In honour of what would have been his 250th birthday, a Sparwood native is working towards recording and performing all 32 piano sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven in the year 2020.
Jesse Plessis, now a resident of Montreal, will be performing the Waldstein and Appassionata sonatas and other classics at Fernie’s Mountainside Community Church on June 28.
“I really like them as a pair,” said Plessis. “Because they were written around the same time that Beethoven learned about the inevitability of his deafness. I like to call them the big twin sister sonatas.”
“Appassionata is really rough and negative while Waldstein is heroic and courageous,” he said. “It appears to me he is lamenting this huge negative thing but then he turns it around and says he’s going to go on no matter what. He’ll continue being a musician and a composer, even if he’s deaf.”
A pianist and composer in his own right, Plessis began studying piano at the age of thirteen and began composing shortly thereafter.
“I had an unconditionally supportive family,” he said. “Through whatever whims I wanted to pursue, they were always right behind me.”
Plessis described growing up in Sparwood as “really wonderful in a lot of ways.”
Though he never had the advantages a classical musician might have had growing up in a big city, Plessis said he still had good teachers and the quiet and closeness to nature that came with living in a sleepy mountain town.
“In the long run it ended up being beneficial I think. I had perhaps a little less guidance and more of an unorthodox musical education than a lot of classical musicians,” he said. “I would say I lucked out in a way a number of other musicians did not.”
The legendary Beethoven’s hearing began to deteriorate when he was in his late 20s and by the last decade of his life he was almost completely deaf. Despite this he was a prolific composer.
“Even when he was popular and established, he had this inner need to surpass himself,” he said.
After high school Plessis earned a bachelors degree at the University of Lethbridge and his master’s degree at the University of Brandon. He studied both the piano’s interpretation and composition.
He is now pursuing his doctorate at the University of Montreal and the Beethoven project will be big part of the task.
Catch Jesse on Wednesday night at Mountainside Community Church, 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the door and cost $20 for adults and $18 for seniors and youth.