Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

Beethoven – As I Knew Him

The Music of Ludwig van Beethovenhershey_beethoven

Text by Hershey Felder

Directed by Joel Zwick

At Drury Lane Water Tower Place

Hershey Felder’s mesmerizing performance channels Beethoven’s soul

There isn’t an artist alive who is more effective at the art of a one person show than Hershey Felder. His Gershwin Alone and his Monsieur Chopin played to enthusiastic audiences here and around the world. Felder combines the the life story of his subject with samples of their music as he becomes his subject in a most believable manner.

With Beethoven – As I Knew Him, Felder’s finest work to date, Felder, sporting a thick yet understandable German accent, presents Beethoven utilizing the memories of Dr. Gerhard von Breuning from his 1870 writing about when he met Beethoven when he was a child in the 1820’s.

Hershey Felder as Beethoven
Hershey Felder as Beethoven

From the start, Felder has a unique ability to communicate with his audience that allows him to so thoroughly engage them that they listen intently to every word and every musical note. It was if the audience had to pass an exam about Beethoven that got them to concentrate so deeply. I have never experience an audience so completely mesmerized by a performance as I did the night I saw Felder’s show. (November 25, 2009)

Felder takes us into Breuning’s memories of meeting Beethoven as our portal into the composer’s life.  We learn about Beethoven’s world, his abusive father, his commitment to his brothers and, of course, his passionate pursuit of his music. Felder mixes stories, biographical information with explanations and examples of Beethoven’s musical style and technique. Felder demonstrates his skills as an actor, pianist,  teacher and showman.  Felder teaches  how Beethoven loved to create music in the key of C Minor, how he structured his sonatas, and how he put his soul into his music creating deep emotionality.

Felder reinforces Beethoven’s style and influence by deftly playing several of  the master’s works including “Ode To Joy” and “Fur Elise.” It was amazing to witness the complete silence  from the captivated audience while Felder played Beethoven’s master works.  Felder’s Beethoven is a sadder, more emotionally compelling work that finds Felder reaching into his emotional core to present the agony of a man who lost his hearing and the only women he loved. It was Beethoven’s passion for his music that drove him to overcome his physical and psychological tortures to  creates his music. Felder effectively demonstrates the passion, drive, and absolute commitment that, with innate talent, drives the geniuses to create art. Felder teaches common folks elements of Beethoven’s technique so that they can appreciate his genius. That is Hershey Felder’s most valid contribution to the arts.

Beethoven – As I Knew Him is a fantastic, mesmerizing and completely engaging theatrical experience that will be one that you’ll not ever forget.  Hershey Felder is an amazing talent–as an actor, writer, teacher and pianists. He entertains, instructs, and gets us to experience some of the passion that all geniuses possess. When Felder plays Beethoven, it’s a show with two geniuses!  Beethoven – As I Knew Him is the most moving and intelligent one person show I’ve ever experienced. See this show and you’ll appreciate the amazing world that geniuses exist in. What a wonderful theatrical experience. Hershey Felder is a treasure.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At Drury Lane Water Tower Place, 175 East Chestnut, Chicago, IL

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