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Beethoven Variations: An Ode to the Master

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

Organised by the Bangalore International Centre in collaboration with the Glass House Festival, Beethoven Variations is a four-part series exploring the life and music of Ludwig van Beethoven. These talks were organised virtually and aired from the 23rd to 26th of July 2020.

Poet Ruth Padel and pianist Karl Lutchmayer take us through the journey of Beethoven’s life, pausing to examine and listen to landmark pieces of music. We get some insight into Beethoven’s mindset through his letters. Ruth Padel reads out poems from her collection Beethoven Variations, capturing and pondering what could have perhaps been Beethoven’s raw emotion as he went through the difficulties of his life. There were repeating themes of unrequited or unattainable love, growing deafness, and yet a defiant and powerful spirit dedicated to the creative art of composition.

Part 3 of the series discusses Beethoven’s middle period, which is considered the “essence of Romanticism” and during which he developed his “heroic” style of composition. One of the most prominent pieces of music from this period is the Fifth Symphony, which is renowned the world over, so much so that it can be identified instantly just by the first four notes. The South Asian Symphony Orchestra’s (SASO) performance of the first part of the Fifth Symphony at its “Peace Notes” concert last October is featured as part of this series. In a short discussion with Karl Lutchmayer, Ambassador Rao discusses the connections that exist between Beethoven and Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi had listened to Beethoven’s music at the residence of Romain Rolland in Switzerland in 1931, on his way back from the Round Table Conference in London. Here is a 1932 article about this very meeting. Beethoven sounded the clarion call for the values of liberty, equality and fraternity, and Gandhi personified the struggle for independence and freedom from colonial subjugation and oppression.

You can find the complete series on YouTube – Beethoven Variations, to listen to Ruth Padel’s poetry, and performances by Chiragh, the Endellion String Quartet, Karl Lutchmayer and Nina Kanter.

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