Beethoven, reconsidered

Posted on: August 22, 2014

In Friday’s (8/22) Boston Globe, David Weininger writes, “As the summer, impossibly, begins to wane … and another Tanglewood season draws to a finish, Beethoven is again on the horizon. The idyllic festival will conclude with an all-Beethoven program that includes the Choral Fantasy … and what the BSO calls its “traditional” season closer: the Ninth Symphony … Ceremonial treatment is a familiar position for the Ninth. But how did it go from being a daringly modern specimen of symphonic art to the world’s favorite occasion-marker? This question (and many others) has been on the mind of Jan Swafford, professor of music history, theory, and composition at the Boston Conservatory and a noted biographer. Swafford’s massive new tome, Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, is his attempt to wrest the composer’s life story away from both academic theories and mythmaking hagiography … Swafford: “The Ninth [Symphony] was incomprehensible in its time. And I want to put some of that weirdness, that freshness, that wildness, back into people’s perception of the music, if I can. It’s not up on a pedestal anymore; it’s a living, breathing thing.”

The Boston Symphony Orchestra concluded the 2013 Tanglewood season with a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Photo: Hilary Scott

Posted August 22, 2014