More Sketches of Beethoven



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Another set of extraordinary portraits of Beethoven by artist Jane Adams.


Beethoven and ... Rostropovich?  I found this forgotten early drawing from the 1970s, while searching for the two which I have lost.  I used to find it 'easier' to draw him than I do now! Beethoven and … Rostropovich? (circa 1972).  I found this forgotten early drawing from the 1970s, while searching for the two which I have lost. I used to find it ‘easier’ to draw him than I do now! I love listening to the Beethoven cello sonatas.


Continuing this “Beethoven series” inspired by Elene’s researches :  this post includes some journaling over the weekend, and portraits of the master by others, and from my new sketches.

First: a detail from my “watershed” series of dreams during the 1970s:

September 1976 – from “Paris and the Hollow Way”
(Watershed Tales)

“Smelling the flowers which grow around the end of Boulevard Malesherbes, I see the bright food in the brasseries, the Gaulish striped canopies over smoked glass. Avenues which radiate from this place are planted tree-deep with bouquets gathered this morning from the tart grass; the dew is still upon them – the waters of a river…

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Beethoven  Hero: documentary film trilogy by Kerry Candaele




Beethoven  Hero is a continuing exploration of the man, his music, and his extraordinary reach across time and space. The trilogy takes us on a journey through history and around the world, telling stories of the enduring power of Beethoven’s creations—of the ways they live within us and transcend the boundaries that separate us.

The legacy of Beethoven—in our personal lives and in the public conflicts, tragedies and occasional triumphs that define our times—is complex, and Beethoven | Hero explores this complexity. The first part of the trilogy,Following the Ninth (2013), followed the music to China, Chile, Germany and Japan. The second part, Love & Justice, takes us to Chile once more, using Beethoven’s Fidelio to explore the darkness of political repression and the way Chileans tried to sustain hope in the shadow of Pinochet. The third part, Last Will and Testament, will follow in the footsteps of Beethoven’s powerful Late Quartets.

While I do believe that Beethoven’s music somehow captures universal virtues—the courageous and passionate will to overcome all defeats, spiritual and physical—I am also open to the fact that I am living within the mythos of Beethoven the Hero. His image, both biographical and musical, continues to pull us toward the man and his creations. We puzzle over the man, and we embrace the music in an attempt, always incomplete, to understand who we are as humans, in pain, in love, in joy, in accents both spiritual and sensual at equal turns.

At a time when art and music are disappearing from school curricula, we are designing the Beethoven | Hero trilogy to be used in schools across the country to improve students’ understanding of the arts and of the historical contexts in which they are created and experienced. Beethoven | Hero tells the story of how art—emerging from the collision of history and flawed, brilliant humanity—outlives its creator to challenge, inspire and occasionally transform us.

The Secret of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony – BBC Documentary 2016


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A great documentary which explores what inspired Beethoven to create the amazing 5th Symphony. What I especially love is the inclusion a visit to Bonn and Beethoven Haus, and conductor John Eliot Gardner’s period orchestra. Yes folks- the 5th in this documentary is played on period instruments! 

Why Pianos From Mozart’s Era Are Better Than Ours


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At a festival in Zichron Yaakov, pianist Malcolm Bilson will try to prove his contention that 300-year-old pianos can produce more faithful sounds than Steinways.



Let’s say you’re a pianist, or a devoted fan of classical piano music. And let’s say that to your ears, Steinway pianos are the best in the field. Would you be satisfied exclusively with a Steinway? The American pianist and musicologist Malcolm Bilson, for one, talking about how to choose a piano, offers the example of the person in charge of tuning the collection of antique pianos at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where Bilson is a professor of music. That piano tuner, he explains in a talk that can be found online, also does a better job of tuning modern Steinways than someone who specializes only in modern Steinways. It’s like a mechanic who deals only with Mercedes cars and thus knows less in the aggregate than a mechanic who is familiar with many different cars.

In regard to Mozart’s “expressive instructions,” as Bilson terms them, the key point concerns groups of sounds that are meant to sound connected, like a single “singing” line, as opposed to those that are to be separated. An illuminating example is the opening phrase of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D Minor, K. 466. The composer’s direction to separate the first three connected notes from the next three can be executed nicely only on the fortepiano, Bilson notes and demonstrates. Whereas on the modern piano, the separation will sound clumsy, fragmented, “like a hiccup.”

Beethoven’s piano sonatas will also definitely benefit from being played on a period instrument, Bilson says in reply to another question. In the case of Beethoven, it’s crucial to choose the correct fortepiano, he points out, because there are vast differences between the first sonatas and the later ones (which were composed for very different fortepianos). Steinways or other contemporary pianos are not suitable for playing the sonatas, Bilson avers, one reason being that very brief powerful notes (sforzando), such as Beethoven calls for, cannot be effectively produced on modern pianos, on which the sound develops slowly.

Overall, Bilson says, there are more nuances of loudness in the fortepiano, though modern pianos are preferable in terms of color changes. However, what’s important in Mozart and Beethoven, he says, is not the changes of color but the 
articulations, as previously explained. “It is difficult to execute those changes on a modern piano,” he says.

read more:




The greatest analogue of Chopin’s Nocturne In D Flat in painting, Laughter in the Rain, and Sunrise over Water by Ian Barton Stewart


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These paintings are just..stunning!!….wow..!! They move me incredibly; just to look at them is like entering a beautiful dream. I am hugely impressed by this artist’s talent.

Laughter in the Rain, Sunrise over water – themes that remain some of mankind’s most dreamed of subjects… And Chopin’s Nocturne in D Flat is the quintessential nocturne. It is dreamy but restless, just like the painting below. These three paintings show what can be achieved with a predominantly grey palette. These paintings show grey at its most lyrical and evocative.

Nocturne in D Flat by Ian Barton Stewart


Nocturne in D Flat by Ian Barton Stewart


This work is 1.7m by 1.4m and painted in oils on linen. The painter James Whistler painted several “nocturnes” and like this one they were great in tone to suggest nocturnal themes. But this painting also suggests a nocturne as a musical composition, and more specifically Chopin’s Nocturne in D Flat op 27 no 2. I have played and recorded this work at the piano, and it features in my novel, Love and The Art of Painting. The D Flat key of the nocturne is consistent with the colour scheme of this work. More importantly most of the work is placid and tranquil, but this tranquility is interrupted by turmoil in the lower centre of the painting. That is consistent with Chopin’s great musical composition which begins smoothly and calmly but wanders through a field of fiery emotions…


Laughter In The Rain, by Ian Barton Stewart artist


Oil on linen 1.8m by 0.9m 2015 

by Ian Barton Stewart

A beautiful painting showing how the colour grey can represent a remarkable poeticism and diversity. The title is drawn from Claude Debussy’s piano work of the same name, which I have played and admired for many years. If I had to choose a particular passage in Debussy’s work that mirrors this work, it would be the middle section beginning in the key of G Major, which I think is one of the most remarkable passages of music ever composed. Here, the rain is suggested by the verticality of brush strokes,  while laughter is evident in the patches of of white and dark grey in the lower half of the painting. But of course, each viewer sees a work himself, and not necessarily how others see it. The photo of course does not do the painting justice, so you will have to imagine what it looks like in real life and size, for it is a large and breathtaking painting, and the modulations of grey, white and darker hues form a single unified conception in the painting, that a photograph simply cannot capture…

Sunrise by ian barton stewart


Oil on linen 1.7m by 1.4m by Ian Barton Stewart

This painting shows the sun commencing its arc across the sky, bringing forth blazing light and warmth on which nearly all life on Earth depends. The work has something of an old master quality about it, and the sun rises over a seascape of mystery. If I think of analogues in the realm of music I think of Claude Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque, Richard Strauss’s Sunrise from Thus Spake Zarathustra, and maybe even Chopin’s Barcarolle. Of course I did not paint this work to emulate these composer’s works. Nor did I paint it to emulate Manet’s Sunrise painting that heralded Impressionism as a style in the history of art. This painting  can be seen as influenced by all of these works and themes, but you will not find another painting like it anywhere (unless someone has copied this painting). This painting reminds me of one of my favourite artists, JMW Turner, with its washes of colour over moody water, but also with a warmth that makes the painting appear illuminated from behind.


To see more amazing artwork visit the artist’s website:

Ludwig van Beethoven archive articles, 1827



From the archive, 23 April 1827: Following the death of Beethoven, the Observer publishes a personal account of the eccentric and prodigiously talented composer.

Austria, Vienna, Ludwig van Beethoven at the piano Silhouette

 Ludwig van Beethoven at the piano

He has always a small paper book with him, and what conversation takes place is carried on in writing. In this, too, although it is not lined, he instantly jots down any musical idea which strikes him. These notes would be utterly unintelligible, even to another musician, for they have no comparative value; he alone has in his own mind the thread by which he brings out of this labyrinth of spots and circles the richest and most astounding harmonies. The moment he is seated at the piano, he is evidently unconscious that there is anything in existence but himself and his instrument; and considering how very deaf he is, it seems impossible he should hear all he plays. Accordingly, when playing very piano, he often does not bring out a single note. He hears it himself in the ‘mind’s ear.’ While his eye, and the almost imperceptible motion of his fingers, show that he is following out the strain in his own soul through all its dying gradations, the instrument is actually as dumb as the musician is deaf.

I have heard him play, but to bring him so far required some management, so great is his horror of being any thing like exhibited. Had he been plainly asked to do the company that favour, he would have flatly refused; he had to be cheated into it. Every person left the room, except Beethoven and the master of the house, one of his most intimate acquaintances. These two carried on a conversation in the paper book, about bank stock. The gentleman, as if by chance, struck the keys of the open piano, beside which they were sitting, gradually began to run over one of Beethoven’s own compositions, made a thousand errors, and speedily blundered one passage so thoroughly, that the composer condescended to stretch out his hand and put him right. It was enough; the hand was on the piano; his companion immediately left him, on some pretext, and joined the rest of the company, who, in the next room, from which they could see and hear everything, were patiently waiting the issue of this tiresome conjuration.


23 April 1827.

We find, in Russell’s Tour in Germany, the following account of the celebrated musical composer, Beethoven, whose recent death, in circumstances of poverty and distress, alleviated only by English charity, has attracted so much notice. The author seems to have met with him in 1822:

“Beethoven is the most celebrated of the living composers in Vienna, and, in certain departments, the foremost of his day. His powers or harmony are prodigious. Though not an old man, he is lost to society, in consequence of his extreme deafness, which has rendered him almost unsocial. The neglect of his person which he exhibits gives him a somewhat wild appearance. His features are strong and prominent; his eye is full of rude energy; his hair, which neither comb nor scissor seem to have visited for years, overshadows his broad brow in a quantity and confusion to which only the snakes round a Gorgon’s head offer a parallel.




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