On Saturday nights from 9pm to 10pm, John Suchet presents ‘Beethoven – The Man Revealed’, a year-long series about Beethoven’s life, celebrating 250 years since the great composer’s birth.
Throughout the landmark 52-week series, John will reveal the dramas, loves, conflicts and successes of the musical genius, offering listeners an unprecedented insight into the man behind the music.
Saturday 24 October
John continues the dramatic story of Beethoven’s attempts to win custody of his 9 year old nephew after his brother’s death. He lifts the lid on what happened in the courtroom and how the boy’s mother attempted to visit her son in disguise – dressed as a man – while he was in Beethoven’s care.
He also plays music that Beethoven was composing during this tumultuous period in his life, including the first song cycle in musical history, An die Ferne Geliebte, and his greatest piano sonata to date, known as the ‘Hammerklavier’ sonata.
Saturday 31 October
This week, John explores how Beethoven’s deteriorating health did not get in the way of his musical creativity.
After winning custody of his nephew in a long, draining court battle, the great composer becomes seriously ill and confined to bed just as he has a teenager to raise. During this period of ill health, Beethoven composed what turned out to be his final set of piano sonatas, and finished one of his grandest works, the Missa Solemnis.
John also discovers a little song proving that Beethoven had retained his sense of humour; it translates as ‘Just because your name is Hope doesn’t mean you’re always hopeful’. And as the composer is told that the probable subject of his famous ‘Immortal beloved’ letter has died, John plays a second – more intense – setting of a poem that Beethoven had originally set to music for her: An Die Hoffnung.
Saturday 7 November
Beethoven shares the spotlight today, as two of the great composer’s musical contemporaries come knocking on his door. The first, Rossini, vividly described meeting him, and Beethoven does not come across well.
The second is Schubert, and John describes Franz’s disappointment after finally plucking up the courage to approach the great man’s door.
This all took place during a period where Beethoven was in continuous ill health – and it showed, as illustrated by the story John tells of Beethoven finding himself behind bars, having been mistaken for a tramp. He is still able to compose astonishing music though, and John plays two more real rarities, including a piece Beethoven composed to mark the opening of a new theatre, appropriately titled The Consecration of the House, and a poem that he set to music; Song of Sacrifice.