Bob Fabian's LIFE Courses

Exploring Beethoven

Here is the text of my initial course proposal (see below for pdf version of presentation slides):

Beethoven's music has been accepted as the bedrock of our musical thought since the beginning of the 19 th century. His music is almost too present. But he was a man of his time and of his place. He drew inspiration from those who came before him and his creative genius flourished in 19th century Vienna. The goal of this course is to put Beethoven in a context, to explore his impact, and to consider the many ways his music can be presented.

Listening to performances of Beethoven's music will be a central part of this course. Mostly, we'll be listening to and watching YouTube performances. That way, we can sample the music and its performance in class and class participants, should they wish, can go back to the complete performance at home. (We may sample a few exceptional performances that are only available as audio.)

Beethoven studied the works of Bach, Haydn and Mozart. We'll spend some time examining the impact of that music on his compositions. He also studied with his father and was certainly influenced by his grandfather, the first Ludwig van Beethoven. He grew up in Bonn, then a city of some 10,000 people. It was provincial, but it had a cosmopolitan view of the world and of music. Vienna drew the young Beethoven and was his mature home.

Many concerts since Beethoven's time have featured his music. Many distinguished conductors have recorded a complete set of his symphonies. Many distinguished string quartets have recorded a complete set of his string quartets. And many distinguished pianists have recorded a complete set of his piano sonatas. How to pick favorites? That will be an on-going class discussion.

The overall goal is to provide a musically enjoyable exploration of Beethoven's music, think about the impact of time and place, and consider the impact of his music on our time and place. It's to be educational, but also engaging and entertaining.

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