Classical music fans of Hillsdale College are in for a treat this week. Professor Brad Blackham, pianist and director of keyboard studies for the college, will perform three of Beethoven’s greatest pieces — the “Pathétique,” the “Tempest,” and the “Waldstein” — at his upcoming solo piano recital.
An all-Beethoven recital is a first for Blackham. In many ways, the performance is a lifetime in the making.
“When I was younger, I never really felt like I got Beethoven,” he said in an email. “I had played plenty of his music, but I always felt like I wasn’t doing it justice. I’m finally to a point where I get it. I hit my 40s, and suddenly I could see beyond the notes in the scores. All of the emotion and bits of Beethoven’s life that he poured into his music were much more visible to me.”
Blackham recalled the moment during his undergrad years that drove him to master Beethoven.
“My teacher heard a college student play a piano audition for a summer festival and she said, ‘Wow, he played that Beethoven sonata like a 40-year-old,’” Blackham recounted.
Teacher of music Debra Wyse, a colleague of Blackham, said she will “absolutely” be attending the recital.
“You don’t often get to hear three Beethoven sonatas all in one performance,” she explained. “Brad Blackham is an amazing musician, and I’m excited to see what he does with the pieces.”
Junior Sam Musser has been studying piano with Blackham since his freshman year. He said Blackham’s attention to detail will make his performance of Beethoven particularly outstanding.
“In Beethoven’s sonatas, every little note, rest, slur, and tie means something,” said Musser. “Professor Blackham is very good at pulling out the little things and expanding on them. He understands how to get the most out of the piano.”
Musser added that the recital is a chance for people to get a deeper understanding of Blackham’s musical ability.
“A caricature of Professor Blackham is that his specialty is contemporary music simply because he’s extremely good at performing contemporary music and 20th and 21st century classical piano repertoire,” said Musser. “This is a good opportunity for them to see that his excellence in one area doesn’t detract from his excellence in another.”
As for Blackham, he hopes his audience sees his passion and admiration for Beethoven’s work through his performance.
“One of the best compliments that I can receive as an artist is when someone says that they heard me play something in a completely new way„” Blackham said. “My goal is to be able to convey how much I love these masterpieces, with the hope that everyone listening finds that same enjoyment and maybe hears something new.”
The performance will be Friday, Feb. 15 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 17 at 3:00 p.m. in Conrad Recital Hall. Tickets are free, but reservations are required.