The heroic genius of Beethoven, and why we need him more than ...

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The heroic genius of Beethoven, and why we need him more than ever

The composer’s music and faith in humanity still inspire us 250 years on from his birth

Ivan Hewett

“Roll over, Beethoven,” sang Chuck Berry, in one of those periodic rebellions against the cult of Beethoven that sometimes sweeps over the culture. Well, Beethoven refused to roll over. His position at the very top of the ranks of immortal geniuses is as secure as ever.

Next year (2020) is the 250th anniversary of his birth and already the music industry is gearing up to celebrate. The Barbican performing arts centre in London is first off the block, with its Beethoven 250 season starting on Sunday. At venues around the UK there are plans to perform all the symphonies, quartets and sonatas, as well as uncovering the lesser-known corners. The major record companies are planning blockbuster releases of all the works, and BBC Radio 3 has a year-long series entitled Beethoven Unleashed.

What is it about Beethoven that has such a hold over us?..

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