Playing live all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas over three days is a huge undertaking. But it is one which pianist Joanna MacGregor has embraced as part of Canterbury Festival, which starts on Saturday, October 17.
This year marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth and we’re sponsoring this series of concerts. Beethoven famously went deaf and suffered badly from tinnitus. As Kent’s largest independent hearing company we know only too well how devastating this can be.
Joanna – one of the world’s most innovative musicians – will play all 32 of his piano sonatas over eight concerts, from Friday, October 23 to Sunday, October 25.
“This has been quite a lot of pressure as I have had to fit the practicing in around my normal work,” Joanna said.
In addition to a hectic schedule of teaching, Joanna also travels the world giving piano recitals and concerts. But, with lockdown earlier this year, her engagements booked from March to August were cancelled overnight.
“This meant that unusually I was at home and had extra time to practice,” Joanna said. However, her teaching commitments were not cancelled as they moved online.
“I run the piano department at the Royal Academy of Music so once lockdown started there were lots of things to sort out to get the teaching online. That part of my life became much busier,” she said.
She is now back teaching students at the Academy. Many of them went back to their own countries during lockdown and are now stuck there, trying to sort out problems caused by visa and quarantine rules.
“Musicians have always travelled widely for concert engagements and the current situation with travel is causing huge problems,” Joanna said.
However, life is slowly returning to some kind of normality, with Joanna taking part in her first live streamed performance. “I really enjoyed it,” she said. “We have all been forced to get used to doing things differently and doing more online.
“That’s why performing in Canterbury Festival is going to be so fantastic. It will be a live performance with a live audience. It is tremendous that they are going to go ahead and do this.
“I have had lots of contact with festival director Rosie Turner throughout. She’s been great in keeping in touch and discussing various options.
“Lots of the Beethoven anniversary concerts fell by the wayside so it is marvellous that Canterbury Festival has had the courage to do this and has faith in the audience to come along. I am really looking forward to coming to Canterbury and giving this live performance.”
Joanna spends at least six hours a day playing the piano, which she has to fit in with teaching commitments, running the Academy’s piano department and, before lockdown, concert performances arounds the world.
Although she has played many of the 32 sonatas before, there are six which she has never played and has had to learn from scratch.
“Fortunately, I have never lost my love of practicing,” Joanna said. “I adore being at the piano and I have always loved that aspect of being a musician.”
Listen to Joanna’s interview with festival director Rosie Turner.