On Great Masters: Beethoven by Professor Robert Greenberg (2001)

Book coverAs you might recall, gentle reader, I have listened to a couple of other lecture sets in the musical Great Masters series, most notably Brahms and Liszt earlier this year.

So, this is Beethoven, one of the three big Bs (Bach and Brahms the other, who precede and aftercede Beethoven respectively). He comes of age when piano technology is improving so that it can be thundering and not just tinkling, and Beethoven uses it to great effect. He’s a bit of an ass, though, which leads to some problems in his personal life and professional dealings. Also, he goes deaf over the course of his career.

Basically, if you saw Gary Oldman in Immortal Beloved, you get the gist of it, although Greenberg proffers a different identity for the addressee of the letter than the film did. Aw, c’mon, man, you know that Beethoven wrote but did not send a love letter addressed to his immortal beloved, and scholars have speculated to whom he had written it, ainna?

At any rate, this set of lectures does not move in chronological order; instead, it starts toward the end of his career with some reversals of fortune and then goes back to talk about his youth and early career.

The lectures include:

  1. The Immortal Beloved
  2. What Comes Down Must Go Up, 1813-1815
  3. What Goes Up Must Come Down, 1815
  4. Beethoven and His Nephew, 1815-1819
  5. Beethoven the Pianist
  6. Beethoven the Composer, 1792-1802
  7. The Heroic Ideal
  8. Two Concerts, 1808 and 1824

Beethoven’s life kind of follows the pattern of the other artists/composers: An unhappy childhood, being pushed into music, being tutored by a known musician (Haydn in Beethoven’s case), and so on. Perhaps Greenberg told the story in this disordered fashion to keep it fresh.

Which is why I am spacing these lecture series out: They kind of follow similar arcs, and as I’m not that trained in actual musicology yet, the music sounds kind of similar. Greenberg’s a great lecturer and fun to listen to, but my enthusiasm for the subject matter has its limits, especially the more I listen to these Great Masters courses.

Which means it will take me quite some time to get through the series I have in this line.

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