Now Hear This: an Interview with Alex McDonald, Festival Director and pianist
Dr. Alex McDonald is well-known to our audience as the Basically Beethoven Festival Director: if you’ve attended the concerts you have heard his introductions, his phenomenal playing, and his groan-inducing musical puns. Here he gives our audience insight into the 2019 Festival and the June 21 program in particular, when he will be one of the Featured Performers.
Where did the name Basically Beethoven come from? When FACP Co-Founder Rogene Russell founded the concert series, Mostly Mozart had been making waves in New York City for more than a decade. I think that’s where the alliterative part of the name came from. As to why ‘Beethoven,’ I think he was chosen because of his incredible appeal, passion, and his role at a turning point in the development of art music.
Why come to Basically Beethoven? What if someone doesn’t know much about classical music? Firstly -- its free! But perhaps more importantly, Basically Beethoven has great music of all kinds! We hope to have something for everyone: from the humorous to the profound, the sweet to soulful, sad to joyful. Our programming features both treasured classics to new, award-winning works. And, as an added bonus, our world-class artists are local. If the performance inspires you to want to know more or even pursue your own musical journey, the performers live relatively close by!
Is there a specific piece being performed for the Festival this year that you’re particularly excited about? I am excited to present Schumann’s piano quintet - which is a long-time favorite. And the chance to perform Beethoven’s Piano Trio op. 1, no 1 (his first published work) is very exciting to me.
What’s your job like as festival director? Do you have a favorite part of the gig - programming, performing, people, etc.? This is an easy one. My favorite part by far is just listening to the music! Moody is such a great performance space, and the artists are such incredible communicators. The repertoire they choose is a wonderful extension of who they are as people. It feeds my soul and challenges me to go practice!
There are a lot of composers featured throughout the festival other than Beethoven. How do you decide who and what to program every week? I always like to hear from the artists about what they want to play. To me, this helps keep the sense of creativity and interest and variety.
2020 will be Beethoven’s 250th birthday and the 40th annual Basically Beethoven Festival. Are there big plans in the works, and can you offer a sneak peak of anything to come? There are big plans! No hints yet - but stay tuned. We are beyond excited at what is to come.