Why November Is Perfect For Ludwig

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Growing up in England, "put the kettle on and let’s have a nice cup of tea" is the first line of the famous unwritten Constitution. Brits will swear allegiance to the power of a well-made cuppa. A fix for all sorts of woes, ills, chills and the perfect glue to a social occasion, especially if complaining is required. A Brit really can’t have a good gossip or gripe without putting the kettle on first.

I have lived in New York for 16 years, and have had the pleasure of being the general manager of WQXR for the past two. While I don’t drink half as much tea as I used to, I was really amused and moved to see this comment from a WQXR listener on our Facebook page yesterday:

"On a day like today, how can you not sit back & enjoy a nice cup of tea and WQXR on the radio? Hurricane be damned! More Beethoven."

The writer was in Brooklyn (not England!), but his tea-drinking solution for riding out the storm certainly brought a smile to my face and the faces of many of us at the station. But, then he continued to cite the ultimate in all solutions for facing a storm: "More Beethoven." Mr. Earl Grey in Greenpoint, I couldn’t agree with you more.

Thursday marks the second annual installment of WQXR's self-proclaimed “Beethoven Awareness Month,” where November is given over to all things Ludwig. We have planned for a great mix of superb music on the radio, an all-Beethoven stream from WQXR.org, live broadcasts from Carnegie Hall, two magnificent concerts from The Greene Space and much, much more. As we planned the month, we tried to find the perfect balance of excellence and whimsy. We believe the great man can take a little fun being sent in his direction, as his music will always stand up and take it on the chin and send a musical punch back enough to knock you over.  

But Sunday night, Sandy arrived and honestly, everything feels a little different right now. Someone even said to me today, "It all feels a little like after 9-11 right now." The city and the whole Tri-State area is adjusting to a very new normal that seems to be changing each minute. Uncertainty flows and questions go unanswered.  

Since Sandy delivered her one-two punch, we have done our very best to keep the music flowing from our FM transmitter and from our streams and mobile platforms. Our hosts have been utterly magnificent, giving us the most beautiful music on earth combined with relevant news and updates.  There were many hurdles, but none we didn’t move heaven and earth to overcome.

Beethoven himself was a man faced with incredible challenges that, at moments in his life, threatened his creative and his human existence. Deafness arrived when he was in bloom of his work. He didn’t know if he could ever overcome the pain, the ringing, the altered world he now lived with daily.  But, we know how the story ends. With the Razumovsky Quartets, the last three piano concertos, the last six symphonies, and the list goes on.  

As this week continued in the wake of the Superstorm, we didn’t think for a moment of cancelling our plans for our celebration of Beethoven's music, life and power. He didn’t shrink from a challenge and neither did he shrink from conceiving the most spectacular sounds, rhythms and melodies. If it worked for him, it works for us and we really hope it works for you.  

Whilst the next few days and weeks roll forward, WQXR promises you the best of Beethoven and many many other reasons to keep the radio on. You might be drawn in by Bill McLaughlin’s daily Beethoven Moments, or hearing Q2 Music’s updated take on Beethoven’s string quartets on November 8, and perhaps our pièce de résistance, a marathon of all the 16 string quartets live from The Greene Space on November 18.  

To my tea-drinking, WQXR-loving friend in Brooklyn, you are entirely correct. "Hurricane be damned. More Beethoven." Sandy – stand aside. Put the kettle on. I raise my cup and saucer to everything Ludwig can deliver. Here’s to a great Beethoven Awareness Month.  

Follow me on Twitter: @grahamparkernyc and share your thoughts.