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Pianist Jeffrey Siegel returns to continue his 'Keyboard Conversations' with Gallo Center audiences

Jeffrey Siegel
Jeffrey Siegel

Interested in classical music but intimidated because you don't know much about it? Or maybe you're a huge fan who wants to get deeper into the genre?

Pianist Jeffrey Siegel's Keyboard Conversations, which begin next week at the Gallo Center for the Arts, are designed for you.

The four-concert series kicks off with a program on "The Power and Passion of Beethoven."

Those who attend will find out the back story on "Für Elise" (who was she and why did Beethoven compose this for her?), why the Moonlight Sonata got its name and who was leaving when Beethoven wrote the Farewell Sonata in E Flat.

Future conversations will be "An American Salute" (Dec. 5), "The Longevity of the Short Piece (Jan. 30) and "Musical Pictures" (Feb. 27).

The shows aren't lectures with musical examples. Siegel plays all the pieces in their entirety, giving commentary and answering audience questions following the performances.

"It works best as a series because of the contrasts among the four concerts, four different composers, four different ideas," Siegel said in a phone interview from Milwaukee, where he was preparing to perform one of the shows. "Once people get used to it, they want to come back and hear other programs."

Siegel performs his Keyboard Conversations at 23 cities across the country. His first show in Modesto in April was so successful that the Gallo Center invited him back for a full series this season. He got the idea to stage the series in response to audience requests.

"Many people would say to me, 'I love classical music and I listen to classical music but I wish I could get more out of the classical music experience than just the ear wash of sound,' " Siegel said.

With the lecture format, listening is more meaningful, more enhanced, he said.

Siegel adopts an informal tone and takes care not to use technical language. Concertgoers don't have to worry about when to clap or what to wear. All he asks is that they bring an open mind and a willing ear. It's not a family concert, but interested children could attend.

While some around the country lament the decline in interest in classical music, Siegel is not worried, because of the enthusiasm he sees for Keyboard Conversations.

"There are many, many people of all ages who feel rightly that they are missing something not to have Beethoven in their lives," he said. The composer's music "reaches out and touches every human being who thinks and feels, whether that's a 15-year-old or an 85-year-old."