The video, the playlist, the performance – all you need to know about Beethoven in one blog post. Well, not the whole story but hopefully a starting point to inspire you to find out more.
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The video Designed and directed by Felix Massie who sets out to show the composer’s defiance in the face of adversity. Tell us what you think about the film.
The playlist Understand Beethoven’s life through 10 pieces of music selected by Julian Haylock:
- Piano Concerto No.1 in C Op.15 (1795) Following his move to Vienna, Beethoven wows patrons with his firebrand pianism. His action-packed Piano Concerto No.1 reduces audiences to emotional rubble and leaves the critics in raptures.
- String Quartet No.4 in C minor Op.18 No.4 (1800) Beethoven marks the new century with a set of six string quartets that propels the Classical style of Mozart and Haydn to its outer reaches, pointing the way forward in No.4 towards the revolutionary age.
- Piano Sonata No.14 in C sharp minor Op.27 No.2 ‘Moonlight’ (1801) By now Vienna’s most infamous musical renegade, Beethoven throws out the rule-book with his ‘Moonlight’ Sonata, opening with a soulful meditation before shattering sensibilities with the finale’s molten rage.
- Symphony No.3 in E flat Op.55 ‘Eroica’ (1803) Forced to come to terms with his failing hearing, Beethoven contemplates suicide before shaking his fist at Fate with his groundbreaking ‘Eroica’ Symphony. Music will never quite be the same again.
- Violin Concerto in D Op.61 (1806) Having come to terms with his deafness and rejections from a string of society ladies, Beethoven reveals a new lyrical tenderness in his Violin Concerto, exchanging virtuoso thrills for poetic sensitivity.
- Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat Op.73 ‘Emperor’ (1809) With the walls of Vienna crumbling under the might of Napoleon’s invading army, Beethoven set to work on this most imperious of his concertos as an act of musical defiance in the face of the enemy.
- Fidelio Op.72 (rev.1814) Beethoven’s only opera occupied him on-and-off for over a decade – he rewrote one aria 18 times! Its universal message of triumph over political oppression chimed exactly with the mood of the times. The aria that Beethoven was so painstaking over was Florestan’s aria from the beginning of Act II – Gott! welch’ Dunkel hier! (‘God! What darkness here!’)
- Piano Sonata No.29 in B flat Op.106 ‘Hammerklavier’ (1818) Composed when Beethoven was involved in legal wrangles over the custodianship of his nephew, the triumphant ‘Hammerklavier’ is a symphony for solo piano of epic proportions and scorching virtuosity.
- Symphony No.9 in D minor Op.125 ‘Choral’ (1824) Beethoven’s unshakeable belief in the brotherhood of mankind reaches exultant levels in the finale of his trailblazing Ninth, which breaks with all symphonic convention by featuring a choir and vocal soloists.
- String Quartet No.16 in F Op.135 (1826) Beethoven’s final completed masterwork, composed during a working holiday, brings the creative wheel full circle as he gives the Classical style of his youth an exciting new contemporary twist.
What to do next…
See Daniel Barenboim at The Proms as he performs with his dynamic West–Eastern Divan Orchestra, formed of musicians from the Middle East. From 20-27 July they’ll perform all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies. Too late to get tickets? Don’t worry – the BBC have it covered on TV and radio.
Beethoven For All is a project to bring the composer’s music to more people through a series of recordings of his complete symphonies, piano concertos and piano sonatas with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and the Berlin Staatskapelle, along with Barenboim at the keyboard. Listen to the music here on Spotify.
Earlier this year the young Korean pianist HJ Lim released the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas to critical acclaim. She’s incredibly passionate about Beethoven and a musician we’re keeping an eye on. Make sure you’re also following her.
Still looking to find out more about Beethoven? Then look no further than the accomplished pianist James Rhodesin this video he produced for The Guardian. Simply by the way James introduces the piece, Piano Sonata in E Flat, Op.31 No.3, shows you how passionate he is about the man and his music.
We may have missed out several upcoming performances. Let us know which ones…