Ludwig van Beethoven, ca. 1819, after the work by Joseph Karl Stieler (Royal College of Music)
His was an amazing life of discovery and challenge, reflected in the music he created—first for the piano, and then in chamber music, symphonic, and choral compositions. In a six-session course, classical music and opera scholar Saul Lilienstein reviews the moments in which Beethoven successively leapt into the future, from the Pathétique and Moonlight sonatas to the Ninth Symphony and the final quartets. Each session is highlighted by DVD and CD recordings of excerpts of Beethoven’s most beloved masterpieces.
Jan. 21 The Student Flexes His Muscles
Beethoven, a student of Haydn’s in 1800, was rebellious from the start. Haydn considered his earliest symphonies to be too raucous and boisterous in tone, but the romantic Pathétique piano sonata had audiences swooning.
Jan. 28 A Revolution in Sound and Spirit
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (the “Eroica”) and the opera Fidelio were both imbued with the spirit of French revolutionary ideals. In form and content, Beethoven stretched Viennese classicism to the limit.
Feb. 4 Dealing with Deafness
The most subjective of Beethoven’s compositions address his loss of hearing, from the introspective Piano Concerto No. 4 to the defiance and triumph of his Fifth Symphony.
Feb. 11 Master of the Variation
In his Symphony No. 7 and the Archduke Trio, Beethoven uses the traditional variation structure to create personal statements of the deepest meaning.
Feb. 18 An Orchestral and Choral Synthesis
The Ninth Symphony and the Missa Solemnis together achieve a new fusion of musical resources. In sheer sound and dimensions, Beethoven composed the most dramatic music of the age.
Feb. 25 Reaching for All the Notes
Composed when he was totally deaf, Beethoven’s final string quartets and Grosse Fugue challenged his contemporary musicians and audiences with their new dimensions of expressive freedom. The remaining years of the 19th century and beyond reverberate with Beethoven’s visionary innovations.