Beethoven's Shadow

Jun 25, 2020

Credit SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

For convenience sake, the 19th century is usually known as the era of Romanticism in classical music. This is not necessarily wrong, but it certainly does lump a great number of composers of very different styles into one broad category. Another way to view the 19th century is simply as the era of Beethoven. And that’s because after Beethoven, all composers were seen and evaluated in Beethoven’s light, or rather in his enormous shadow. Seen by the public, and seen by themselves. Imagine the courage it took to write a symphony after hearing Beethoven’s symphonies! Or a piano sonata, or a string quartet. For the less talented, perhaps not so much courage as obliviousness, and egotism. For the greatly talented: courage, confidence, and a sense that, “I will never be Beethoven, but I can do my best, hope that I do something worthwhile, and at the very least continue an important tradition with Beethoven as an ideal and an inspiration.”

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.