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Beethoven has long been regarded as a great composer, but lesser understood is that he was also an exceedingly political artist.
In this three-session course, taking place 250 years after the composer’s birth in 1770, William Kinderman, Chair of UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music, will explore Beethoven as a civically engaged thinker faced with a lifetime of severely tumultuous events including the French Revolution, the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Congress of Vienna among them. While popular studies of Beethoven have emphasized the impact of his personal suffering and inner struggles, Kinderman investigates the musical tensions in the artist’s work that reflect the political turbulence of the era.
Kinderman will use his most recent book, Beethoven, as the basis of this course and will perform extensively from his studio to illustrate his lectures, including parts of Sonate pathétique, the “Appassionata” Sonata, the Diabelli Variations, and the final Sonata op. 111. Kinderman will show how Beethoven’s idealism and zeal for resistance have ensured that masterpieces such as the Ninth Symphony continue to inspire activists around the globe, how the Fifth Symphony helped galvanize resistance to fascism, how the Sixth has energized the environmental movement, and how Beethoven’s civic engagement continues to inspire in politically perilous times. This course will elucidate how the inherently political nature of Beethoven’s music explains its power and endurance.
Uncertain times call for ardent responses, and, as Kinderman convincingly affirms, Beethoven’s music is more relevant today than ever before.
Dec 3: From the outbreak of the Revolution to the Eroica: Beethoven’s revolution in music
Dec 10: Leonore as “Angel of Freedom” and Beethoven’s utopian symbolism
Dec 17: Beethoven in the era of political reaction and the legacy of the Ninth Symphony worldwide
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Programs taking place online and in our NYC facilities:Please select which experience you wish to participate in when registering. Online participants will be emailed an access link after purchase. In-person participants should read our safety guidelines before attending the program.
William Kinderman is professor of music and the Leo M. Klein and Elaine Krown Klein Chair in Performance Studies …
William Kinderman is professor of music and the Leo M. Klein and Elaine Krown Klein Chair in Performance Studies at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. He is a formidable concert pianist, chamber musician and an international authority on the music and creative process of Ludwig van Beethoven.
His many books include Beethoven: A Political Artist in Revolutionary Times, The Creative Process in Music from Mozart to Kurtág, and Wagner’s “Parsifal.” His latest book, Beethoven: A Political Artist in Revolutionary Times (2020), marks the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth (University of Chicago Press; German and Chinese translations forthcoming).
He received an award for lifetime achievement from the Humboldt Foundation in 2010. Kinderman has been praised for his “intellectual energy and distinctive insight” by the New York Times.
Kinderman received his bachelor of arts degree at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. He earned his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley and taught at the University of Victoria in British Columbia for 20 years, while also holding guest appointments in Berlin. His recent lecture recitals have taken him to Vienna, Bonn, Paris, Oslo, Barcelona, Beijing, Shanghai, New York, Boston as well as other cities in Europe, Asia and North America.
The Great Thinkers