Radio Open Source: Beethoven at the Piano.


How did Beethoven become ‘BEETHOVEN’?

Christopher Lydon explores…

Beethoven at the Piano

We’re getting the Beethoven fundamentals, as never before, at my own piano. At a short safe distance from the keyboard, I’m learning, among other things:

As volcanic was the man’s painful life and descent into deafness, so his musical production was miraculously steady, virtually flawless, endlessly various in form and surface, scale, sonority and feelings — furious, lyrical, melting, often humorous, on the way to a “God sound” in the unearthly late work. Improvisation and variations at the piano were the twin engines of his imagination, on an instrument whose sound he kept reinventing. Those sonatas, variations and bagatelles for piano alone, most of them conceived as private statements, unperformed in public in Beethoven’s time, were the springboard of the giant symphonic spectacles with orchestra. And those same piano pieces can be taken today – fresh thrills and chills on every hearing – as Beethoven’s short stories. Much as Henry James’s stories record the self-study of a great novelist, Beethoven’s piano pieces give us a journal of his inner life, a view into his laboratory and maybe his soul.

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