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Pianist Jeffrey Swann wraps up an eight-concert series, performing all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, in Bargemusic recitals Aug. 12-15.

"The piano was Beethoven’s laboratory, and [sonatas were] an ongoing lab experiment," the 52-year-old Manhattan resident told GO Brooklyn.

Swann divides the programs thematically. The "Beethoven and Humor" program, on Friday, Aug. 13, sounds especially diverting.

"I love that program, because these six sonatas are never heard that often," said the pianist. "His humorous, witty side is mostly downplayed, but there are jokes galore."

Swann offered a couple of examples: "In the sonata Op. 10, No. 2, the recapitulation is normal - but in the wrong key! Then there’s silence, as if Beethoven thought, ’Uh oh - what have I done?’ Then there’s a modulation and he returns to the right key."

On Aug. 14, "The Tragic Voice" includes Beethoven’s most famous sonata, "Moonlight," which Swann notes "was so popular that [Beethoven] got sick of it and made disparaging comments about it."

But Swann disagrees: "It’s never become hackneyed to me, so I can approach it for what it is - an innovative work."

On Aug. 15, the final program, "Stylistic Overview," concludes with the C-minor sonata, opus 111, the last Beethoven composed.

"To end with that seems natural," said Swann. "Its own ending is a definite summation, with all its musical problems solved. For me, it fulfills very well the role of an ending."

To complement his programs, Swann talks before each performance.

"I discuss the program’s theme, then talk a bit about each sonata," he explained. "I think it’s useful for most members of the audience."

For Swann, Bargemusic’s audience is an active participant.

"You develop a camaraderie with the audience, like taking a long voyage together," he said. "The barge is a wonderful place for that - the audience is right on top of you."

The Beethoven piano sonatas will be performed Aug. 12-14 at 7:30 pm, and Aug. 15 at 2 pm at Bargemusic (Fulton Ferry Landing at the end of Old Fulton Street on the East River). Tickets are $35, $20 for full-time students. For more information, visit or call (718) 624-2083.

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