Andreas Haefliger to premiere ‘Hammerklavier’ concert film Sunday at virtual Aspen Music Festival |

Andreas Haefliger to premiere ‘Hammerklavier’ concert film Sunday at virtual Aspen Music Festival

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
Pianist Andreas Haefliger in the new concert film "Hammerklavier," which will premiere Sunday at the virtul Aspen Music Festival.
Courtesy photo


Who: Andreas Haefliger

Where: Virtual Aspen Music Festival,

When: Sunday, Aug. 16, 3 p.m.

How much: Free

More info: Haefliger will premiere his filmed performance of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat major, op. 106, ‘Hammerklavier’



The Aspen Music Festival has begun re-broadcasting its virtual concerts from the 2020 summer season on Aspen Public Radio. The series began on Friday, Aug. 14 with recent concerts by violinist James Ehnes with pianist Andrew Armstrong and cellist Alisa Weilerstein with pianist Inon Barnatan.

The series continues through the end of the month, hosted by “Classical Music from Aspen” host Chris Mohr and Aspen Music Festival president Alan Fletcher.

Friday, Aug. 21, 8 p.m. Behzod Abduraimov piano in music of Beethoven, Debussy and Mussorgsky

Friday, Aug. 21, 9 p.m. Stefan Jackiw violin and Jeremy Denk piano perform Ives Sonatas

Friday, Aug. 28, 8 p.m. Andreas Haefliger piano in Beethoven’ s “Hammerklavier” Sonata

Friday, Aug. 28, 9 p.m.: Augustin Hadelich violin and piano in music of Bach, Ysaye, Rachmaninoff, Roumain and Sarasate

The pianist Andreas Haefliger will premiere a new concert film Sunday at the virtual Aspen Music Festival, showcasing a rich visual experience and cinematic production that the musician conceived and filmed during the stay-at-home period brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I thought I could take the opportunity to do something that maybe until now has never been done,” Haefliger said Thursday from his home in Altdorf, Switzerland. “I thought of a movie project that would take the classical music film to a new level.”

When lockdown started in March, Haefliger was in the mountains at a home without a proper piano — only an electric keyboard. So as he began his quarantine, he could not participate in the online streams and concerts and offerings from musicians around the world for fans and listeners sheltered in place.

But the opportunity gave him the idea for a personal and artistic challenge: to throw himself into mastering perhaps the most demanding piece for solo piano, Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata; and to break new ground for classical music on film.

“I’ve always been a little dissatisfied with classical music videos,” he said.

Haefliger raised funds for a full cinematic production, and worked with a crew of 11 to make it a reality. The final product is a sumptuous piece of filmmaking, with the pianist performing in a lamp-lit wood-paneled room, the camera moving smoothly from close-ups on his hands to wide shots to inside the piano and its vibrating strings. The camera movements are choreographed along with the colors and lighting of the film to complement the music.

“It was important that the camera become a part of the expression — not just filming a musician playing part of the expression of the piece,” he explained. “I think that really worked.”

The version that will premiere at the virtual Aspen festival Sunday is a concert performance of less than one hour. He and his team also made a longer, feature-length version that features the performance footage as well as documentary footage of Haefliger’s quarantine project. It includes a dialogue between Haefliger and the Swiss alpinist Dani Arnold, who also lives in the area, discussing the extreme challenges each have taken on — Arnold in free-climbing some of the most dangerous peaks on Earth and Haefliger tackling Beethoven’s proverbial Everest in “Hammerklavier.”

“The lockdown in the mountains inspired me to study opus 106 one more time and find the excessiveness of the music, the difficulty of the piece, one more time,” he explained.

Haefliger first began attempting the piece as a young musician about 35 years ago, he recalled. He did not perform it publicly at a major engagement until just five years ago at the Edinburgh Festival, which was followed by performances in London and now in what will certainly become his most-seen rendition and perhaps will become a definitive one.

“It has been a long development to try to master this,” he said. “This time around I tried to take it one step further.”

After Sunday’s premiere at the virtual Aspen festival, Haefliger said the film is booked for screenings at European cinemas and will eventually receive a wide online release.