversations.

Radio Script: 

Susan Lewis: Jeffrey Siegel says the opening of Beethoven’s "Moonlight Sonata" was revolutionary for its time.

MUSIC: Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata"

Jeffrey Siegel: You expect the first movement of a sonata in Beethoven’s time to be bright and vivacious. Yet here’s a brooding, somber, introspective piece.

SL: Beautiful music – that also has a powerful back story.

JS:  He’s just turned 30. He is beginning to realize that the hearing loss is not imaginary - it's real, and it's getting worse. 

SL:  Siegel shares with the audience an anecdote before he plays each piece. Sometimes the stories illuminate process  – how, for example, Rachmaninoff created the 18th of his 24 variations on a theme of Paganini.

MUSIC: The melody from Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

JS: He takes the first few notes of Paganini’s melody, makes one small change from this, to this, and turns it upside down.

The joy of sharing how these pieces came to be – they didn’t fall out of the sky fully formed - is a great privilege for me, and it makes them realize how important an addition to these great works of music can be.

SL: Siegel performs his Keyboard Conversations in 20 cities in the United States, as well as in London.

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Pianist Jeffrey Siegel talks about the stories behind Debussy's Claire de Lune, Rachmaninov's Variations on a Theme of Paganini, and Beethoven's Moonlight sonata.

The first of Jeffrey Siegel’s three visits to the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia this season is a concert on Monday, November 16th called Classics Go Pop!, featuring music by Beethoven, Debussy, and Gershwin, among others