Concert review: Charismatic Mexican-American concert pianist -Gustavo Romero- performing 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas -seven concerts–in Cape Town -January to February 2022

Gustavo Romero: Mexican-American concert pianist -performing 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas in Cape Town- 2022

Where: Baxter Concert Hall
When: Jan 24, 26 and Feb 2, 5, 7, 9, 11 at 6pm and 11am on Feb 5
Tickets: R200, R150 for seniors and R80 for students
Direct booking link:

Acclaimed pianist Gustavo Romero is in Cape Town, playing at the Baxter Concert Hall. He is performing an epic series -32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas, in seven concerts. I was privileged to be at the first concert, tonight, January 24, 2022. It was wonderful to be back in the acoustically excellent Baxter Concert Hall. The last time, I was there, I think (who can be sure in these pandemic days), was in February 2020, shortly prior to lockdown, when Dame Kiri Te Kanawa led a Master Class for Cape Town Opera. Tonight, it was a treat, to see Gustavo Romero dazzle us with the full cycle of Beethoven piano sonatas- sans sheet music for reference. There is no IPad or reference system. It is all in his head. It is a virtuoso performance. Romano had pegged out 2020, to present the complete cycle of sonatas in celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth [December 2020], but Covid delayed the South African season and here we are, January 26 to February 11, 2022, with Beethoven marven, Gustavo Romero.

The multiple award winning, Mexican-American concert pianist has toured SA, in the past. Everything feels a long time ago, in this unrelenting pandemic, but it has been a while since he performed a major concert series. Louise Howlett who has assisted Romero with organising this tour, says that the pianist loves SA and he has combined his holiday with the Beethoven Sonata Cycle: The holiday became a concert season or the concert season became a holiday. He is here and we are lucky to be able to experience this ambitious sonata cycle. Howlett, aka The Singing Lady [she was classically trained at the Royal College of Music in London], manages the Cape Town Concert Series. This season of Beethoven at the Baxter is not part of the CT Concert Series but with her indomitable organisational skills, she made it happen. It is not easy to arrange a season of this scale at any time. In Covid, with reduced seating and what-not, the logistics are not for the faint-hearted. It was absolutely thrilling to be in the beautiful concert hall. The venue is looking fab- spruced up and sleek. The air-conditioning was in full force which was a pleasure on a scorcher of a Cape Town evening. Romero had us in his thrall. Technically, it is wondrous to see him perform, without any need to reference music. His pacing and timing is extraordinary. I am not clued up on musical terminology but it takes no expert to marvel how he riffs between fast and slow cadences; taking the notes down to a tinkle and whoosh; a crescendo and then twists and turns. His focus is unwavering and concentration is beguiling. My favourite of the programme, tonight was Romero’s rendition of Beethoven’s sonata in f sharp major op 78- two animated and fervent movements. He dedicated this sonata to Countess Therese von Brunswick (which is why it is known as the Sonata ‘à Thérèse). She was his student. She was 16.  Imagine, if a music teacher dedicated a sonata to a teen student, in these days. Okay, moving along.

Romero is a professor of piano at the University of Texas. This renowned pianist, hails from San Diego, with Mexican heritage (in Guadalajara). He was a child prodigy: First public performance at age 10 and he won an award at that tender age. When he was 13, he performed with the New York Philharmonic, under the baton of Zubin Mehta. We are extraordinarily lucky to have him, present in our city, performing an epic cycle of Beethoven at the Baxter. The sonata series continues Wednesday (January 26) and then February 2, 5, 7, 9 and 11. Kudos to Louise Howlett, Ian Burgess-Simpson Pianos [for the piano], the Baxter; the fabulous Gillian Linder of the South College of Music and others for bringing us this awesome series, in lockdown. Thank you for bringing us live music, in this beautiful concert hall, in our beautiful city; during this balmy summer. The concerts start 6pm, except for the concert on Saturday February 5 [11am]. Early evening, prior to dusk (sunset is at about 7.55pm) and one can embrace the joy of being at a live event, interacting with (masked) humans, breathing in fresh air. I loved being there, tonight. Get there and enjoy.

Beethoven at the Baxter: American pianist, Gustavo Romero is in Cape Town, playing at the Baxter Concert Hall- performing 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas- in seven concerts- January to February 2022. © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen- photo at opening concert, Monday January 24, 2022.


Programme: Gustavo Romero- Mexican-American concert pianist -performing 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas in Cape Town  

Monday January 24, 2022 at 6pm

Sonata in F minor, Op. 2, No. 1
Sonata in E flat major, Op. 27, No. 1
Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27, Nr.2 – Moonlight
Sonata in F sharp major, Op. 78
Sonata in A major, Op. 101  

Wednesday January 26, 2022 at 6pm

Sonata in F major, Op. 10, No. 2
Sonata in D minor, Op. 31, No. 2
Sonata in B flat major, Op. 106 – Hammerklavier  

Wednesday February 2, 2022 at 6pm  

Sonata in G minor, Op. 49, No. 1
Sonata in E flat major, Op. 7
Sonata in C minor, Op. 13 – Pathetique
Sonata in G major, Op. 31, No. 1 
Sonata in E major, Op. 109  

Saturday February 5 at 11am

Sonata in E major, Op. 14 No. 1
Sonata in G major, Op. 14, No. 2
Sonata in C major Op. 2, No. 3 Sonata in F major, Op.54
Sonata in F minor, Op. 57 – Appassionata  

Monday 7 February 2022 at 6pm  

Sonata in G major, Op. 49, No. 2
Sonata in B flat major, Op. 22
Sonata in D major, Op. 10, No. 3
Sonata in E minor, Op. 90
Sonata in C major, No. 21 Op. 53 – Waldstein  

Wednesday February 9 at 6pm

Sonata in A flat major, Op. 26
Sonata in E flat major, Op. 31, No. 3
Sonata in G major, Op. 79 
Sonata in C minor, Op. 10, No.1 
Sonata in A flat major, Op. 110   

Friday February 11 at 6pm

Sonata in A major, Op. 2, no. 2
Sonata in D major, Op. 28  – Pastorale
Sonata in E flat major, Op. 81a
Sonata in C minor, Op. 111