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Great Composers: Beethoven, Ludwig Van (BBC Documentary)

These are truly outstanding programmes. They offer not just outline biographies but interesting comment and insight on the composers‘ lives and achievements, and their importance in the development of the art of music, from an impressive team of experts: biographers and musicologists, and conductors and artists that are associated with their music. Of course, within the limited space of an hour, the coverage cannot claim to be comprehensive; but it is a miracle how much material is crammed into each programme. Indeed, all seven programmes demand repeated viewing for full appreciation of all their riches. All include excerpts from major works played by renowned international artists. And all are filmed in the locales associated with the composers‘ lives and works adding an aura of immediacy and authenticity. All the programmes are narrated by Kenneth Branagh.

The Beethoven programme has the authority of scholar Barry Cooper and the intense enthusiasm of the BBC’s own John Suchet (a little gushing at times). William Kinderman also contributes some insights as does Basil Deane. The programme charts the development of Beethoven’s musical style and his great confidence in the face of so many adversities the greatest of which must have been his slowly encroaching deafness. The artists contributing to this programme include: Michael Tilson Thomas, Nikolaus Harnoncourt (who says of the ‚Eroica‘ Symphony, „Every brick is simple but the building is incredible…the first movement is huge, like a whole symphony of Mozart“). Other contributors include Sir Peter Hall, The Lindsays and Vladimir Ashkenazy who touches upon the spirituality of Beethoven’s later works.