In Memory of a Great Man

Monday, December 14, 2009 - 07:30 PM

This week we're celebrating Beethoven's birthday.

To honor the composer we're playing all five of his piano concertos during Symphony Hall. And Saturday night on Q2 with Terrance McKnight, join me for one of Beethoven's piano sonatas as you've never before experienced it.

To add to the celebration, I'd like to collect your favorite Beethoven anecdotes or memories of hearing his music. Here's one of my favorites: A fan of the composer asked him for a lock of his hair. Beethoven sent the woman a lock of hair from a goat. She didn't realize it and was proud and boastful of the wooly lock. He eventually confessed, apologized and sent her the real thing.  Please share your favorite Beethoven story here!

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Comments [19]

Daniel Rutkowski from Bard College

One of the first pieces that influenced my life in music was Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, the "Pastoral." I attended a concert at Merkin Hall where my trumpet teacher was performing Haydn's Trumpet Concerto. Also on the program was the above mentioned magnum opus.

Jan. 28 2010 08:55 PM
Elysian Fur from nyc

Thank you for this opportunity to listen to the genius of Beethoven. However,because even in the most trivial of his works, one can see signs of his greatness, I would also like to hear more of the lesser compositions of this giant -- the bagatelles, Waldstein ballet music, unison choruses, An die ferne Geliebte, Die Weihe des Hauses, etc.

Jan. 23 2010 10:05 AM
Mina from New York

Thanks Terrance.
I heard Beethoven first in my family's home, but also again in second grade when the teacher played a recording for us in class.

I just read the note below from WQXR which says: " In order to facilitate constructive conversations surrounding the intended topic of the blog, we encourage users to email Listener Services ( or post on the Listener Services blog ( with more general concerns about the station. "

But in reality this link brings us to a WNYC page.
How pathetic that there is no way possible to leave a comment on the web site devoted to WQXR !

I also have to emphasize that this is the same WNYC comment page that has been running since OCTOBER!!

Hey, WQXR, Get real!

Jan. 04 2010 10:08 PM

In order to facilitate constructive conversations surrounding the intended topic of the blog, we encourage users to email Listener Services ( or post on the Listener Services blog ( with more general concerns about the station.

Jan. 04 2010 10:34 AM
J Thompson from Ecuador

As a child, I was introduced to classical music by the author of this comment and her husband, John Wallace Thompson. And, like her, Beethoven's Symphony #5 is still my favorite piece!

Jan. 01 2010 07:55 AM
Elissa Thompson from Brooklyn

As a child I was introduced to classical music in "Music Appreciation" at school. One of the first pieces I heard was Beethoven's 5th Symphony. It is and has been my favorite for about 60 years.

Dec. 30 2009 08:50 PM
Margaret from New York

Thanks for playing the Beethoven and your blog entry.
I have enjoyed the other Beethoven comments posted by others.

Tonight I heard you mention "Martha Graham" and then you referred to it again, saying "the ballet company". To be more accurate, Martha Graham is a dance company, and not unlike Alvin Ailey. I don't think you would call Alvin Ailey a ballet company, so I want to correct you not to call Martha Graham a ballet company either.
Hope you take this constructive criticism with ease.
Many thanks,

Dec. 28 2009 10:01 PM

The "other" web site had a wonderful collection of sessions by Garrick Ohlsson, sharing insights into the Beethoven sonatas, playing excerpts and talking about the music and the composer. I'm hoping they can be made available here. I was working my way through them and hadn't yet finished.

Dec. 25 2009 08:14 PM
Stu Chamberlain from New York

This may be apocryphal, but it stuck with me. I read as a child that as Beethoven lay dying in Vienna, a massive thunderstorm burst over the city. The great man raised himself out of his bed, shook his fist at the thunder..... and died then and there.

Dec. 24 2009 09:55 AM
Annette from North Bergen, NJ

My aunt took me to see "Fantasia" when I was 12. It was the first time I heard/saw Beethoven's 6th Symphony, and I was enchanted.

I always thank her for taking me. It's still my favorite Beethoven piece.

Dec. 23 2009 07:38 PM

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, lieber herr Beethoven.

Dec. 19 2009 11:28 PM
Lewis A. Nowitz from New York, NY

Saint-Saens variations are on the Trio from the Minuet, 3rd Movement of Beethoven Sonata 18 in E-Flat Major, Op. 31 no. 3

Dec. 19 2009 11:07 PM
Michael Meltzer

Michael Meltzer
The septet, op.20 was by far the most popular composition of Beethoven's during his lifetime, which irritated the composer of the late sonatas, the late quartets and the Missa Solemnis to no end. His comment then was,"I wish it were burned."
The public froze him in time, as we all later did with Stravinsky with Sacre, Firebird and Petrouchka, never mind a half-century more of musical contribution and evolution.
The septet was arranged and published for piano solo, piano 4-hands, violin and piano and piano trio. The last one still exists and had been assigned another opus #, op. 38 of which there are several editions available. Arrangements were how people enjoyed music at home, there was no WQXR.

Dec. 19 2009 05:02 AM
Michael Meltzer

First, to update the first comment, exhumation and analysis of Beethoven's remains have proven that he did not suffer from syphilis, but from lead poisoning. No one knows why. His hair samples are loaded with lead.
Beethoven was a shrewd businessman. There is some difficulty in identifying true "first" editions of his published works, because, knowing how poor the communications were in those days, Beethoven would offer many of his new compositions to publishers in London, Paris and Berlin, promising each of them exclusive sole world-wide publishing rights.
None of them ever found out they were only one of three.
So, there are often three versions that indicate they are first editions, and musicologists and collectors have their work cut out for them.

Dec. 17 2009 03:33 AM
rayna from West Orange, NJ

Hi Terrance,

Thank you for playing so much chamber music this week -- and now, my favorite recording - Emil Gilels playing the 3rd piano concerto. I bought that record when I was in college and whenever I felt down, I listened to it. I always considered Gilels' recording to be the definitive one of this piece.

I just wish WQXR didn't interrupt you at 9:00 for other programming!!

Dec. 16 2009 09:03 PM
John Coppola from Westchester County NY

Dear Terrance,

Please consider playing Alfred Brendel on the piano for Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto..........

Dec. 16 2009 08:08 PM
Serge Ledan from QUEENS,NY

Definitely the greatest composer of all time. No other composer in the history of mankind has ever had such an effect on me. What a combination of harmony, beauty and above all: Power in his music!!!

Dec. 16 2009 01:13 PM
Kyle Coles from Newarl New Jersey

I studied clasical piano as a young boy . On the family baby grand piano rested a minature bust of Beethoven. I was looked out after by those piercing eyes for many housr during those years. Thank you for the early education mom and Ludwig!

Dec. 15 2009 04:20 PM
Frank Feldman

I'm never sure when I listen to the late quartets what proportion of transcendent genius, deaf misanthrope, mystic, saint or syphilitic I'm hearing.

Dec. 14 2009 11:18 PM

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