Silverman's Beethoven Cycle Continues in San Jose

Canadian pianist Robert Silverman, whose artistry has made him an audiophile legend, is set to continue his complete Beethoven Sonata Cycle Series in San Jose, CA. The four remaining concerts are scheduled for February 3 and 10 and April 7 and 14 in the excellent acoustic of San Jose's Le Petit Trianon Theatre. All proceeds from the performances will benefit the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.

Producer of the series, Michael Silver of Audio High in Mountain View, CA, has retained Marc Wilsher to make high-resolution digital recordings of the entire series. Judging from an unedited hi-res master of the first movement of Beethoven's "Waldstein" sonata, the clarity and truthfulness of Silverman's sound in Le Petit Trianon are first-class.

The recordings could be as revelatory as the recordings that John Atkinson and Ray Kimber have and continued to make of Silverman performing other repertoire. Stereophile will release a new recording of Brahms' Handel Variations and Schumann's Symphonic Études later this year, and IsoMike has recently released a 7-CD set of Silverman performing all the Mozart piano sonatas. (JA's photo shows Robert performing a Mozart sonata at the 2010 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.)

After Steve Hoffman masters the Beethoven recordings, they will become available later this year in both redbook CD and hi-res download formats. All proceeds will again benefit children at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.

The quality of the sound suggests that attending the live events is mandatory for lovers of fine pianism. Surprisingly, it appears easier to lure Bay Area audiophiles to equipment demos that include hi-res files than to live performances by a living master performing in an exceptional acoustic.

February 3's concert includes two "name" sonatas, "Tempest" and "Les Adieux." February 10 includes the "Pathétique," and April 7 the knuckle-breaking "Hammerklavier." The final performance in the series, on April 14, concludes with Beethoven's final piano sonata, No.32 in c, Op.111.

Silver, who has studied and played many of the Beethoven sonatas, and is extremely familiar with all the major recordings (and recent live performances by Andras Schiff), speaks with excitement about Silverman's most recent performances in San Jose. "I was sitting in the back room listening with headphones, making marks in my score as Robert was playing the Op.27, No.2 "Moonlight" sonata in C-sharp minor, when I heard someone in the audience gasp and make a comment about how beautiful it was," he reports. "They were so taken by his playing that they couldn't help speaking. That's how special it was.

"Silverman's Op.109 almost moved me to tears. He has this uncanny ability to bring out the inner voices. He has a sense of line in the music that enables you to hear things that other pianists do not bring out. When he plays, he understands the music in a way that you probably haven't before no matter how many times you've heard it. The last movement of the 109 was an absolutely amazing performance. I'm thrilled to be doing this."

A major benefit

Details of how the proceeds will benefit the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford have been refined since the concert series commenced. In addition to Elf Foundation Rooms of Magic on every floor of the hospital's new wing, set for completion in 2016, the non-profit wing of Silver's Audio High is donating $70,000 plus all the labor necessary to upgrade an existing audio-visual room built in the hospital by 49ers quarterback Steve Young. Additional significant donations from SIM2, Stewart Filmscreen, Kaleidescape, and other companies are enabling Silver to upgrade equipment, install a high-grade media server, and stock the room with hundreds of children's films.

"It will be a huge, huge transformation," says Silver of work that will begin in February. "Everyone is thrilled about it. Hopefully publicity from the concerts will encourage additional companies to donate."

Silver and his wife have spent the last 13 years establishing and supporting their non-profit that helps raise money for cystic fibrosis research and other causes. The couple's daughter, now 17, lives with cystic fibrosis, and has been treated at Stanford Hospital since birth. Every sale at Audio High contributes to the non-profit, 100% of whose fundraising goes to non-profit organizations.

Silverman is also performing the entire cycle in Vancouver's Jazz Cellar on Broadway. For his thoughts on his ongoing cycle, click here.