North Hadley Congregational Church (243 River Drive, Hadley, MA 01035, Hadley MA)

Pianist Michael Arnowitt will perform his new program “Crossroads,” featuring a selection of highly personal, expressive and emotionally deep pieces old and new, from the classical masters of the past to music of today’s Ukraine.

 The major work on the program is Beethoven’s Sonata no. 31 in A-flat major. Written near the end of Beethoven’s life as his health was deteriorating rapidly, this visionary sonata, often considered Beethoven’s most emotional, touches upon themes of gratitude, struggle, healing, and resurrection. Leaving the physical world of the piano’s hammers and strings, Beethoven takes us on inner journeys to sounds Beethoven could not hear in the external world due to his deafness, but could in his own imagination.

 **Another highlight of the program are three pieces by the present-day Ukrainian composer Victoria Poleva. Just a few weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine a year ago, Poleva sent Arnowitt a dozen of her unpublished piano pieces. She is currently a refugee due to the war, living in  Germany. Michael Arnowitt will perform her dramatic 2011 composition “Sonata quasi una fantasia,” her soulful 2019 “Ischia Island,” and her tender “Music that is not yet” from her 2008 set of pieces “Marginalia.”** Through his performing of her music in Canada and the United States, Michael Arnowitt is trying to raise appreciation of the absorbing and  profound music  of this outstanding composer of today’s Ukraine.

 The program is rounded out with a variety of colorful and imaginative shorter works. Three Debussy études take us on interesting adventures into the French composer’s unique world of spacious sonorities, bells, water imagery, and experiences that go beyond sound to evoke touch and our other senses. Michael Arnowitt’s recent composition “Bi Bim Bach” mixes music in the style of Bach fugues with bebop jazz as pioneered by Bud Powell and Dizzy Gillespie. The program also includes poetic miniatures by Schoenberg from his early Expressionist period, music wonderfully human and intense, influenced by the composer’s pursuing an interest in painting and his friendship with adventurous artists of that era such as Kandinsky and Marc of the Blue Rider group. 

The pieces on the program reflect music whose expressive character the pianist believes is well-suited to his musical personality. Michael Arnowitt says, “Through these composers who did not shy away from exploring our innermost selves, these pieces touch our deepest emotions and spiritual yearnings.”