On August 19, 1984, American pianist, composer and author Gary Goldschneider made history. On a beautiful sunny Sunday, he played all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas, outdoors, with amplification, on the Leidseplein in Amsterdam. He started at 1pm, and a few short breaks aside, continued playing until 1am.
I had met Goldschneider in California, on May 13, 1984, and when he told me about the Beethoven Marathon on that day, I immediately had the Leidseplein in mind. I returned to Amsterdam early July 1984, with the plan for the marathon, but my friends in Amsterdam thought I had gone completely crazy and just laughed. And they worried about having to pick me up once the disappointment of a failed venture would sink in.
The story of how the Beethoven marathon came into being, to the complete bewilderment of my friends and pretty much everyone who saw it come into being, warrants an entire article, perhaps even a book. The concert ended up being sponsored by KLM Airlines, all cafes on the Leidseplein, and several other local organisations.
Despite widespread skepticism and eyebrow-raising, the concert was an astonishing success. The Dutch quality press was full of interviews with Goldschneider before the event, with major features appearing in NRC Handelsblad, Trouw, Haagse Post, and other news outlets.
On the 19th, the Leidseplein was full, and an estimated 10.000 people attended the free concert. Twelve page turners and dozens of press photographers were in action. Some people arrived from other parts of Holland early in the morning with fold-out chairs and books with the score for all 32 sonatas.
The concert was broadcast live by the only Amsterdam classical radio, the Concertzender, and at 5pm, to my utter surprise, a crew arrived from the prime time Dutch television news. They interviewed Goldschneider and myself, and the footage was broadcast on prime time TV several times that evening.
In the evening there were stage lights, and as Goldschneider continued playing, with trams passing by 30 yards away, and thousands of people watching with open mouths, the atmosphere turned truly magical.
The next day, there were reviews and reports in pretty much every single Dutch newspaper, and later in the week in every single weekly magazine. Some reviews were critical, but most praised the event, and Goldschneider’s playing. At the end of 1984, the concert was mentioned in many year-overviews in the Dutch press. The marathon had a huge impact on Dutch cultural life, and to this day, if you meet a Dutch person who has not heard of the event, you can be sure it’s someone born after 1974 or so, or who was on holiday on August 19th, 1984.
The concert also had an enormous impact on Goldschneider’s and my life. A year later we did the same feat again, with a Mozart marathon in a rain-drenched Vondelpark in Amsterdam. This time Goldschneider stayed in Holland, as he had fallen in love with the well-known culinary writer Berthe Meijer, and he ended up marrying her. I was best man at the wedding.
Goldschneider and I continued to work on getting his own music out to the people, and I organized several more concerts, and was involved in recording sessions at Yamaha Studios and Power Plant Studios in London. They led to a multi-million dollar contract offer from A&M Records, that was withdrawn at the latest moment for reasons that never really became clear.
Later, in 2001, I produced recordings of Goldschneider’s music with a full orchestra and him on piano, in Bulgaria. But by this time Goldschneider had become more known for his best-selling The Secret Language of Birthdays book, which ended up totally overshadowing his musical activities. I always thought this was a pity, as Goldschneider was a brilliant composer, and his Beethoven and Mozart marathons were genuinely boundary-breaking.
I plan to write at more length on the crazy and surreal events that surrounded my association with Goldschneider in 1984, and the years after. I’ll also publish many more press cuttings, including English translations, and many of the photos that I have. For now, below a few scans of the countless press cuttings that I have in my possession.