Beethoven: The Man Revealed with John Suchet

Beethoven: The Man Revealed with John Suchet

By Classic FM

Join John Suchet for a landmark series, as he takes us on a journey to discover the real story behind one of the world’s greatest composers. Over 52 episodes, John brings us music by Beethoven that we know and love, alongside rarely heard gems that give us an insight into a classical music icon. Listen and subscribe on Global Player.

Episodes

Episode 52 – The Greatest Who Ever Lived

In the final episode of John Suchet’s ground-breaking series, he tells the story of the great composer’s final days; how the freezing cold journey back to Vienna from his brother’s retreat worsened his already swiftly declining health, and how Beethoven promised his tenth symphony to the Philharmonic Society of London. It was never completed. John also reveals Beethoven’s final words, uttered in response to a case of German wine that was sent to him by his publisher, and explains which composer, in the final days of his life, Beethoven claimed to be “the greatest who ever lived”. He plays the piece in which Beethoven seems to finally bear his soul - the slow movement of his final major work, his String Quartet No.16, along with the short canon that represents the very last notes Beethoven wrote, and the piece that a brass band played as the composer’s funeral cortege passed by; his Piano Sonata No 12. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
30/03/2152m 54s

Episode 51 – The Truly Difficult Decision

In the penultimate episode of the series, we find Beethoven coming to terms with his nephew Karl’s suicide attempt, by accepting an invitation for them both to stay at the countryside retreat belonging to Beethoven’s younger brother. Ludwig and his brother Johann didn’t get on, and as passers-by witnessed Beethoven’s increasingly eccentric appearance and behaviour whilst on his daily walks, it soon became clear that the family were heading for a huge row. John describes the argument which finally lead to the composer making the long journey back to Vienna, in freezing conditions, in an open-top milk cart. He also unveils Beethoven’s rare arrangement of the Grosse Fuge for piano duet; the manuscript of which was thought lost until only fifteen years ago, and then John plays Beethoven’s final late String Quartet, No. 16. At the top of the final movement, the composer had scribbled a sentence for reasons we still don’t fully understand; “the truly difficult decision”. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
30/03/2151m 3s

Episode 50 – Gunpowder

John begins by turning the clock back to discuss some of the mystery around the great composer’s arrival in the world, and explains why no-one is sure exactly when he was born. Then, John picks up the story 55 years later with a short canon Beethoven composed to compensate for his non-appearance in London to conduct his Symphony No.9, Ars Longa, Vita Brevis; Art endures, but life is short. He also plays a dramatic choral piece published around the same time, Tremate, empire tremate. Real life was proving to be just as dramatic; after a violent confrontation between Beethoven and his nephew, a desperate Karl took a train to Baden with a bag packed with pistols and gunpowder. The events that followed would lead to Beethoven’s ultimate humiliation. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
30/03/211h 0m

Episode 49 – Terminal Decline, Masterful Music.

In this episode, John paints a picture of a sad, withdrawn Beethoven who, approaching his final year, found conversation impossible because of his deafness, and whose health was in terminal decline. John explains how Beethoven’s student nephew Karl continued to resent his uncle, and dreaded him visiting, embarrassed by his erratic behaviour. He also reveals how the composer was spying on Karl, and why he intended to set up a game of billiards to determine whether he was fit to carry forward the family name. Even at this stage of this life, Beethoven continues to compose masterful music. John plays a piece one critic described as “Incomprehensible, like Chinese, a confusion of Babel”; his Grosse Fuge. Then, his String Quartet No.131; a work so full of depth and intensity, Schubert said of it, “After this, what is left for us to write?” All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
30/03/2157m 37s

Episode 48 – Tears in the Writing

The drama of Beethoven’s temperamental relationship with his nephew continues in this episode. As Karl, while enrolled at business school, continues to see his mother in defiance of Beethoven’s wishes, John plays the deep and intense String Quartet that reflects the composer’s hurt at the time; a piece that one of his friends said “cost him tears in the writing.” John also uncovers the rare canon that Beethoven wrote for his doctor as his ill health continued, and we hear the piece that was premiered in the stiflingly hot upstairs room of a hotel, with the composer - almost totally deaf by now - snatching a violin from a player to demonstrate how the work should played. John then describes how Beethoven let his hair down with his friends at the after-show party, thanks to a drinking song! All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
30/03/2156m 7s

Episode 47 – Withdrawal from the World

John reveals how Beethoven’s nephew, over whom the composer waged a five year court case to gain custody from the boy’s mother, begins to dominate — and blight — Beethoven’s final years. Karl had chosen a career that was not music, and - against Beethoven’s wishes - was continuing to see his mother. John explains how the music he was composing at the time, in particular one of his Late Quartets, reflected his mood. He plays a movement that John describes as “his profoundest expression of the pain of deafness, of isolation, of almost total withdrawal from the world” as Beethoven faces a health crisis he is sure is going to kill him, before playing the extraordinary movement that he wrote when he recovered. In this most dramatic period of Beethoven’s life, John also reveals why the composer turned down an invitation to perform his Symphony No.9 for the London Philharmonic Society, and explains how his increasingly-hostile nephew is hatching a plan that would remove his uncle from his life for good. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
30/03/2155m 42s

Episode 46 – The Choral

John tells the remarkable story of the night of Friday May 7th, 1824 - when Beethoven arrived to conduct a concert that was widely expected to be a disaster. As the great composer stood at the podium, the audience heard - for the first time - what would be his final symphony. John reveals the real story behind Beethoven’s Symphony No.9, including the reason why a professional conductor was hired to stand behind Beethoven without his knowledge, how the audience reacted to a work unlike anything they had ever heard before, and how pure drama unfolded as Beethoven attempted to incorporate the voices that gave this entirely new kind of symphony it’s nickname; the Choral. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
17/03/211h 3m

Episode 45 – The Final Five Years

John arrives in the last five years of Beethoven’s life, as we reach the year 1823 in the story of the great composer, and finds him applying for a job; something he’d only done once before. The position he seeks is abolished, and his health problems keep coming too, as he’s struggling with his sight as well as his hearing. John plays a piece demonstrating that at least his sense of humour was still intact. John also reveals what happens when Beethoven attended a recital by a young pianist who was making waves; a certain Franz Liszt, and explains how Beethoven was inspired to compose what became, in John’s opinion, the greatest set of piano variations he would ever write. He also plays the finale of Beethoven’s biggest choral work - albeit finished three years too late for the ceremony for which it was written - along with his final piano sonata, and the first of his Late Quartets, considered to be amongst the greatest body of writing in all music. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
17/03/211h 0m

Episode 44 – Musicians Come Knocking

In this episode, two of Beethoven’s musical contemporaries come knocking on his door. The first, Rossini, vividly describes meeting the other composer afterwards, and Beethoven does not come across well. He does confess to enjoying one of Rossini’s works though, and John will reveal which one. The second is Schubert. John describes Franz’s disappointment after finally plucking up the courage to approach the great man’s door. This is during a period where Beethoven is in continuous ill health - and it showed, as illustrated by the story John tells of Beethoven finding himself behind bars, having been mistaken for a tramp. He is still able to compose astonishing music though, and John plays two more real rarities, including an overture Beethoven composed to mark the opening of a new theatre, and a poem that he set to music; a Song of Sacrifice. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
17/03/2154m 42s

Episode 43 – Health Battles

John explores how Beethoven’s deteriorating health did not get in the way of his musical creativity. After winning custody of his nephew in a long, draining court battle, the great composer becomes seriously ill and confined to bed just as he has a teenager to raise. During this period of ill health, Beethoven composed what turned out to be his final set of piano sonatas, and finished one of his grandest works, the Missa Solemnis. John also discovers a little song proving that Beethoven had retained his sense of humour; it translates as “Just because your name is Hope doesn’t mean you’re always hopeful”. And as the composer is told that the probable subject of his famous “Immortal beloved” letter has died, John plays a second - more intense - setting of a poem that Beethoven had originally set to music for her. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
17/03/2159m 29s

Episode 42 – Court Battles

John continues the dramatic story of Beethoven’s attempts to win custody of his 9 year old nephew after his brother’s death. He lifts the lid on what happened in the courtroom and how the boy’s mother attempted to visit her son in disguise - dressed as a man - while he was in Beethoven’s care. John also reveals how a single letter in Beethoven’s name almost led to him losing custody of the boy for good. He also plays music that Beethoven was composing during this tumultuous period in his life, including the first song cycle in musical history, his greatest piano sonata to date, and a quintet composed for the unusual combination of five string instruments. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
17/03/2154m 13s

Episode 41 - Karl

John picks up Beethoven’s story as the year 1815 dawns, and he discovers the great composer in good form; he’s finally finished his opera, Fidelio, and has been commissioned to write an overture to celebrate an Austrian hero. John plays that now obscure piece, along with the cello sonatas he was turning to at that time. But then, a devastating event led to Beethoven taking a dramatic course of action; his brother died, and he fought for legal custody of his nephew. John tells the story, and plays the wind quintet and septet that debuted in concert around that time, reflecting the composer’s mood after the legal verdict was revealed. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
17/03/211h 4m

Episode 40 - 1814

John uncovers a year of enormous musical variety in the life of Beethoven; 1814. He unveils music the great composer wrote to accompany an ode to Vienna - a piece John describes as “one of the most bizarre pieces of music he would ever compose”, and he tells the dramatic story of thehuge fire suffered by a Russian Ambassador, whose name lives on in a set of String Quartets that Beethoven dedicated to him. There’s also a piece Beethoven wrote for the late wife of a patron - one of his least known works - along with a delightful piano Sonata, and the first performance of Beethoven’s only opera in its final completed form; Fidelio. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
05/03/2154m 3s

Episode 39 – Tick-Tock

In this episode, John explores the friendship between Beethoven and the German-born inventor and showman, Johann Nepomuk Malzel. Malzel has gone down in history as the probable inventor of the metronome, so John plays part of Beethoven’s Symphony No.8 said to be inspired by the metronome’s tick-tock rhythm. He also reveals the unusual piece that the great composer wrote for Malzel’s newly-invented “mechanical orchestra”. Then, John discovers which pieces Beethoven played for the first time at a series of charity concerts he put on with Malzel, including a work described at the time as “written by someone who has lost their mind” - his Symphony No.7 - and an Italian song Beethoven composed for the unusual vocal combination of soprano, tenor and bass. Finally, he tells the story of the disastrous concert that lead to Beethoven realising, for the first time that deafness meant his performing days were over. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
05/03/2157m 0s

Episode 38 - 1812

John continues to tell the story of Beethoven through the eventful year of 1812. The composer meets his literary hero, the German poet Goethe, but he discovers they do not get on. That doesn’t stop Beethoven continuing to compose music based on his poetry, as John demonstrates when he plays a real rarity. He also reveals Beethoven’s reaction when he received a letter from his brother, informing him that he intended to marry the mother of an illegitimate child. What followed was a confrontation, a meeting with a Bishop, and a piece of music that perhaps reflected the great composer’s temperament at the time; a series of funeral marches. It isn’t all low mood, though. John will also play the finale to the joyous symphony he was also composing that year; Symphony No.8. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
05/03/2156m 29s

Episode 37 – The Immortal Beloved

John puts Beethoven’s love life in the spotlight, as he attempts to uncover the identity of the composer’s so-called “Immortal Beloved”; the subject of a love letter Beethoven wrote, the intended recipient of which is lost to history. John also plays a short love song that he suspects was dedicated to her, and discovers a piece that Beethoven wrote for the daughter of a woman he was known to be close to. Could she be the one? John thinks so, and explains why. He also plays the overture that opened a concert given in Beethoven’s honour after he was unable to give his Piano Concerto No.5 its first performance, tells the story of Beethoven’s disastrous journey to a spa town to recover his health, and plays part of the work that Beethoven composed whilst he was there; a piece he referred to as “my little symphony”, his Symphony No.8. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
05/03/2155m 25s

Episode 36 - Recuperation

In this episode, John provides further musical evidence that Beethoven’s increasing deafness was not impeding his creativity, as he plays two different overtures to two different plays - both of which he composed in 1811 at the age of 40. One, set in Ancient Greece and written to open a huge new theatre, and the other a deeply patriotic tribute to a former king. As Beethoven suffers from money problems, and with his health playing up, his doctor suggests he recuperates in a spa town and John discovers more pieces that the great composer wrote during this troubling period in his life. He reveals the String Quartet that Beethoven insisted was written only for a small circle of connoisseurs and should never be performed in public - an instruction that was ignored - as well as a bright and uplifting Violin Sonata that belies the troubles the composer faced. John also plays the work that drew Beethoven back to writing a symphony for the first time in three years, whilst recovering in that spa town; his Symphony No.7 All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
05/03/2155m 22s

Episode 35 – War

John continues his journey through the life of Beethoven by picking up the story in Vienna, a city being besieged by Napoleon; not that this stifled the composer’s creativity. John plays two of the small military marches Beethoven composed inspired by the events around him, along with the moving Piano Sonata he wrote to say farewell to his friend and patron, as Archduke Rudolph was forced to flee the city. John also reveals the story behind one of Beethoven’s most famous pieces for piano, also composed around this time; his Piano Concerto No.5, the “Emperor”. John explains why it’s one of his most inventive pieces of writing, and how it has its own, sad, place in musical history. Finally, John plays part of a Piano Trio that Beethoven composed for a friend - but which was a disaster when he first premiered it, owing to his worsening deafness, along with music Beethoven wrote for his literary hero. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
24/02/2155m 36s

Episode 34 – Rewriting the Rules

In this episode, John explores the many ways in which Beethoven rewrote the musical rulebook, from famous openings to terrifying solos. John explains what impact the opening chords of his ‘Eroica’ Symphony would have had on the original audience, and why the soloist is the one setting the pace for the very first time, in his Piano Concerto No.4. John also reveals which Beethoven moments can dramatically increase the heart rates of even the finest musicians, including the very beginning of his ‘Emperor’ Piano Concerto, the Violin Romance that demands the soloist plays across two strings at once - knows as “double-stopping - and the Mount Everest for violinists; the piece that requires “double-double stopping”. Finally, he explores Beethoven’s apparent obsession with the timpani, demonstrated in his so-called “Piano Concerto No.6” - in reality, an arrangement he made of his Violin Concerto for piano - and how he ensured that the timpani shines in one of his most famous creations; Symphony No.9, the ‘Choral’. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
24/02/2155m 52s

Episode 33 – Vienna

John reveals more of Beethoven’s life in Vienna, as the French Revolutionary Army under Napoleon Bonaparte is bearing down on the city. Amongst the chaos and the noise, John asks - whatever possessed the great composer to write a set of Scottish folk songs? He also examines whether one of the most famous images of Beethoven from around this time is true; did he really take shelter in a basement, holding two cushions to his ears to protect his already damaged hearing from the noise of war? John discovers music Beethoven wrote amidst the turmoil; works which are surprisingly exuberant and carefree; a major new String Quartet, and the shortest and sweetest Piano Sonata of the thirty-five he ever composed. Finally, John tells the story that led to Beethoven composing the incidental music to a play written by a man he greatly admired - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. You might know the Egmont Overture from that play, but John also plays some of the other pieces that led Goethe himself to declare, “Beethoven has expressed my intentions with a remarkable degree of genius.” All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
24/02/2152m 30s

Episode 32 – A Disastrous Night

John explores the night that should have been one of the greatest of Beethoven’s professional life. But his long-awaited benefit concert was overly long, took place on a cold December night and was performed by an under-par orchestra in front of an unforgiving audience. John reveals why the evening was such a disaster, and plays one of the arias that was sung that night; a performance that the soprano got dramatically wrong. John also reveals which Piano Sonata Beethoven gave as a parting gift to one of his patrons, who was escaping the backdrop of war and panic that was engulfing Vienna at the hands of Napoleon, and discovers how Beethoven was persuaded to stay in the city to compose his final, and most mighty Piano Concerto; No.5 - the Emperor. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
24/02/2156m 56s

Episode 31 - 1808

John focuses on Beethoven’s turbulent year of 1808 - in which we find the great composer in a foul mood, having been finally rebuffed by the long-term focus of his amorous advances, and awaiting a long-promised date for a highly prestigious benefit concert that had been cancelled several times. Despite the challenges of his personal and professional life, Beethoven continue to compose masterful music. John discovers a Piano Trio that seems entirely different to anything he had written before, nicknamed Ghost because of its eerie quality. He also reveals the setting of a Goethe poem that Beethoven struggled to compose, saying “I did not have enough time to produce a good one, so here are several attempts”, and John plays one of the composers best-loved symphonies, written as Beethoven escaped the stress of the city, to the calm of the countryside; his Symphony No.6, the Pastoral. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
24/02/211h 0m

Episode 30 – Fidelio

For episode 30, John features some of the most remarkable pieces from Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, telling the story of how it came to be, and how Beethoven feared he was finally out of his depth as a composer. He explains how it took Beethoven four attempts to arrive at a completed overture, why the opera was initially banned by the censor and then shut down after three nights, and what made Beethoven decide to meet with his patron and rewrite it; piece by piece, and line by line in order for the work to finally find its audience. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
17/02/2147m 8s

Episode 29 – 1804

John focuses on just one year in the life of Beethoven; 1804. These twelve months were some of the most turbulent of the great composer’s personal life, but they also saw him write some of his very best music. He was 33 years old, and undoubtedly the best-known composer in the capital city of classical music, Vienna, but he was under contract to write an opera, and he was struggling. John explains why it would take Beethoven another decade to complete Fidelio. He also tells how, in 1804, Beethoven fell in love with his best friend’s wife, before also becoming infatuated with one of his music pupils. Then, John discovers some of the fine music Beethoven composed in 1804, including the pieces he wrote to come to terms with his continuing deafness, the Piano Concerto in which Ludwig deliberately includes a “wrong” note, and John explains why Beethoven tore up the dedication to one of this most ground-breaking works; his Symphony No.3 - the Eroica. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
17/02/2155m 42s

Episode 28 – Beethoven’s Musicians

In this episode, John looks at the musicians that Beethoven worked with, and whom publicly played his music; not always with happy results. John reveals which Italian double bass virtuoso impressed Beethoven so much, the great composer began to fly the flag for the instrument himself. He also introduces us to the 10 year-old boy Beethoven took on as a pupil, and who became one of the great champions of his music; he could play all 35 piano sonatas from memory. Finally, we’ll meet a now little-known violinist who sight-read a Beethoven sonata during a performance, to great acclaim by the composer himself. The two became friends, until the musician made a dramatic mistake which meant the two of them never spoke again. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
17/02/2148m 47s

Episode 27 – String Quartets

John continues exploring the different musical forms that Beethoven mastered, by focusing on a style of music that he came late to, but then transformed; his String Quartets. John will play the piece composed by Beethoven in a year of huge personal trauma, as well as a part of his late String Quartets described at the time as “incomprehensible, like Chinese, a confusion of Babel”, but now considered amongst the pinnacle of Beethoven’s work. Then, John reveals the final complete piece of music that the great composer would write, as his health was dramatically failing; a surprisingly jaunty String Quartet that belied his physical and mental condition. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
17/02/2156m 3s

Episode 26 – Piano Sonatas

As John reaches the half-way point of his series on the life of Beethoven, he spends the coming episodes focusing on different aspects of the great composer’s music - and he begins with the Piano Sonatas. John reveals which sonata Beethoven wrote whilst at his lowest ebb, and how it acquired the perfect name. He also plays the piece that Beethoven composed whilst in the midst of a court battle to gain sole custody of his brother’s son, and the epic sonata written by Beethoven that even the finest pianists say is almost impossible to play. Finally, John discovers how Beethoven incorporated jazz into one of his sonatas; so much so that world-renowned pianist Mitsuko Uchida describes it as “boogie woogie”. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
17/02/2155m 6s

Episode 25 – The Human Voice

Beethoven once said, “When I hear sounds in my head, they are the sounds of the orchestra”. This week, John examines the music Beethoven composed for the human voice. John discovers why Beethoven had an uneasy relationship with a composer who was teaching him to write for voices, Antonio Salieri. He will also play a rare piece that was part of a Beethoven song cycle; the first written by any major composer, and reveals why Beethoven also became the first to include the human voice in a symphony. But when it came to perform that work for the first time, why did the soloists complain? And why were the early rehearsals a disaster? John reveals the real story behind Beethoven’s Symphony No.9, the Choral. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
10/02/2156m 40s

Episode 24 – Religion

In this episode, John examines whether or not Beethoven had any religious conviction. He discovers how the great composer stopped to play the organ in a church undergoing renovation; and how his playing was so compelling, the workmen put down their tools in order to listen. He’ll also explain what made Beethoven walk out on his friend, fellow composer Hummel, after the premiere of a piece of sacred music. John will play the monumental work that Beethoven wrote for the enthronement of an Archbishop - three years too late, as well as the one piece that John believes genuinely points to the composer’s belief in a greater force. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
10/02/2155m 35s

Episode 23 – Beethoven’s Friends

Beethoven could count the number of close friends he had on one hand. How and why did he alienate so many who tried to get close to him? John takes a look at the small handful of musicians and friends who looked after this wayward genius, knowing that his deafness, coupled with a complete disregard for convention and normal behaviour, could swiftly put an end to his career in a city at war. He plays pieces Beethoven dedicated to those who did manage to get close to him, including an oratorio that demanded a friend find a trombone section hours before the first performance, a piece the composer wrote for a short-sighted friend entitled Duet for Two Pairs of Spectacles, and music he composed for a piano-maker that forever changed the way the keyboard was played. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
10/02/2157m 57s

Episode 22 – Beethoven’s Patrons

In this episode, John examines those wealthy, aristocratic individuals who bank-rolled Beethoven’s career. But how did this young man from hundreds of miles away to the northwest, in ill-fitting, unkempt clothes, with an accent from the Rhineland that was harsh and gutteral on the sophisticated ears of the Viennese, acquire such a dazzling array of wealthy patrons? This week, John answers that question, and plays music dedicated to some of Beethoven’s benefactors, including a string quartet that still carries a patron’s name, a piano trio dedicated to an Archduke which suffered from a problematic premier because of the composer’s worsening deafness, and the symphony Beethoven wrote for a Prince, with whom he had a huge falling out. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
10/02/211h 1m

Episode 21 – Beethoven’s Family

John takes a closer look at Beethoven’s family, showing the devastating effect of alcohol on those closest to the young composer as he grew up, and playing a piece he composed as a boy which seemed to reflect the stress he was under, as he dealt with a fraught — and at times violent — relationship with his two younger brothers. John will also explain how Beethoven’s family attempted to cope with a member who possessed a genius beyond understanding, and how that led to Beethoven the musician’s essentially lonely life. Although, as he became known for that musical talent, Ludwig composed a piece that became so popular, he gave it the nickname “heard from every window in town”. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
10/02/2148m 38s

Episode 20 – At the Keyboard

John focuses on Beethoven’s music for the instrument that originally made his name; the piano. He discovers some rarities that demonstrate the great composer’s fondness for Britain, including variations on God Save the King and Rule Britannia, and tells the fascinating stories of the keyboard duels he was forced to take part in by his patron. John will tell us about the opponents he sent packing, including one who described Beethoven as “small, dark and obstinate-looking”, and another who stormed out of the concert hall having been soundly beaten, never to appear in Vienna again. That latter duel earned its place in musical history, as it inspired Beethoven to come up with a theme that he would return to again and again, ultimately reaching its zenith in his Symphony No.3, the Eroica. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
27/01/2157m 40s

Episode 19 – Landmarks

In this episode, John celebrates some of the landmark moments in classical music for which Beethoven was responsible. He tells the story of the Piano Sonata written by the great composer that required more keys than the standard piano, as well as more force from the pianist’s fingers. The result? The invention of the Concert Grand Piano. John also plays the opening of Beethoven’s first symphony - which premiered at the first concert that Ludwig himself put on - and reveals why the opening of the piece would have shocked audiences to the core. Plus, John reveals a version of Beethoven’s famous Fur Elise that’s a real curiosity; a revision he made to the piece that never caught on and is rarely heard today. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
27/01/2152m 33s

Episode 18 – Going Deaf

John explores Beethoven’s increasing deafness, and the impact it had on the great composer. He reveals the lengths that Beethoven went to in order to try and cure it, including disappearing to the countryside, and virtually vanishing for five months in his mid-twenties. When he emerged, he was determined to compose as much as possible, becoming obsessed with a musical theme that became a metaphor for his deafness, including his ultimate defiance against his failing hearing; his Symphony No.3 - the Eroica. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
27/01/2150m 45s

Episode 17 – Beethoven and Women

John focuses on Beethoven’s relationship with women and how he was, throughout his life, unlucky in love. He never married, but John reveals how he proposed marriage several times; once to a woman for him he wrote his famous Moonlight Sonata but whose father was not keen on Beethoven’s prospects for his daughter, and again to a young female pupil of his. She also rejected his proposal. John also plays music that Beethoven composed for a mysteriously titled “immortal beloved” and explains why, despite his obvious love for the opposite sex, marriage might not have suited Beethoven at all. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
27/01/2149m 35s

Episode 16 – On the Move

Beethoven’s popularity grows, as the great composer travels to Prague, is embraced by the local music scene, and even turns down a position at the court of the King of Prussia. John explains why he didn’t feel employment was quite right for him. He also plays a joyous piece by Beethoven that he dedicated to Haydn, music that had its first performance in a cafe, and a rare gem that Beethoven composed in frustration when he couldn’t find a lost coin. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
27/01/2154m 8s

Episode 15 - Professional Success & Personal Struggle

John describes Beethoven’s diverging fortunes; as his professional life improves and his musical reputation grows in Vienna, his personal life doesn’t see the same level of success. Amongst the music, John plays a rarity from the great composer, entitled “A Good Shoe Shouldn’t Pinch”, written for a singer with whom Beethoven fell in love, and who turned down his marriage proposal describing him as “ugly and half crazy”. John also reveals Beethoven’s growing concerns for his health, including his hearing, and how two visitors from Bonn turn out to be the last thing he needs; his younger brothers arrive to live with him. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
13/01/2149m 45s

Episode 14 - Rising Star

The 23 year old Beethoven looks for opportunities to perform in front of influential Viennese nobleman, including one who gifted him a horse that Beethoven subsequently forgot was his. We’ll hear music he wrote for the unusual combination of two oboes and cor anglais, and John tells the story of the chaotic build up to the first performance of Beethoven’s first piano concerto – now labelled his Piano Concerto No.2. Having discarded parts of it, he only just had it finished in time – and he found himself beset with health problems; as he walked out onto the stage, his stomach was troubling him, and he was starting to notice that his hearing wasn’t quite right… All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
13/01/211h 2m

Episode 13 - Life in Vienna

John tells more stories of Beethoven’s early life in Vienna, as he took in the sights and sounds of one of Europe’s most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities. He discovers music that Beethoven was inspired to write by the performances he heard there, including a theme that he would use again later, in a much more well-known piece. John also explores the uneasy relationship between the young composer and his teacher, Joseph Haydn. He explains how Beethoven felt liberated when Haydn left to visit London, and plays music that Beethoven composed during that time; a piece he liked so much, he gave it his first opus number. Haydn didn’t share that opinion, though, and John reveals how his response to Beethoven’s latest work angered the younger man. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
13/01/2154m 16s

Episode 12 - New Home

Beethoven arrives in Vienna, and John tells us about the attic that Beethoven made his home, reveals what was on his first shopping list on arrival in a new city, and describes the uneasy relationship Beethoven had with Haydn, as he took lessons from the older composer. John will also play some little-heard works that the composer had crammed into his bag for the journey, including an octet for wind instruments. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
13/01/2146m 1s

Episode 11 - Musical Influences

John examines the three biggest musical influences on Beethoven’s life. The first was Mozart, and he reveals how Beethoven reacted to the death of his great hero. The second was Bach, and so John will play music by Johann Sebastian that Beethoven learned to play as a teenager. Finally, he reveals what led Beethoven to move to Vienna and become a pupil of his third major influence, Joseph Haydn. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
13/01/2155m 23s

Episode 10 – Composer and Performer

John reveals Beethoven’s extraordinary reaction when one of Germany’s most famous piano virtuosos suggested he might be a “better composer than a performer”; Beethoven proved him wrong. Plus, he continues to play music by the great composer that is rarely heard, as John discovers two unknown drinking songs written by Beethoven, and reveals which piece of music first brought him to the attention of one of the leading composers of the day; Joseph Haydn. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
23/12/201h 0m

Episode 9 – The Commissions Come In

John focuses on some of the commissions that the young Beethoven received, and the works that he composed as a result. He’ll reveal what Beethoven came up with when faced with both the small, such as his Elegie on the Death of a Poodle, as well as the large; as John plays Beethoven’s Cantata on the Death of an Emperor. John also explores how the latter influenced part of Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, and the extraordinary reason why neither piece was performed in his lifetime. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
23/12/2052m 35s

Episode 8 – Musical Success and Family Drama

John tells the story of the arrival of a wealthy patron in the life of the teenage Beethoven, and discovers why the timing could not have been better. John will play part of a ballet that Beethoven composed under his patron’s name, and reveals why he agreed to it. Then, John describes the moment when the young composer felt forced into ensuring his father was dismissed from his job and plays a joyful piece that Beethoven composed around that time, giving the impression that, despite his family dramas, he didn’t have a care in the world. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
23/12/2054m 12s

Episode 7 – Beethoven and Mozart

John dedicates this episode to Beethoven’s admiration of another legendary composing name, Mozart. John will play music by Beethoven, that he based entirely on the work of Mozart, including variations on arias from his operas Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute. John tells the story of exactly what happened when the young Beethoven got to meet his musical hero, and reveals why Beethoven turned down Mozart’s offer to take him on as a pupil. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
23/12/2053m 42s

Episode 6 – Growing Up

John discovers how Beethoven reacted when he was forced to become the main breadwinner in the family after his father committed fraud, and he reveals why the young composer hated teaching music to others, even though it lead to him meeting the first love of his life. John plays one of several pieces Beethoven dedicated to her, as well as a piece he wrote as a teaching aid and the overture to his first - and only - ballet. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
23/12/2054m 58s

Episode 5 – Musical Youth

John tells more stories of Beethoven’s youth, including the childhood pranks he engaged in, and his unusually musical response to being caught stealing eggs from a henhouse. John will also reveal why Beethoven became a piano teacher at the age of 13, and as well as playing part of one of his best-known piano sonatas, he discovers a Violin Concerto that Beethoven wrote as a teenager, of which only a fragment survives. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
16/12/201h 1m

Episode 4 – School Days

The precise date of Beethoven’s birth is a mystery to this day, and in this episode John explores the reasons why the composer’s father may have been deliberately trying to disguise his son’s age. He’ll also reveal the truth behind Beethoven’s school days, and why they were so bad, his family were forced to remove him at the age of ten. John plays the music Ludwig was composing around that time too, including his first attempt at a Theme with Variations, and how, as a boy, Beethoven wrote a series of Piano Quartets that he could play alongside adults. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
16/12/2047m 32s

Episode 3 – Family Ties

Family influences all of us – but what impact did Beethoven’s family play in his young life? John tells the story of how Beethoven’s much-loved grandfather first introduced Ludwig to music, and discovers the piece that he seemed driven to write by grief after losing him. John also explores why the failures of Beethoven’s father led to the boy becoming the main breadwinner when only a teenager, and plays the piece of music that Ludwig composed when he was 13, and already re-writing the musical rules. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
16/12/2054m 29s

Episode 2 – Musical Promise

John plays music by Beethoven that has its roots in Britain in this episode, including a Scottish folksong that’s almost never heard today. He’ll also reveal what happened when Beethoven’s name was – for the first time – mentioned in the same breath as his great inspiration, Mozart, and tell us about the only paid position that Beethoven ever held; a job that led to his first musical commissions. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
16/12/2050m 38s

Episode 1 – The Boy Beethoven

In the first episode, John discovers the real meaning behind one of Beethoven’s most famous pieces, Fur Elise, and introduces us to the boy Beethoven, discovering some of his earliest works, including the nine variations on a theme he wrote at the age of eleven, and an unpublished piece he composed as a teen, sometimes known as his Piano Concerto No.0. John also reveals the biggest influence on Beethoven’s childhood; the teacher who recognised the young Ludwig as the genius that he was. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
16/12/201h 4m

Beethoven: The Man Revealed (Trailer)

Join John Suchet for a landmark series, as he takes us on a journey to discover the real story behind one of the world’s greatest composers. Over 52 episodes, John brings us music by Beethoven that we know and love, alongside rarely heard gems that give us an insight into a classical music icon. All the Beethoven pieces featured in this podcast are taken from the 90-disc Naxos box set, the Complete Beethoven Edition. You can buy yours by heading to Presto Classical and Europadisc.
09/12/2051s
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