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Barry, Beethoven and 'Beethoven': Immortality and influence

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Publication details

DatePublished - Jan 2013
Issue number263
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)19-32
Original languageEnglish


Beethoven's famous letter to 'The Immortal Beloved' still remains a central reference point for our image of his life and music. Gerald Barry's 2007 composition for bass voice and ensemble-simply entitled Beethoven-sets this text in its entirety, continuing an engagement with Beethoven's own words and presenting a striking juxtaposition of language and music. This article explores the ways in which Barry at times underpins and in other places undercuts the apparent meaning of the words, and how he presents a reading of the letter that is clearly alive to its inherent self-contradictions. Characteristically, Barry brings together a number of highly expressive and strongly contrasted musical characters in this work; an examination of aspects of his compositional language illustrates how material is propagated and form articulated, and explores the way in which these techniques interact in the creation of an expressive and emotionally charged whole.

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