25 Years of Great Music and Conversation
September 13, 2017
2017-2018 marks 25 years of Jeffrey Siegel presenting his popular Keyboard Conversations® concerts on our Great Performances at Mason series. His enlightening performances have entertained and educated countless audiences, helping to bridge the gap between music novices and aficionados. We asked him to reflect on his time at the Center.
Q: Have there been any particular moments that stand out to you over the last 25 years of presenting concerts at the Center for the Arts?
Jeffrey Siegel: In a program a few years ago, I discussed and performed an ethereal work that Beethoven wrote late in his life after deafness engulfed him. It is the furthest thing from extrovert, showy music—on the contrary, it is music of deep introspection. Our wonderful audience listened with rapt attention, was deeply moved by this special music, and applauded afterward with deep appreciation for this magnificent music.
I also remember at the traditional Q&A that concludes each of my programs that a young boy freed himself from his parent and boldly asked “how many hours a day did Mozart have to practice?!”
Q: Are there any changes in audiences over the years?
Jeffrey Siegel: I believe our attention span has been greatly shortened, and it is therefore a challenge for audience and performer to deal with this reality. I did a program a few years back titled Schubert in the Age of the Sound Byte. On this program was a lengthy, intimate Schubert Sonata that seemingly would be out of place in our age yet, once again, our wonderful audience listened with rapt attention and were most generous with their applause.
Q: How do you decide which programs you’ll present?
Jeffrey Siegel: This is always a challenge for me. The piano repertoire is a vast treasure house of incredible music and there are so many compositions I would love to share with the audience. Every program has a "theme." For example, November 5’s A French Musical Feast will include works of several different French composers, including Debussy’s ever-popular Clair de lune. Is there a "musical trait" that seems particularly "French"? Yes, the sheer beauty of the sound itself, and this will be demonstrated throughout the pre-performance discussion and then in the performance.
Q: Why did you choose to open this season with A Bernstein Birthday Bash?
Jeffrey Siegel: Because all over the musical world, the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein is being celebrated. Our program will include piano arrangements of various Songs from West Side Story, as well as rarely played little known piano pieces of Bernstein, including an unpublished one which was given to me by Bernstein's biographer after he heard one of my Keyboard Conversations® programs in New York. I felt I was carrying on Lenny's tradition of talking about music just before performing a work so as to make the listening experience richer for the avid music lover and accessible and inviting for the novice. Indeed, this is the goal of all the Keyboard Conversations® performances. Bernstein was highly influenced by specific works of two other American composers, Aaron Copland, and George Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blue), and their works will be on this special program as well.
Tickets to all of Jeffrey Siegel’s Keyboard Conversations® concerts are on sale now. A Bernstein Birthday Bash kicks off his 25th anniversary season in just one month! Tickets and more information.