32 Bright Clouds: Beethoven Conversations Around the World is a global music-commissioning and performing project, born from a need to respond to current social and political environments in the U.S. and worldwide with a personally meaningful and purposeful musical endeavor.
The project combines the 32 Beethoven Piano sonatas with 32 newly commissioned short piano compositions from 32 composers in 32 different countries spanning the globe.
32 Bright Clouds engages composers hailing from countries where conflict and instability create challenges and obstacles for artists, and countries where classical music is not a widespread form of artistic expression.
The project aims to harness music's great power for unity and peace, cherishing and enjoying the differences of diverse peoples and cultures and presenting their works on the concert stage. Yael Weiss will be performing all the new works as well as the Beethoven Sonatas world-wide in different combinations and formats.
Each of the newly commissioned compositions is a personal exploration of material from a specific Beethoven Sonata, while also offering a unique expression of the composer’s local musical language. A single motif from the final section of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis also appears in every piece, creating a cohesive cycle of works. The motif was selected because of Beethoven’s compelling inscription "A Call for Inward and Outward Peace" above the notes. Beethoven's dedication expresses the overall essence, purpose, and character of 32 Bright Clouds. Each work makes use of this motif as a musical “code”, representing our shared human experience and the universal aspiration for peace.
Beethoven lived during a troubled time of transition. In his life and work he manifested a deep belief in liberty and equality, and in the creative power of the independent artist to free our minds. Connecting his innovative and passionate work with our own time of transition, 32 Bright Clouds furthers the free creative spirit around the world.
As part of 32 Bright Clouds, Yael Weiss is offering three types of performances: Concerts devoted entirely to the new compositions, concerts juxtaposing the new works with their related Sonatas, and presentations called "Concert Conversations".
Concert Conversations combine music with spoken and video elements – projections of pre-recorded interviews with the composers sharing their stories – or on-stage interviews.
Programs are now being scheduled starting with the 2018-19 season, with the complete cycle of new compositions and Sonatas being offered for performances and presentations in 2020 and beyond, in celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.
Additional notes from Yael Weiss:
Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas have had a very special place in my life ever since I started immersing myself in music. One of the most memorable experiences of my student days was performing the "Hammerklavier" Sonata as part of a one-day marathon concert of the complete 32 Sonatas presented by my teacher Leon Fleisher's studio. From there I went on to work with another great Beethoven interpreter, Richard Goode, and was always in awe of Beethoven’s ability to explore the biggest questions and uncover human commonalities through music. As the universal qualities of Beethoven's music became an important part of my musical journeys, it also became very important to bring the works to the stage in a context that is current, relevant and valuable for today's environment.
I chose the name Bright Clouds, with its interplay of light and dark, thinking of the power of music to nurture and bring forth light where there's darkness. The expression "Bright Clouds" can be found in ancient Zen Buddhist texts meaning "the entire world covered with brightness of wisdom".
Beethoven is known to have spent much time in nature, taking long walks and deriving from them the inspiration for musical ideas depicting the awesome power of nature and our place in it. In a similar spirit, I've selected a name that connects us with the beauty, mystery and energy of the natural world around us.
Ultimately, the 32 Bright Clouds project aspires to move towards creating an harmonious society through music, expressing the oneness of all beings, and as part of this process offering new musical and human experiences to audiences.
Logo Design by Laura Howell
Photography by Carlin Ma