18 Dec 2020

250 years young: why we love Beethoven

From Upbeat, 3:38 pm on 18 December 2020

We asked RNZ Concert listeners what Beethoven means to them. They responded with emails, txts and poems. Here's just a few of the reactions to our feast of Beethoven this week.


Beethoven Photo: Commons

“I’ve enjoyed listening to Beethoven. I’m a first-time listener. It’s been an incredible experience. I usually listen to The Rock, so happy I’ve tuned in,” - a text to Upbeat host David Morriss who said comments like this make it all worthwhile.

We specially loved this anonymous young texter.  “I love Beethoven I am 9! My favourite song is #5”.

As for the 7th Symphony : "...Beethoven is surely ready for the madhouse..."!

Carol texted: “I am completely loving that man Ludwig (my late husband Polish name (Ludwik). His music is all defining!”

Our call for verse about Beethoven got Lynda in Warkworth inspired.

“I am greatly behoven

for bringing me the great joy of Beethoven;

my spirit it lifts with his musical gifts,

his magic in my heart forever woven”.

Peter of Christchurch wrote:

“Fading in his last works,

Ludwig heard none as he conducted.

His music glowed, but moonlit”.

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Photo: Supplied by NZSO

Rachel Hyde’s introduction to Beethoven’s Symphony No 5 played as a break between the broadcast of the NZSO playing Symphonies No 4 and No 5 had many of you glued to the radio:

“Thank you so much for the talk that was given during the Beethoven concert this afternoon.  I listened to the 4th symphony, one of my favourites, during my lunch and was going to go and do some work in the garden. 

I caught the first few sentences of the talk and was just drawn in and had to listen to it all. It was excellent and illuminated so many things. I cannot imagine how many times I have heard the 5th but I learnt a lot. In fact I was so captivated by what the talker said I decided to stay inside and listen to the broadcast of the symphony.

Thrilling. Edo de Waart knows how to sculpture Beethoven. NZSO glorious.”  ~ Russell Armitage

NZSO with Edo de Waart

NZSO with Edo de Waart Photo: Stephen A'Court

Elaine of Snell’s Beach has been celebrating Beethoven’s birthday for 60 years ever since she was in her '20s: “Just loving Clarissa's stories and Rachel's intro. Even though I think I know this [5th] symphony so well! ”

Helen agreed: “Wonderful programme! How fortunate we are to know & love our BELOVED BEETHOVEN. Thank you.”

Beethoven in 1804

Portrait of Beethoven in 1804 Photo: Joseph Willibrord Mähler, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Elwin was driving round Christchurch on a hot afternoon when Beethoven came to the rescue: “Into my [parked] car, Concert programme loudly playing, with Moonlight Sonata just started. I leaned back closed my eyes removing all else, fantastic music consumed me for the 7 or so minutes….” only to find she’d drained her battery!

And Brian Easton recalled this Billy Collins poem while listening to the Eroica Symphony:


Another Reason Why I Don't Keep A Gun In The House

Beethoven portrait by Ferdinand Schimon

Beethoven portrait by Ferdinand Schimon Photo: Boston Public Library

The neighbours' dog will not stop barking.

He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark

that he barks every time they leave the house.

They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbours' dog will not stop barking.

I close all the windows in the house

and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast

but I can still hear him muffled under the music,

barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,

his head raised confidently as if Beethoven

had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,

sitting there in the oboe section barking,

his eyes fixed on the conductor who is

entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful

silence to the famous barking dog solo,

that endless coda that first established

Beethoven as an innovative genius. ~ Billy Collins


The last word goes to an anonymous poet on the RNZ Concert Presenters team:


Beethoven’s music,

Created in the silence,

Resounds for us now.


The sounds coalesce

And bring meaning and succour

To hearts that are sad.


The song is of joy,

Universal brotherhood,

Deep humanity.


When all’s said and done,

For hearing this great music,

We are made better.


With these melodies,

With a united spirit,

Our souls resonate.


The dark storm clouds part,

And life in all its fullness

Is made manifest.