In this episode, John paints a picture of a sad, withdrawn Beethoven who, approaching his final year, found conversation impossible because of his deafness, and whose health was in terminal decline.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.