Beethoven Brought to Life

As music evolves more rapidly than at any other point in history, Robert deMaine and Peter Takács turn back the clock and breathe new life into the origins of modern music. The duo, both accomplished in their own right, came together for the first time at the 2008 Charleston Music Fest. The musicians’ keen ears were instantly able to recognize the harmonious symmetry that existed in their playing styles.

The internationally acclaimed pair stood before the eager audience last Wednesday night. The young and the old, international and American, student and faculty, all flocked together inside Winifred Smith Hall for the privilege of experiencing the world class sounds of these musicians — the product of tens of thousands of hours of practice and years of experience.

DeMaine took the stage with a confident and dignified stride. He walked with a certain sophisticated grace, as practiced and developed as his skill on the Violoncello (essentially a violin the size of an acoustic guitar).

Takács, an elderly gentleman crowned with white hair, followed suit and took his seat. The pair commenced with Beethoven’s “Judas Maccabeus.” Takács held the audience captive as he embarked on an Odyssean journey across the 88 black and white keys of the grand piano. DeMaine then seamlessly layered in, and the pair moved as one in dynamics, phrasing, body language and even breath.

The two exhibited a call and response pattern. One musician would play a fast and rhythmic passage while the other provided a steady background, and then they would switch. This technique not only highlighted the abundant talent of each musician but allowed them to complement and enhance each other.

After a storm of applause, the duo began “Opus 5, No. 2.” This somber contrast to the opening piece evoked a sad story that tugged at the hearts of all the audience members. The music spoke volumes without a single word.

Tensions rose and fell in a tidal fashion at the whim of the musicians. Calm preceded a combustion of rhythmic intensity that would settle for a moment before taking new shape. DeMaine’s connection with his instrument was like art. The bow seemed only an extension of his body. The instrument became the musician and the musician the instrument.

Followed by roaring applause and an intermission, the duo returned with “Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen.” A flurry of notes, nearly faster than the ear could detect, cascaded from the stage and then — silence. Silence said as much as the music. The audience sat yearning for the next note, but was denied until the last minute. The silence was as much a part of the music as any note.

Closing the set was Beethoven’s famous “Sonata in A Major.” As the song thick with repetition filled the chamber of the Smith hall, I couldn’t help but imagine the sheer dedication these men have devoted to their craft. As their calloused fingers played away, thoughts of the years of practice, the frustration, the discouragement, the perseverance, the joy and the accomplishment they must have felt throughout their careers was emotionally moving. It had all lead up to this moment, a moment in which they delivered a world class performance to an audience of appreciative concert goers.

Beethoven, himself, would have been pleased with the performance of these two masters. Audience members could only describe the concert as “amazing,” “incredible” and “a once in a lifetime” experience. UCI was privileged to host these masters and we can only hope that they continue to share their gifts with the world.