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BBC to delve into Beethoven’s life and music in year-long raft of programmes

BBC is to delve into Beethoven’s life and music in a year-long raft of programmes (BBC/PA)
BBC is to delve into Beethoven’s life and music in a year-long raft of programmes (BBC/PA)

A new documentary exploring how Beethoven would have experienced life more than 200 years ago will air as part of the BBC’s year-long celebration of the composer.

Being Beethoven, an in-depth look into his personal life, will air within the BBC’s Beethoven Unleashed season to mark the 250th anniversary of his birth.

Instead of approaching him through his music, the BBC Four three-part series will invite audiences to switch their focus to the man behind the music and, returning to the context of his own time and place, his story will be told in the present tense to imagine how he might have experienced life.

The season, a year-long pan-BBC effort across TV, BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds, will include a broadcast of the upcoming production of Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, from the Royal Opera House, and a drama that will endeavour to give audiences the chance to follow his journey of hearing loss.

On BBC Radio 3 there will be a programme that will seek to learn more about the composer from the results of the autopsy carried out after his death, as well as a show called Unseen Vienna in which Dr Kate Kennedy shines a light on the musician’s female contemporaries who have been largely overlooked in history.

In addition, the radio station will host a Beethoven marathon with 125 hours of Composer Of The Week, which the BBC has said is the most time ever dedicated to a single artist.

Throughout 2020, live performances of Beethoven’s music from the BBC orchestras and choirs across the UK will air alongside works by his contemporaries, as well as new compositions inspired by his work.

Jan Younghusband, BBC head of music commissioning for TV, said: “I am certain that many of us can relate to the struggles Beethoven faced in his personal life – from tumultuous relationships to his eventual loss of hearing affecting him profoundly both personally and professionally.

“With this in mind we have taken his anniversary as an opportunity to delve a little more deeply into the man behind the music, with our three-part series Being Beethoven on BBC Four delving into his life story, giving us further insight into his character and experiences that informed his ground-breaking musical compositions and the influence he has on the future of classical music.”

Alan Davey, controller of Radio 3 and classical music at the BBC, added: “This unique celebration will offer audiences an opportunity to explore the achievements of Beethoven afresh and understand his continued relevance today.

“From the latest research into his life to concerts of excellence, there’s something for everyone.”

More content for the Beethoven Unleashed season will be announced in due course, the BBC said.

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