What Makes it Great

What Makes It Great?

With Rob Kapilow and Michael Brown, piano

Sun, May 3, 2020, 3:00pm



We welcome back composer/conductor Rob Kapilow for another installment of his “What Makes It Great” series. Pianist Michael Brown joins him to delve into Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13, “Pathétique.” During this livestream program, Kapilow will deconstruct, slow down, and reassemble this Beethoven masterwork, one of Beethoven’s most popular sonatas, followed by a complete performance by Michael Brown and a Q&A session with both artists (and you!).

To participate in the audience Q&A session, use the live chat box on the right side of the video on YouTube. If you have a YouTube or Google account, you will need to be logged in, or you can sign up for a free account on YouTube.


“Because Kapilow is so good at what he does, knowledge about how music actually works, how it is put together — as opposed to dry facts about composers’ lives — doesn’t fly away with the whirlwind, but instead lodges in the memory, where they can grow.” — Boston Globe



Rob Kapilow
Michael Brown, piano


Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13, “Sonata Pathétique”


Rob Kapilow

Rob Kapilow, speaker

Artist Website Listen Watch

For over 30 years, Rob Kapilow has brought the joy and wonder of classical music ­— and unraveled some of its mysteries — to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Characterized by his unique ability to create an “aha” moment for his audiences and collaborators, whatever their level of musical sophistication or naiveté, Kapilow’s work brings music into people’s lives: opening new ears to musical experiences and helping people to listen actively rather than just hear.

The 2019–2020 season is Rob Kapilow’s first season as an Artistic Partner for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and he is currently an Artist-in-Residence for the Kaufman Music Center in N.Y.C., the Wilma and Clifford Smith Visitor in Music at the University of Toronto, and Artist-in-Residence at the Thurnauer School of the JCC in New Jersey.

His latest book, Listening for America, was published by Norton/Liveright in the fall of 2019. It received critical raves from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many more and is short listed for the 2020 Marfield Prize. His two prior books were published by Wiley/Lincoln Center: All You Have To Do Is Listen, won the PSP Prose Award for Best Book in Music and the Performing Arts, and What Makes It Great (2011), the first book of its kind to be especially designed for the iPad with embedded musical examples.

Kapilow’s broad range of activities includes his What Makes It Great?® presentations, his Family Musik® events, his Citypieces, corporate programs, and residencies with institutions. He was the first composer to be granted the rights to set Dr. Seuss’ words to music, and his Green Eggs and Ham. His new piece for the 25th anniversary of Ottawa Chamberfest based on Louise Bourgeois’ spider sculpture, “Maman.” received its premiere in August of 2019 and he is currently working on a large new piece for the JCC in New Jersey based on immigrant stories called “We Came to America” to be premiered in 2021.

At the age of 19, Kapilow interrupted his academic work at Yale University to study with the legendary Nadia Boulanger. Two years later, after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Yale, he continued his studies at Eastman School of Music. After graduating from Eastman, he returned to Yale, where he was assistant professor for six years at the university. He lives in River Vale, N.J,. with his wife and three children.



Michael Brown

Michael Brown, piano

Artist Website Watch

Michael Brown has been hailed by The New York Times as “one of the leading figures in the current renaissance of performer-composers.” His artistry is shaped by his creative voice as a pianist and composer, praised for his “fearless performances” (The New York Times) and “exceptionally beautiful” compositions (The Washington Post).

Winner of a 2018 Emerging Artist Award from Lincoln Center and a 2015 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Mr. Brown has recently performed as soloist with the Seattle Symphony, the National Philharmonic, and the Grand Rapids, North Carolina, New Haven, and Albany symphonies; and in recitals at Carnegie Hall, the Mostly Mozart Festival, and Caramoor. He is an artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, performing frequently at Alice Tully Hall and on tour. Mr. Brown was selected by András Schiff to perform on an international tour making solo debuts in Berlin, Milan, Florence, Zurich’s Tonhalle, and New York’s 92nd Street Y. He regularly performs recitals with his longtime duo partner, cellist Nicholas Canellakis, and has appeared at numerous festivals including Tanglewood, Marlboro, [email protected], Gilmore, Ravinia, Saratoga, Bridgehampton, Bard, Sedona, Moab, and Tippet Rise.

His Beethoven-inspired Concerto for Piano and Strings will be premiered in 2020 at the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival and by the NFM Leopoldinum Orchestra in Poland, with Mr. Brown as soloist. He was the Composer and Artist-in-Residence at the New Haven Symphony for the 2017–19 seasons and recipient of a 2018 Copland House Residency Award. He has received commissions from the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, Concert Artists Guild, Shriver Hall, the New Haven and Maryland symphony orchestras, and conductor Osmo Vänskä; from pianists Adam Golka, Roman Rabinovich, Orion Weiss, and David Kaplan; and from a consortium of public gardens with performing arts series.

He is a prolific recording artist whose upcoming releases in 2020 include Ravel’s Miroirs and Medtner’s Second Improvisation with movements newly discovered by Mr. Brown. His discography with orchestra includes appearances as soloist with the Seattle Symphony and Ludovic Morlot, and with the Brandenburg State Symphony in Samuel Adler’s First Piano Concerto. Other albums include music of Mendelssohn and Beethoven on First Hand Records; an all-George Perle CD; and collaborative albums with pianist Jerome Lowenthal, cellist Nicholas Canellakis, and violinist Elena Urioste. He has plans to embark on a multi-year project to record the complete piano music of Felix Mendelssohn.

A Steinway Artist, Mr. Brown was First Prize winner of the Concert Artists Guild Competition, a winner of the Bowers Residency (formerly known as CMS Two) at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and a recipient of the Juilliard Petschek Award. He earned dual bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano and composition from The Juilliard School, where he studied with pianists Jerome Lowenthal and Robert McDonald and composers Samuel Adler and Robert Beaser. Additional mentors have included András Schiff and Richard Goode as well as his early teachers, Herbert Rothgarber and Adam Kent.

A native New Yorker, he lives there with his two 19th-century Steinway D’s, Octavia and Daria.

Mr. Brown is represented worldwide by New York-based Sciolino Artist Management.