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Summary

He was a revolutionary, an innovator, a disruptor. A man who accomplished incredible success but endured serious personal hardships. A legend who changed the way audiences listen to music and whose melodies still resonate today, 250 years after his birth.

Go on a journey to explore the life and works of arguably the greatest composer in history: Ludwig van Beethoven.

Join Donald Macleod, presenter of BBC Radio 3’s Composer of the Week, as he brings Beethoven vividly to life: from his childhood in Bonn to how he won over the aristocratic music circles of Vienna, from the creation of his timeless works to the tragic loss of his hearing - and everything in between.

Beethoven the legendary composer is just part of the story. In this exclusive BBC Audio release, other sides to his personality will be revealed, such as the man who experienced ordinary difficulties in family, friendship and love; and the playful character who introduced the scherzo (literally, 'joke') into symphony.

Over 60 episodes, this radio masterpiece includes more than six hours of Beethoven's timeless music performed by the BBC Philharmonic and BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Written and presented by Donald Macleod.

BBC Philharmonic / Gianandrea Noseda (conductor):
 

Symphony No 4 B flat major, Op 60
Symphony No 5 in C minor, Op 67
Symphony No 6 in F major, Op 63
Symphony No 8 in F major, Op 93
Overture from Die Ruinen von Athen, Op 113
 

BBC Symphony Orchestra; Sakari Oramo (conductor):
 

Symphony No 3 in E flat major, Op 55
Leonore Overture No 2
 

BBC Philharmonic / Vassily Sinaisky (conductor):
 

Fidelio Overture
 

BBC Philharmonic / Juanjo Mena (conductor):
 

Musik zu einem Ritterballet Woo.1
Egmont overture
Symphony No 7 in A major, Op 92
 

Khatia Buniatishvili (piano):

Khatia Buniatishvili appears courtesy of Sony Classical
Excerpts from:
Piano Sonata No.17 in D minor, Op.31 No.2, "The Tempest"
Piano sonata No.19 in G minor, Op.49 No.1
Piano Sonata No.23 in F minor, Op. 57, "Appassionata"
.     

Produced by Martin Smith, Chris Taylor, Sam Phillips, Mike Evans, Amelia Parker, Amy Whe.

Consultant: Dr Erica Buurman 

Music copyright restrictions mean that the musical interludes in this programme are provided as punctuation to the narrative, rather than a direct illustration. 

©2020 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd (P)2020 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good narrative but poorly executed

It's a good narrative, with good insight and information including a few stories that are seldom heard. My gripe is the poor knitting of the narrative with the background music. Why is the narrator talking about Beethoven's first large scale performance, featuring his 1st Symphony, while in the background plays his 5th Symphony and then goes on to feature the 5th as a highlight track? This happens throughout the audio-book. Often, works that are decades away from the unfolding story are playing as snippets and highlights. Surely it wouldn't have been too difficult to play the relevant works at the relevant point in the audio? At best, the tracks seem randomly selected. At worst it's an example of a poorly coordinated output that needs a rethink.

6 people found this helpful

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Story is interesting but the audio is infuriating

I enjoy Donald Macleod's work on Radio 3 and this is no exception. The content is interesting and very well put together BUT the audio examples are ridiculously inappropriate. Donald is telling us about a specific piece of music and the audio bears no relation to it. Also, he is explaining a specific period in Beethovens life and the music composed at the time but the audio is music not written for years to come. Why would you bother being so inaccurate?

4 people found this helpful

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Enthralling

loved it , Narration allowed me to get involved , Music is superb, An asset to my collection

3 people found this helpful

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There are better versions

Best version - the original 120 one-hour Radio 3 episodes of "Composer of the Week"; not all are now available from the BBC.
Good version - the "Composer of the Week" podcasts, all still available; good as a summary, 20 programmes in each of which five hours of episodes are compressed to 75 minutes. Music cut to fades in or out.
Audible version - good for appendix of symphonies.

2 people found this helpful

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Amazing and enlightening

This is a fantastic audiobook, filled with music and insights into Beethoven's life and work , as you would expect from BBC Radio 3. Donald MacCleod, who is familiar to me as the presenter of Radio 3's Composer of the Week has a terrific voice for keeping up the interest, for sounding authoritative without being patronizing, and best of all tells a good story.

Highly recommended,

1 person found this helpful

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I enjoyed this book!

I’m not an expert in classical music. I was listening to my favourite 7th symphony one day, rejoicing in its divinity and it got me thinking – what kind of a person was this and how did he manage to compose music that was still so moving and touching two centuries later. I wanted to learn more about Beethoven’s life and I’m happy with what I got from this audiobook.
Many listeners have pointed out that the music featured in certain episodes isn’t accurate time-wise. I understand that, but I’m a lay person and this didn’t take out anything from the experience for me.
What I didn’t like that much was that although generally chronological, things were jumping a bit forwards and backwards. This brought a little bit of repetition, which was fine, but it was also somewhat confusing as to what happened when.
Another thing I loved was the narrator – voice and reading style!

Overall, I recommend this book!