The Dallas Symphony Orchestra will devote its next three weeks of concerts to Beethoven. Today on Think, DSO music director Jaap Van Zweden and concertmaster Alex Kerr talked to Krys Boyd about why the composer remains irresistible to classical music fans nearly 200 years after his death.
The festival kicks off Thursday and into this weekend with performances of Beethoven’s 9th.
Or you can listen to highlights that Think Producer Stephen Becker shared on KERA’s evening newscast:
(Here’s Stephen’s piece, but it’s worth listening – and catching the music):
If Beethoven’s life story were dreamed up by some Hollywood screenwriter, no one would buy it. It’s too far-fetched.
“It’s hard to believe, still today, that you write music which will stay there for ages and ages, and is considered to be maybe the most beautiful music ever written, and he did not hear it himself,” says Van Zweden. “It’s an amazing thing.”
That’s right – Beethoven, certainly on the Mount Rushmore of classical composers, couldn’t enjoy his own work. Alex Kerr is the DSO’s concertmaster.
“He was starting to lose his hearing at the age of 30. And he lived and composed until he was 57.”
Hard to believe that the writer of maybe the four most recognizable notes in music history never heard them.
“How is that possible that this guy didn’t hear?” Kerr says. “I mean, in his head – he heard these things in his head. For me, it exalts him to a level that not many composers can rise to.”
Which makes you wonder – is some of that greatness actually a result of Beethoven’s later-life struggles?
“This guy has a very dark side,” says Van Zweden. “The drama in his music, you can feel actually – quite often.”
This weekend, the DSO kicks off its Beethoven Festival with his 9th Symphony. It premiered in Vienna in 1824 to five standing ovations. It’s thought that the crowd stood, at least in part, so that the composer could see their admiration.