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WATCH: Steinway Café Pays Tribute To Beethoven's 250th Birthday

The Steinway Café series features artists who would typically be performing live on the air in our Cedar Falls studio on our newly refurbished 1918 Steinway B piano, thanks to a grant from the W.T. and Edna M. Dahl Trust. Until we're safely back in the studio, stream performances live on our Facebook, YouTube, or watch them at

Watch a virtual performance by pianist Dmitri Vorobiev including all three movements of the famous work known by many as the "Moonlight Sonata."

Over the noon hour on Thursday, October 22, IPR Classical’s Virtual Steinway Café will musically be hosting citizen of the world, Moscow, Russia native, Dmitri Vorobiev.

Starting piano at five, Vorobiev attended the music college of the Moscow State Conservatory, received his bachelor’s in the U.S. at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, his master’s from the Manhattan School of Music, and his D.M.A. in Piano Performance from the University of Michigan.

He won Italy’s Casagrande International Piano Competition in 1994 and has performed across South Africa, Italy, and the US. Vorobiev also has been a major prize winner in the Busoni, Cincinnati World, Ibla Grand Prize, A.M.A. Calabria, Iowa, and Alabama international piano competitions. Currently, a distinguished professor of Piano at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Vorobiev formerly served as professor of piano at the University of Northern Iowa School of Music. Vorobiev also co-founded UNI’s four-year International Piano Competition with UNI’s Sean Botkin and was a professor at the International Music Academy of Pilsen.

A tribute to Beethoven

An avid Ludwig van Beethoven enthusiast and performer, Vorobiev will perform a special Beethoven recital directly from the University of North Carolina in Winston-Salem’s Watson Chamber Music Hall. He guarantees a few Beethoven secrets and insights for good measure.

He'll start with Beethoven’s lighthearted and energetic “Rondo, Op. 51, No. 1 in C.” Dating from 1797, this early composition displays a mischievous amalgamation of unbending intensity with a lively spirit.

Dmitri Vorobiev's program

Ludwig van Beethoven
Rondo in C major op. 51 #1

Sonata in C major op. 2 #3
1. Allegro con brio
2. Adagio
3. Scherzo: Allegro
4. Allegro assai

Allegretto WoO 53

Klavierstuck Lustig und traurig WoO 54

Bagatelle WoO 52

Franz Schubert
Two Klavierstucke from D. 946

Ludwig van Beethoven
Sonata in C sharp minor op. 27 #1 "Sonata quasi una fantasia"
1. Adagio sostenuto
2. Allegretto
3. Presto agitato

Beethoven was only 17 when he met and hoped to study with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Vienna in 1787. News of Beethoven’s mother’s imminent death sent him back home to Bonn. Regretfully five years later, after Mozart’s death, he successfully made it to Vienna to study with Joseph Haydn. He already by this time was known as a superb pianist, improviser, and composer. He viewed piano sonatas not only as a concert work but as a barometer of his own creations.

Beethoven’s first masterpiece!

Known by some as Beethoven’s first masterwork, Vorobiev will present the “Sonata in C, Op. 2, No. 3” which he dedicated to Haydn in 1795. Symphonic in length, and boasting four demanding movements, the work calls for an extraordinary pianist. Beethoven intertwines double trills, wild dynamic fluctuations, unexpected syncopations, harmonic surprises with unanticipated modulations, abrupt tempo and mood transformations, plus an amazing transition between the Scherzo and final Allegro Assai movement.

Vorobiev turns next to the first of three short early works by Beethoven, the “Allegretto Without Opus (WoO) 53.” Following next is Beethoven’s enigmatic “Klavierstück Lustig und traurig WoO 54,” also known as the piano pieces, “Happy and Sad.” This puzzling work carries no manuscript date or reveals any clues to its genesis.

The third in Vorobiev’s small-scale set includes Beethoven’s “Bagatelle, WoO 52 in c minor.” Some music historians believe that Beethoven originally “might” have thought about incorporating this presto as a scherzo movement in his “Sonata No. 5 in c minor, Op. 10, No. 1.” Writer and pianist, Charles Rosen claims that the key of c minor was Beethoven’s perception of presenting the performer as the protagonist. Author and musicologist George Grove penned in 1898, “The key of c minor occupies a particular position in Beethoven’s compositions. The pieces for which he has employed it are, with very few exceptions, remarkable for their beauty and importance.” While his presto was published posthumously, during his lifetime, Beethoven did revise it at least twice.

Vorobiev subsequently follows with the first two works from
Franz Schubert’s “Three Piano Pieces, D. 926.” Schubert, a long-time champion of Beethoven, never met him in person but idolized his music.

How "Moonlight Sonata" got it's name

One of the most remarkable and popular works of Beethoven’s early period was his “Sonata in c-sharp minor Op. 27, No. 1.” Beethoven composed his famous “Moonlight Sonata” in 1801, a year prior to his “Heilegenstadt Testament.”

In a poignant correspondence to his brothers, Beethoven acknowledged that “I would have ended my life – it was only my art that held me back.” At this point, he was not yet completely deaf, but his hearing was becoming compromised. It was during this year he also dedicated his 14th Sonata to his student the Countess Giulietta Guicciardi. The “Moonlight Sonata” acquired its nickname following Beethoven’s death, when German poet, Ludwig Rellstab compared the opening Adagio sosteuto to drifting in a boat on Lake Lucerne during the moonlight.

Beethoven’s own subtitle Sonata quasi una fantasia or "the Sonata in the manner of a fantasia" alludes to Beethoven’s more open and spontaneous approach. The Adagio sostenuto sets a faraway, solemn tone with the gentle use of broken chords. But wait, the sonata is not over yet. Beethoven’s arpeggios produce and shape the structure of the entire three-movement work. The energetic Allegretto second movement serves as the perfect transition from the introductory Adagio sostenuto to the stormy and passionate Presto agitato. The tumultuous Presto agitato movement fleetingly pauses before Beethoven dramatically crescendos into a magnificent close.

Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” will be Vorobiev’s powerful conclusion to an afternoon paying tribute to the 250th Anniversary of Beethoven’s birth and his musical legacy.

Dr. Dmitri Vorobiev’s Virtual Steinway Café concert will be live on October 22 at noon on IPR’s Facebook, YouTube, and streaming at

Jacqueline Halbloom is a Sr. Music Producer and Classical Music Host