Category Archive for: ‘Go See’

Hershey Felder brings his Beethoven show to TheatreWorks

Hershey Felder has become known for his one-man shows saluting famous composers like Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Fryderyk Chopin and George Gershwin, among others.

Now he brings “Hershey Felder, Beethoven” to TheatreWorks Silicon Valley.

As in the other shows, he talks about and plays his subject’s music on the piano. Usually he speaks in the subject’s voice.

This time, however, he assumes the persona of Dr. Gerhard von Breuning, who was a boy in the 1820s when he met Ludwig van Beethoven, a friend of his father. By then the composer was quite deaf, and the boy thought he was a vagrant.

Beethoven (1770-1827) became the family’s neighbor and the boy’s teacher. In turn, the family and boy tried to look after him.

Felder, who does meticulous research, not only offers details about Beethoven’s life but also performs some of his music, such as the Moonlight Sonata, Für Elise, the first movement of the Fifth Symphony and the final movement, “Ode to Joy,” of his Ninth Symphony.

Noting Beethoven’s profound grief over the death of Mozart, he plays and, in his reedy voice, sings a passage from the latter’s “Requiem,” followed by a recording of the work.

The play opens in October 1863 in a Vienna graveyard, where the adult Breuning is pleading with a Beethoven society to allow the composer’s remains to stay above ground rather than be buried. Beethoven wanted doctors of the future to have access to his remains in hopes of discovering the cause of his deafness, which began in his late 20s.

Besides writing and performing this show, which is directed by Joel Zwick, Felder designed the set. It’s enhanced by lighting and projections by Christopher Ash, sound by Erik Carstensen and costume by Theatr’ Hall, Paris.

Although Beethoven’s music is beloved throughout the world, the play offers fascinating insights into the life of this genius who suffered so much — from an abusive father, other family difficulties and his deafness.

It runs about 90 mesmerizing minutes with no intermission.

It will continue through July 9 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View. For tickets and information, call (650) 463-1960 or visit


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