World-renowned pianist has deep history with campus

By Gus Bode

At 8 years old, Stephan Moller was introduced to the piano, an instrument for which he would earn worldwide recognition.

Moller is an accomplished concert pianist as well as a professor at the University of Vienna, one of the biggest music schools in the world. Moller said the university staffs more than 800 faculty members that cater to more than 30,500 music majors in individualized lessons.

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Moller performed in Japan and is soon to play in Carnegie Hall, but Tuesday the musician returned to Carbondale to visit with an old friend.

Don Beattie and Moller were introduced in 1988. Beattie, a professor in the SIUC School of Music at the time, said the two met through their combined passion for music. After winning an international music festival in Vienna, Moller said he sent letters to music schools in the United States with offers to play a recital.

Beattie was the first person to respond.

“From that time on we have been best friends,” Moller said. “(Carbondale) is such a marvelous location that I always like to return to. I’ve always liked this place very much.”

In the two decades since his initial performance, Moller has returned to play in Carbondale festivals and recitals 10 times.

After 30 years of teaching, Beattie has retired, and now he and his wife work as house parents at Saint Germain Square, an apartment complex geared for SIUC students.

After two years and some renovations, Beattie opened Beethoven Hall, a concert hall located inside the complex, Sunday. For the opening ceremony Beattie said he reached out to his old friend for a performance.

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“There was absolutely no other person in this whole world to better inaugurate this hall than Stephan,” he said.

Moller performed at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday. The performance was open to the public and presented by the Beethoven Society, an organization Beattie said he created as an all-inclusive alternative to the classic performance of which he was accustomed.

“My wife Delayna and I have been to enough competitions where someone wins and others lose,” Beattie said. “There’s heartbreak. We never wanted to create that, we wanted a celebration of music.”

Since its founding, Beattie said the Beethoven Society has raised more than $500,000 for the School of Music, started chapters in Boston, Toronto and Germany, and has attracted a number of world-renowned musicians to campus. Beattie said it was this mindset that resulted in the 1984 founding of the Beethoven Society in the School of Music.

Beattie said his choice in naming the organization after Ludwig van Beethoven came not only from his admiration of Beethoven’s work as a musician but from the composer’s ideologies and personal struggles.

“Mozart seemed like he must have been a descendant directly from heaven,” Beattie said. “Beethoven is a descendant of the Earth, a man of the street, of the common people. That’s what drew me to him.”

Beattie said the School of Music and the university were not only supportive of the Beethoven Society, but also the work he and his wife put into the organization.

While he is happy for the accomplishments he’s achieved, Beattie said he struggled initially with the program.

“The first person I invited, Maurice Hinson, who’s probably the world’s foremost authority on piano music, was featured in Shryock, and 12 people came,” Beattie said. “That was a little embarrassing to say the least. That’s when I said I must create an audience.”

Beattie said he feels he since has found that audience.

City Council member Jane Adams attended Moller’s performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on Sunday’s reception.

“Hearing that symphony played by one person on the piano and the way it just flowed out of him, it was wonderful,” Adams said.

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