My published work has mostly focused on music and politics: the place of music in political institutions, the role of music in public life, and the ways in which music produces social attachments and collective identity – as well as issues of political appropriation, subversion, musical trashiness, and political kitsch.
I’ve just finished a new book on the deep history of music and markets: the historical complicity of aesthetic and economic discourses in European and colonial centers in the long eighteenth century (a lot of this involves the music, career, and global dispersion of Joseph Haydn).
My first book Political Beethoven (2013) re-examined the politically charged rhetoric of Beethoven’s music and its later reception, and argued for relationships between his now canonical music and the popular culture and political schlock of the Napoleonic era, including his own alleged potboilers. The essays in the volume The Invention of Beethoven and Rossini (ed. with Benjamin Walton in 2013) deconstructed the fraught opposition between the two eponymous composers, and the artistic and philosophical traditions they came to represent.
I’m also a pianist, reponsible for the music department’s magnificent collection of nineteenth-century pianos, which includes two superb copies of Viennese instruments after Walter (c. 1790) and Graf (c. 1820) by the master American builder Rod Regier, a London Erard (1854), a rare Wilhelm Wieck (c. 1860), a Steinway (1872), and a Bechstein (1900). Please get in touch if you would like to use any of these pianos: they are there to be played.
The year 2020 marked the 250th birthday of Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770 — 1827). Just a year later than originally planned, we three organizations will join to honor the span of Beethoven’s creative life by presenting his music on two different fortepianos representing the middle and late periods of his musical style. UC Berkeley Music Professor Nicholas Mathew will perform Beethoven pieces from these periods, with a thoughtful and historical informed performance practice.
The earlier piano is a replica of an 1800 model by the Schanz brothers. The instrument is part of UCSC’s collection, and is lightweight, with a range of 5 1/3 octaves. UC Berkeley contributes the second instrument, a reconstruction of Conrad Graf’s 1820 model -- a somewhat heavier and larger piano, with a range of 6 1/2 octaves. Beethoven’s style evolved significantly over the course of his life, in a way that influenced the course of musical culture. Equally influential was the piano itself, whose rapid transformations during the early 19th century not only reflected composers’ changing musical values but also made new musical thoughts possible.
To trace the intertwined development of Beethoven’s music and that of the piano is our inspiration for this concert. Proceeds will benefit equally the three collaborating presenters. Thanks to the UCSC Division of the Arts for their generous support.