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10 Beethoven Sonatas in Eight Hours

Sunday, June 21

“It’s like running a marathon,” exclaims violinist Jacques Israelievitch. “Actually, like running two!”

Israelievitch and Japanese-American pianist Kanae Matsumoto will perform all 10 Beethoven violin sonatas over an eight-hour period, Sunday, June 21 in the superb acoustics of Gallery 345, at 345 Sorauren Avenue (east of Roncesvalles, two blocks south of Dundas St. W.).

Performances will take place over three sets between 1 and 9 p.m. – at 1 p.m. (No. 1-5), 4 p.m. (No. 6-8), and 7:30 p.m. (No. 9 and 10). Tickets are $25 per set or $65 for the whole day. For information and ticket reservations, call 416-822-9781, e-mail or visit Space is limited so music-lovers are advised to book early.

The performance is Israelievitch’s special salute to the Chautauqua Institution Music Festival in New York State, where for 10 summers he has taught and performed. Kanae Matsumoto is also on the faculty as a collaborative pianist.

“How crazy do you have to be to do this?” jokes Israelievitch. The violinist – who retired as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as concertmaster in 2008 – has played the Beethoven cycle several times before, but over three days, an experience he describes as “taking a bath in Beethoven.”

Part of his point in playing all 10 at one go is that some of them never get performed. “Because the Spring and Kreutzer Sonatas are so popular, they are played at the expense of the others.”

Beethoven wrote his 10 sonatas over a 15-year period, from 1797 to 1812 – the first half of them in the first five years (1797-1802). The first three were dedicated to his teacher, composer and conductor Antonio Salieri (arguably Mozart’s arch-rival). No. 9 is dedicated to the famed French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, and the last to the Archduke Rudolf of Austria.

Israelievitch appreciates that Beethoven was the first composer to make the violin and piano equal partners. Mozart – who, unlike Beethoven, actually played the violin – generally features the piano in his violin sonatas. “When a string quartet player complained that a first violin part that Beethoven had written was not very violinistic,” says Israelievitch, “Beethoven retorted, ‘When I’m writing music, do you think I’m just concerned about your miserable instrument?’ Despite that, violinists still love his music. It is difficult to play, but it is great music.”

What kind of endurance does such a marathon take? From his concertmaster days, Israelievitch is used to playing orchestra works that could last up to two hours. He has also played chamber music for fun for up to six hours at a stretch. “You just keep breathing, and stay loose,” he says, adding “The idea of a marathon appealed to me, and I think it will to audiences, too.”

Israelievitch and Matsumoto will repeat the Beethoven marathon on Sunday, July 19 at the Chautauqua Music Festival (

Violinist Jacques Israelievitch ( retired from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 2008, after 20 years as the orchestra’s longest-serving concertmaster. In that time, he conducted concerts and premiered a number of works written for him. A highly regarded soloist, chamber musician and recording artist, he holds a knighthood in the Order of Arts and Letters from his native France, and was promoted to Officer in 2004. In 2008, the Toronto Musicians’ Association presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award. He is currently assistant professor of violin and viola performance at York University.

Pianist Kanae Matsumoto has appeared as a soloist in recital halls in Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan and the U.S. She began her training and received her master’s in piano performance in her native Japan. Based in Los Angeles, she performs more than 50 concerts a year as a collaborative pianist, mainly in the L.A. area. Next season, she will play frequent recitals for the Consortium of Southern California Chamber Music, as a winner of the Beverly Hills Audition. Since 2006, she has been on the faculty of UCLA, where she had obtained her Master’s and Doctoral degrees, receiving a number of scholarships and awards.