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Beethoven’s Nine, A Spiritual Journey – five online talks by Richard Wigmore

posted on 05/01/21



We’re delighted to be launching more MRT teatime talks, following the success of ‘Renaissance Masterpieces, Eternal Mysteries’ with Michael Douglas Scott. (This continues until 5th February so it’s not too late to join – subscribers can catch up with those already broadcast until 30th March.)

Richard Wigmore gives a series of five weekly webinars on the greatest orchestral canon in the Classical/Romantic era – the nine symphonies by Beethoven. Beginning on 28th January, all are on Thursdays at 4.30pm (GMT) and last 50 to 55 minutes including a question and answer session at the end.

Writer, critic and lecturer, Richard is among the most perceptive and articulate musicologists of our time. The Viennese School is his speciality.

Register for the webinar series for £60

Frequently asked questions

What methods of payment do you accept?

An electronic invoice will be sent to your e-mail address 1–3 working days after you have completed our registration form. Payment can be made online using AMEX, Apple Pay, Google Pay, MasterCard or Visa.

How do I purchase the webinar series as a gift?

Please contact us specifying how many subscriptions you would like and who they are for (we require their full name and e-mail address). We will invoice you directly, and after we have received your payment we will release the webinar joining instructions to your friend(s) or family member(s).

Can I purchase a single episode?

No, unfortunately not. The series must be purchased in full.

How do I join the webinar?

An e-mail confirmation will be sent to you after you have paid for your subscription, which includes your unique link for joining the webinar. Reminder e-mails will be sent to you one day and one hour before each event. We recommend that you download the Zoom software in advance of the first webinar.

Can I watch the live broadcast(s) on more than one device?

Only one device can be connected to the live broadcast(s) at any one time. If you wish to purchase a second subscription, please contact us.

What happens if I am unable to attend the live broadcast(s)? 

A recording will be uploaded to a dedicated webpage approximately two hours after the live broadcast. For copyright reasons, these recordings cannot be made available indefinitely; access is granted for eight weeks after the final live broadcast of the series.

The talks

1. Tradition and subversion: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 (28th January)

Buoyed by his early successes in Vienna, the 29-year-old Beethoven staked his claim as the heir of the Classical symphonic tradition with his First Symphony. He succeeded, brilliantly, in a work of exuberant comic invention. The Viennese approved. Two years later, the Second Symphony remained, just, within the Haydn-Mozart tradition, yet it provoked hostility for its ‘grotesque wildness’ and ‘extravagant modulations’.

2. After the crisis: Symphonies Nos. 3, ‘Eroica’, and 4 (4th February)

In the wake of Beethoven’s despair at his encroaching deafness, the ‘Eroica’, No. 3, is a true watershed work: in its epic scale and scope, its sheer originality and, not least, its ethical aura. Symphony No. 4 may seem a throwback to an earlier age, but this largely unshadowed music is a masterpiece of wit, subtlety and lyric beauty. 

3. A pair of opposites: Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6, ‘Pastoral’ (11th February)

Beethoven’s most famous symphony, No. 5, is, with the Ninth, the blueprint for so many darkness-to-light narratives of the Romantic era. Yet for all its extra-musical associations, the symphony exudes a Classical rigour and motivic economy. Its (mainly) serene antithesis, the ‘Pastoral’, No. 6, is testimony to Beethoven’s profound love of nature, culminating in a finale that mingles rusticity with pantheistic ecstasy.

4. Riding a wave of popularity: Symphonies Nos. 7 and 8 (18th February)

The Viennese premiere of the Seventh Symphony in 1813 was one of the greatest triumphs of Beethoven’s career. Even by his standards, the symphony is an astonishing discharge of Dionysiac energy. Wagner famously dubbed it ‘the apotheosis of the dance’. Its genial successor, No. 8 –  compact in scale but not in reach – was a mixed success, much to the annoyance of the composer.

5. An Enlightenment Hymn: Symphony No. 9 (25th February)

Beethoven’s symphony quickly became a cultural icon after its premiere in May 1824. No other piece of instrumental music has provoked so many flights of critical fancy. Whether or not you hear the Ninth as tragedy-to-triumph autobiography, as the Romantics did, its vast choral finale with Schiller’s Ode to Joy remains Beethoven’s most overwhelming expression of Enlightenment ideals of human perfectibility.

Register for the webinar series for £60


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