Beethoven this week on Classical MPR

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
December 27, 2010

St. Paul, Minn. — In "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Lucy leans on the toy piano and provokes Schroeder - who has just chosen Beethoven's Fur Elise as music for the Christmas play.

"Everyone talks about how "great" Beethoven was. Beethoven wasn't so great. He never got his picture on bubblegum cards, did he? Have you ever seen his picture on a bubblegum card? Hmmm? How can you say someone is great who's never had his picture on bubblegum cards?"

Schroeder is left speechless, only grumbling "Good Grief!"

Beethoven's mug may not have graced a bubble-gum card, but his wild hair, downturned mouth and eyes looking heavenward is universally recognized as the face of the 'suffering artist."

Ask nearly anyone in the world and she could - without thinking about it - sing the most famous four notes in all music - those that open Beethoven's Fifth, a theme so famous it's even the basis of a hit song from the disco era.

This week, Bill Morelock and I will take you on a journey through all of Beethoven's nine symphonies, plus a couple of piano works - his final Emperor Concerto and an early work that sounds a bit like the 9th - a choral fantasy.

Beethoven's music is filled with juxtapositions from almost slap-stick humor drinking-song quality in some of his early symphonies - to the soulful and triumphant strains of Schiller's words "Ode to Joy" in the finale of the 9th symphony.

So join us all week for some of the greatest sounds ever created - all of Beethoven's synmphonies, plus his Choral Fantasy with Helene Grimaud and the Emperor concerto with Yevgeny Sudbin and the Minnesota Orchestra.

And indeed, we'll be listening to the entire set of Osmo's discs with the Minnesota Orchestra - a set called "as compelling as any, beautifully realized in every respect."

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Beethoven week schedule:

Monday - 10:00 Choral Fantasy/7:00 Emperor Concerto #5

Tuesday - 10:00 Symphony No. 1/7:00 Symphony No. 2

Wednesday - 10:00 Symphony No. 3/7:00 Symphony No. 4

Thursday - 10:00 Symphony No. 5/7:00 Symphony No. 6

Friday - 10:00 Symphony No. 7/7:00 Symphony No. 8

Saturday (New Year's Day) - NOTE EARLY TIME 3:30 Symphony No. 9 (Choral)

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Click on the audio to the right to listen to a spectacular live recording of the Miro Quartet playing one of Beethoven's late quartets.

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