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After ten concerts in three different countries, our Beethoven tour with Nicola Benedetti came to an end in Abu Dhabi yesterday. If you’re at risk of Beethoven withdrawal, we asked our Co-Principal Viola Max Mandel for more Beethoven that you might want to read, watch or listen to next.
Max says: “Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the few composers that has an impact on our daily life, not only through his music but through the myth and legend of the man himself. He was in a sense, the first real celebrity genius, with tourists stalking him at his local hangouts in order to get a glimpse of him (I confess to going on a musical tour of Vienna and geeking out in front of one of his flats). Keep in mind that he was almost entirely deaf when he wrote the two incredible pieces we played on this tour – his Fourth Symphony and Violin Concerto.
Read – To go beyond the image of the dishevelled genius throwing soup at his cook and smashing piano after piano, I recommend Maynard Solomon’s 1977 deeply satisfying biography Beethoven, which effectively blends musical analysis and psychological insight.
Film – My favourite use of his music is in Die Hard, where the 9th symphony becomes a part of the film. The most recent credit I found for the 4th Symphony is in A Cure For Wellness (2016), which I haven’t seen but will now stream immediately because I’m impressed that they chose this work instead of going for the Moonlight Sonata, which one hears constantly in movies.
Listen – If you loved the music in these concerts, I would recommend Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra’s recent recording of the complete set of Beethoven symphonies with conductor Bruno Weil, and the 3rd Symphony Eroica by Les Concert Des Nations, directed by Jordi Savall. Both of these groups use period instruments like we do and offer a similar aesthetic. Until Nicola records the concerto, my favourite recording remains Fritz Kreisler’s from 1926, where you can hear him play his own cadenza which has become the standard one that most violinists use today.
I would say that apart from the Symphony and the string quartet, the genre that Beethoven also pushed to its limits is music for solo piano. To get an idea of what his piano would have sounded like, and to hear the music beautifully interpreted, I like Ronald Brautigam’s complete set of sonatas.
Finally, do yourself a favour and listen to a A Fifth of Beethoven. Somehow I made it to adulthood without hearing the funkiest cover of Beethoven in existence. I blame my parents for hating disco.”