« Baltimore Symphony and the three Bs: Beethoven, Bartok, Barber | Main | Epilogue to the story of Leonard Slatkin's unfortunate night at the Metropolitan Opera »

June 7, 2010

Anne Koscielny concludes Beethoven piano sonata cycle at HCC

There's a Mt. Everest element to Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas. Some pianists feel they have to scale them because they're there; others because they find the music irresistible -- all of it, not just the real popular sonatas or the most physically demanding ones or the philosophically deepest ones.

I'm pretty sure that Anne Koscielny is one of those keyboard artists who truly finds abundant interest in the whole canon, a passion that accounts for the fact that she has performed the complete cycle several times in her career, most recently -- and possible for the last time -- in a season-long series presented by Howard Community College. I didn't get to catch up with this series until the last installment at Smith Theatre on Sunday afternoon, a make-up date for a concert originally scheduled back in January and called on account of snow (remember snow?). I confess that I had never heard of this pianist until receiving news of her Beethoven cycle at HCC back in the fall (I'm sure she's never heard of me, either), but I'm grateful for Sunday's introduction.

It's easy to forget that there are all sorts of gifted musicians in the world who don't have mighty PR machines behind them, wise and well-seasoned artists who don't produce lots of flash. The Massachusetts-based Koscielny has paid her dues in a variety of ways over a long career that has combined concertizing with teaching. She struck me on Sunday as a

sober, no-nonsense pianist who has considered the Beethoven sonatas for a long time and from every angle. Her performance had a lived-in quality. Not that anything was taken for granted; there was a lot of spontaneity to go with an almost always rock-solid technique.

Beethoven didn't necessarily write LOL music, but he could be very amusing, and Koscielny conveyed that element delectably in Sonata No. 16 in G and, especially, Sonata No. 22 in F, which inspired crisp, colorful playing. The composer's most serious, darkly lyrical side found extraordinary release in the Largo from Sonata No. 7, and the pianist tapped into that music with affecting eloquence. Koscielny's account of the "Waldstein" Sonata also proved effective. She took her time -- she's the opposite of the speed demons who tear out of conservatories today -- and made the music speak poetically, not just dramatically. The way she eased into the finale's main theme was particularly beautiful.

There was abundant power as required throughout the recital, but the thoughtful musicality behind the pianism that left the greatest impression.


Posted by Tim Smith at 10:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
View the Artsmash blog

Baltimore Sun coverage
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop
Famous faces in classical music
Sign up for FREE entertainment alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for nightlife text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Weekend Watch newsletter
Plan your weekend with's best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV picks and more delivered to you every Thursday for free.
See a sample | Sign up

Most Recent Comments
Stay connected