Holding a Sonata-thon for a New Piano

Some people will go to great lengths to help their favorite cultural institution. Take Robert Haag, pianist, musical administrator and founder of the performing arts center at El Camino College--now called the South Bay Center for the Arts. To pay for its new $40,000 piano, Haag will attempt a unique feat: to play, at one sitting, the 32 sonatas for piano by Beethoven.

Haag, who studied with Richard Buhlig, the pianist/pedagogue who played Beethoven sonata cycles (in seven concerts, spaced one week apart) in Southern California in 1944 and 1946, will begin playing Saturday morning at 9 o’clock. The daylong event has been dubbed a Sonata-thon by the sponsor, the El Camino College Foundation, of which Haag is executive director.

With only what he calls “chocolate breaks” intervening, Haag says he may complete his piano-playing task by “around 7 o’clock Saturday night.”

The 57-year-old California musician is confident of his goal: “I fully expect to finish,” he said.


To raise funds for the South Bay Center’s recently acquired Steinway grand piano, a number of center supporters have pledged money--some of the specific amounts tied to the number of the 32 works Haag actually plays--to the piano fund.

(The piano has been paid for through an advance from the foundation. This event will attempt to repay that $40,000 in full).

This will be Haag’s sixth play-through of the 32 sonatas, but his first attempt to traverse them in one day. He first played them, at El Camino, in the fall of 1964.

Two “scorekeepers,” colleagues of Haag who are members of the Hambro Piano Quartet, will hold the scores to the sonatas while the pianist plays from memory. “They will make sure I don’t leave any movements out,” Haag says.


DANCE GRANT: The San Francisco division of the James Irvine Foundation has awarded a $45,000 grant to Loretta Livingston & Dancers, the company has announced. The grant, to be spread over three years, will be used to develop the management and marketing arms of the modern dance troupe. The six-member company was founded in 1984 by Livingston, a member of the Bella Lewitzky Dance Company for 10 years.

Commenting on the grant, David Plettner, managing director as well as a dancer in the company, said: “Our budget in fiscal 1988 was $36,000, our (funding) sources a mix of earned income from performance fees and other education work. We also have some government grants, private contributions and corporate and foundation support. From all of the above, we continue our growth.”

Livingston started the company, Plettner said, “to create her own choreography and to do educational programming. The company has those twin focuses.” All together, the troupe gives 30 to 35 educational programs a year, as well as public performances. Aside from the grant’s impact, Plettner said, the company’s budget for fiscal 1989 will be double that of 1988, due in part to increased touring.

Plettner stressed that enlarging the company is not a goal. “We expect to be no larger than six dancers for the foreseeable future because of the nature of Loretta’s work. She’s not interested in having a company of 15-16 dancers to do different kinds of choreography. Her interest is in smaller-scale works that feature the individual performers and their abilities.”

COMPOSERS: The world premiere of Anthony Davis’ latest opera, “Under the Double Moon,” will be given at Webster University by the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, in four performances, June 15-23. Rhoda Levine will be stage director; William McGlaughlin will conduct and the sets will be designed by Marie Anne Chiment. Davis’ “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X,” was produced by New York City Opera in 1986. In the cast of “Under the Double Moon” will be Cynthia Clarey, Jake Gardner and Eugene Perry, among others. . . . William Bolcom’s Tenth Quartet will receive its Los Angeles premiere in a performance by the Stanford String Quartet Friday night at the Japan America Theatre. The new work by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer was first introduced in New York City in January. . . . Simon Estes will sing the title role in the world premiere of Ulysses Kay’s opera, “Frederick Douglass,” to be produced by New Jersey State Opera, Oct. 7 in Newark. . . . Elmer Bernstein’s “Seven Songs of Love and Loathing” will receive its first performance by the Santa Barbara Symphony, Varujan Kojian conducting, April 22 in the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara. . . . John Chowning, David Carlson and Richard Wilson will be the first three composers to create works under the new, long-range commissioning program of the San Francisco Symphony; their new pieces will be introduced this spring in the Bay City. Elliott Carter, Sir Michael Tippett and Anthony Dorf will write new works for the orchestra’s 1989-90 season. Among the list of composers announced for future commissions are the names of George Perle, Peter Lieberson, Richard Danielpour and Wayne Peterson.

Times Staff Writer Chris Pasles helped research this column.