Beethoven: Resonant Genius

Friday, February 7, 2003

Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

The story of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) is one of personal triumph over tragedy and supreme musical achievement. A complex and brilliant man, no composer before or since has exerted greater influence.

Bill Meredith, (Director, Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, San Jose State) Moderator


Lecture Myth-Making at Work: Beethoven and His 9th Symphony
The radical shift in the representation of Beethoven from recluse to “tone hero” (Wagner’s epithet) mirrors a basic evolution in European intellectual history. By the turn of the 20th century, the German-speaking world was at a peak of cultural efflorescence and at the brink of acute political crisis. Alessandra Comini (Southern Methodist University) will examine how the 9th Symphony provided a remedy for societal yearnings for “redemption through art.”

Performance Sonata in F Major op. 54 and Diabelli Variations
Pianist Charles Rosen performs these works. Saturday, February 8


Lecture A Walking Tour of Beethoven’s Vienna
Using historical paintings and engravings of late-18th and early-19th Century Vienna, Theodore Albrecht (Kent State University) will guide us through the streets that Beethoven knew well. We’ll visit the palaces and theaters that first echoed with his music, and imagine the community of musicians with whom Beethoven interacted as he produced his masterpieces.

Lecture Beethoven’s Musical World
If, by some miracle of modern science, you could be transported back to Vienna in 1800 (the year of Beethoven’s first public concert), you would recognize the music, but very little else about the musical world. By 1827, the musical landscape would start to look a little more familiar. Mary Sue Morrow (University of Cincinnati) will explore the musical world that Beethoven knew and the dramatic changes that had taken place over the course of his career.

Demonstration Piano or Forte: Beethoven and His Instrument
Beethoven’s relationship with the piano was almost never a peaceful one. He drew from the effects so powerful that audiences were left in tears and hysterics-yet he was never satisfied! In this lecture, George Barth (Stanford University) will follow the evolution of the piano and Beethoven’s relationship with his instrument. Janine Johnson will offer musical examples on an instrument like those Beethoven knew and used until the early 1800s.

Lecture Beethoven’s Bizarrerie: Perceptions of Creative Genius
One of the most frequent descriptions of Beethoven’s music by his German contemporaries was the term “bizarre.” Though we might suspect that such labels first appeared in analyses of such difficult late works as the Hammerklavier Sonata, Opus 106, the labeling of Beethoven as bizarre can be traced back to the late 1790s. William Meredith will catalog the uses of these words and explore how this quality was attributed to Beethoven.

Lecture Beethoven: Revolutionary, Conservative, and Reactionary
Beethoven never threw away a scrap of paper that he had written. He kept referring always to the work of his earliest years of training and composing. Beethoven revolutionized music, while not abandoning the lessons that he learned when in his youth. Charles Rosen will discuss Beethoven’s appropriation of the past, his ambiguous relation to tradition, and his attempts to deal with the history of music.

Panel Discussion
All lecturers join in a moderated discussion.

Presented in cooperation with the Consul General of Germany, the Goethe Institut, the Consul General of Austria, the Mechanics Institute Library, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, the German-American Chamber of Commerce, KDFC Radio, the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University and the Institute for European Studies at UC Berkeley.


Theodore Albrecht, Kent State University
George Barth, Stanford
Alessandra Comini, Southern Methodist University
Janine Johnson, Piano
William Meredith
Mary Sue Morrow, U of Cincinnati
Charles Rosen Piano