Ludwig Van Beethoven, piano, Seymour Benstein

Seymour Bernstein’s legendary Op. 111 (Beethoven)

In our 21st Century digital age of Mp4s, CD’s, You Tube channeled uploads, and live-streamed recitals, it’s a wonder that a performer can bridge the distance from his audience and move listeners to heights of emotional ecstasy.

One such exemplary performance of Beethoven’s Op. 111, delivered through a modest recorder placed beside Vladimir Horowitz’s piano, lends credence to an aesthetic ascent far and above its limits of transmission. Fostered by an intimate reconnection to the past, the performer, Seymour Bernstein woos us into a time-defying cosmos, rekindling his “out of body” experience at this historic piano. (It’s a gift to humanity and music lovers.) Beethoven would have been touched.

Awestruck by a story and performance that seemed destiny driven, I was one of those riveted to the details described by Bernstein on video. As he memorialized the experience in his colorful recollection, Seymour had planned a recital at Tully Hall in 1969 that coincided with the Juilliard School’s relocation to Lincoln Center and a ceremonial launch at the hall. As enticement to accept an alternate Tully performance date, Seymour was offered free use of the space, and unlimited complimentary publicity. He could not resist!

What ensued is what legends are made of.

Seymour’s pre-recital rehearsal at Steinway Hall on 57th, tied to selection of a concert grand, occasioned an alert to the presence of Horowitz’s piano (left unlocked for Bernstein), which set off a memorable chain of events.

Within easy reach of Volodya’s 9 foot piano, CD-503, Bernstein approached it reverently, sat down, placed his recorder beside him, and played through one of the featured masterworks on his recital program.

According to Seymour, his 1969 encounter with Beethoven’s towering late sonata, Op. 111 was spiritually uplifting.

“I felt as though I left my body–like I wasn’t playing at all–the piano itself had taken on all the proportions of Op. 111.”

In truth, the music inspires to a level of untoward greatness, making this performance one of the rare touchstone’s of beauty!

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