Hershey Felder: BEETHOVEN highlights the man behind the genius

Beethoven, it’s one of those names that make music lovers sigh in appreciation and piano students vow to practice even harder. There is no doubt that his music is dynamic, complex, and captivating; not unlike the man himself it turns out. In HERSHEY FELDER: BEETHOVEN, now playing at the San Diego Repertory Theatre through March 24th, Felder explores the man, the myth, and the music.

Photo Credit: Hershey Felder, Beethoven (Christopher Ash)

The show opens and closes at the cemetery where a young Viennese Doctor, who counted Beethoven as both a teacher and a family friend of his father’s. He is telling the story of Beethoven’s life as a plea to a committee to honor the composers wishes and not to bury his body underground, but to leave it above so his illness can one day be identified.

What follows is a powerful one man show that humanizes the genius we all envision when we think of Beethoven. Instead by highlighting his difficult childhood, family relationships, and the loneliness and isolation that he must have felt as his hearing began to fade it only makes this genius more remarkable.

Many of his famous works were composed when his hearing was the most compromised, which also begs the question of how does one create art when you don’t have the facility to enjoy your creation and hear the final composition come together? It’s like a chef without the sense of taste; you can see people enjoying it but never experience it yourself.

Felder brings both the Doctor and Beethoven to life well, and his empathy for the musician and his circumstances is clear. Of course, as a celebrated musician himself Beethoven’s unique predicament must be even more potent to Felder.

The music is of course fantastic. Felder plays everything from the Pathetique Sonata, Für Elise, and of course, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (“Ode to Joy”) among others. Felder’s music fully uses the instrument from the light, delicate, and airy, to playing it as the powerful percussion instrument that it is (strings are struck by hammers = technically a percussion instrument).

Scenic design by Hershey Felder with lighting and projection by Christopher Ash compliment the story and provide a lovely, and slightly eerie air as a background for the show to ply out upon.

If you are a fan of Beethoven, music, or even just an interesting foray into the life of an ordinary man who became a musical genius then HERSHEY FELDER: BEETHOVEN is a show you so not want to miss.

HERSHEY FELDER: BEETHOVEN is playing at the San Diego Repertory Theatre through March 24th. For ticket and show time information go to www.sdrep.org

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