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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise of Beethoven, from Bonn to Vienna, where he became one of the great composers, despite his growing deafness.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the great composers, who was born into a family of musicians in Bonn. His grandfather was an eminent musician and also called Ludwig van Beethoven. His father, who was not as talented as Beethoven's grandfather, drank heavily and died when Beethoven was still young. It was his move to Vienna that allowed him to flourish, with the support at first of aristocratic patrons, when that city was the hub of European music. He is credited with developing the symphony further than any who preceded him, with elevating instrumental above choral music and with transforming music to the highest form of art. He composed his celebrated works while, from his late twenties onwards, becoming increasingly deaf.

(Before the live broadcast, BBC Radio 3's Breakfast programme played selections from Beethoven, with Essential Classics playing more, immediately after, on the same network.)


Laura Tunbridge
Professor of Music and Henfrey Fellow, St Catherine's College, University of Oxford

John Deathridge
Emeritus King Edward Professor of Music at King's College London


Erica Buurman
Senior Lecturer in Music, Canterbury Christchurch University

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Thu 21 Dec 2017 21:30


John Deathridge at King's College London

Laura Tunbridge at the University of Oxford

Erica Buurman at Canterbury Christchurch University

Beethoven - Hero or Villain? – BBC Radio 3 The Listening Service

The Ludwig van Beethoven website

Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies - San José State University

Beethoven-Haus Bonn

Ludwig van Beethoven – Wikipedia



Theodor W. Adorno, Beethoven: The Philosophy of Music (Polity Press, 2002)

Daniel K.L. Chua, Beethoven and Freedom (Oxford University Press, 2017)

Peter Clive, Beethoven and his World: A Biographical Dictionary (Oxford University Press, 2001)

Alessandra Comini, The Changing Image of Beethoven (Rizzoli, 1987)

Barry Cooper, Beethoven (Oxford University Press, 2008)

Martin Cooper, Beethoven: The Last Decade 1817–1827 (Oxford University Press, 1977)

Elliot Forbes (ed.), Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, 2 vols. (first published 1964; Princeton University Press, 1991)

William Kinderman, Beethoven (Oxford University Press, 2009)

Lewis Lockwood, Beethoven: The Music and the Life (W. W. Norton, 2005)

Lewis Lockwood, Beethoven’s Symphonies: An Artistic Vision (W. W. Norton, 2015)

Nicholas Mathew, Political Beethoven (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Alexander Rehding, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (Oxford University Press, 2017)

Maynard Solomon, Beethoven (Schirmer Trade Books, 2001)

Jan Swafford, Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph (Faber & Faber, 2014)

David Wyn Jones, The Life of Beethoven (Cambridge University Press, 1998)


Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Laura Tunbridge
Interviewed Guest John Deathridge
Interviewed Guest Erica Buurman
Producer Simon Tillotson


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