Nguyen tackles Beethoven sonata for CSRI

Giselle Nguyen practices No. 23, Opus 57 in F minor, the “Appassionata.”

(Cornell College): Professor of Music James Martin and senior Giselle Nguyen are no strangers.

“We met electronically before she ever came to Cornell, through emails,” Martin said.

“I have been working with Dr. Martin since my first year,” Nguyen added. “He was actually the first one I met on campus, and we have regular piano lessons.”

The talented pianist comes to Iowa from Vietnam, and ever since her arrival, she’s been preparing for her goals of becoming a professional performer and teacher. Part of that work includes participation in the Cornell Summer Research Institute (CSRI), working one-on-one with Martin on intensely researching Beethoven. They studied all 32 of the composer’s sonatas and practiced No. 23, Opus 57 in F minor, the “Appassionata,” for her final CSRI performance.

“This particular Beethoven sonata is one of the most difficult and one of the most famous,” Martin said. “This particular Beethoven sonata is very well-known and is highly regarded not only for its dramatic effect but also for its difficulties.”

The two were able to get right to work on their analysis and rehearsals during the eight-week institute because of their previous work together.

“There was no warm-up time in getting to know one another or how we work, we know how we work and we work very well together,” Martin said. “That’s been great and it has been great to have this concentrated time where she can work lots of hours every day just on this, just on being a pianist of Beethoven and on taking an analytical approach to studying Beethoven.”

Martin and Nguyen know that Beethoven is vital for Nguyen’s success as a pianist. His works are a foundational part of history and were a large part of the move from the classical period to the romantic period.

“Beethoven has a very unique way of unifying the work,” Nguyen said. “Each movement has modulations, which means the material is in different keys. Beethoven was the one who innovated upon the classical sonata form, more than any other composer.”

Nguyen said she has enjoyed every minute of CSRI, and Martin always enjoys hearing her perform the challenging works she has tackled.

“It’s a joy to have a pianist like Giselle who can play this piece,” Martin said. “I’ve really only had a couple of pianists over my career at Cornell who could have attempted this piece.”

Nguyen will use her new-found knowledge as she prepares for her senior recital and her audition for graduate school.

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