How pianist Mauro Ledesma will celebrate his 30th birthday

By Fredric Dannen

On the occasion of his 23rd birthday, the English poet John Milton wrote a sonnet lamenting that he had grown so old and accomplished so little, although he still had faith that his best work was ahead of him. He completed his masterpiece, Paradise Lost, in his late fifties. Writers generally take longer to blossom than composers – a lucky circumstance for music lovers, when you consider that many of the greatest composers never even survived to their fifties.

Mauro Ledesma: Piano Recital
“Celebrando Mis 30”
Fri, Dec 20, 8pm
Teatro Angela Peralta
Tickets from 100 pesos

The talented San Miguel pianist Mauro Ledesma turns 30 this month, and he has decided to commemorate his birthday not with a lament, but with a celebration. Ledesma is giving a piano recital at the Teatro Ángela Peralta on December 20, and for the occasion he is performing only works composed by 30-year-olds. He has had a lot of superb music from which to choose, and he has chosen wisely.

Ludwig von Beethoven was 30 when he wrote his Piano Sonata in A flat major, Op. 26, a groundbreaking work that Ledesma will play at his birthday concert. It is a four-movement work billed as a sonata, and yet not a single movement is in sonata form. The opening is a theme and variations, and the third movement is a funeral march. The sonata was Frédéric Chopin’s favorite composition by Beethoven, and it is no coincidence that Chopin’s own second piano sonata also contains a marche funèbre.

Chopin, for his part, was 30 years old when he wrote his Ballade in F major, another work that Ledesma will perform. Composed on the Spanish island of Majorca, and dedicated to Robert Schumann, the F major is the second of four ballades by Chopin – a musical form that Chopin more or less invented. The four ballades are among Chopin’s most popular works, and have two things in common: they are all in compound meter (either 6/4 or 6/8 time); and they are all fiendishly difficult to play. After a dreamy, fairy-tale opening, the Ballade in F takes off in a violent presto con fuoco that requires many hours in the practice room.

To further demonstrate his theatrical courage, Ledesma will also perform Edvard Grieg’s Piano Sonata in E minor, another work of considerable difficulty. Grieg first composed the sonata at age 22, but he continued to revise it, and Ledesma says the version he will perform dates from the composer’s 30th year. It is Grieg’s only piano sonata, and it begins with a sort of musical signature: the first three notes in the right hand, E, B, G, spell the composer’s initials. (Grieg’s middle name was Hagerup, but in German notation, the note B equals the letter H.)

Ledesma’s piano recital will also include works by two Russian composers: the Prelude, Op. 23 No. 5, by Sergei Rachmaninoff; and the March, Op. 33, by Sergei Prokofiev, a selection from his satiric opera The Love For Three Oranges transcribed for solo piano by the composer.


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