Lifelong Learning New York City

Lifelong Learning at  Swarthmore: New York City

Fall 2014:

Beethoven (LLS 166NY)
Meets Tuesdays, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m.
Sept.9 – Nov. 4, 2014 (except Oct. 14)
1095 6th Ave. (bet. 41st & 42nd), 28th floor, @ Dechert LLP

For the Romantics, Beethoven was the iconic artist—fiery, brooding, unyielding, brought low by a blow of fate (deafness), ultimately emerging triumphant. Today, many listeners agree that his music embodies these qualities—and others—even if the historical record is more complex than the romantic myths.

This course provides an introduction to Beethoven’s music in the context of his life and times. It also introduces and explores classical genres (theme and variations, sonata, symphony, string quartet, concerto, opera, and song cycle). The ability to read music is not required, though it may be helpful.

Major topics:

  • Haydn, Mozart, and the musical culture of 18th-century Vienna
  • Beethoven as traditionalist, Beethoven as innovator
  • Musical responses to political, economic, and social upheaval
  • The Beethoven myth(s)
  • Beethoven’s younger contemporaries (Rossini, Schubert, Mendelssohn) and the rise of musical Romanticism

Readings from Maynard Solomon’s Beethoven; Richard Taruskin’s Music in the Nineteenth Century; and other sources.

Major works:

  • Variations on “God Save the King”
  • Piano Sonata opus 13 (“Pathétique”)
  • The “Heroic” style (Third and Fifth Symphonies; Fidelio)
  • Musical narratives: overt (Sixth Symphony) and covert (Fourth Piano Concerto?)
  • String Quartet opus 59 no. 1
  • Towards the late style: An die Ferne Geliebte
  • The late style: Ninth Symphony; Piano Sonata opus 110; Bagatelles; Quartet opus 130; the “Grosse Fuge”

The Professor:

Thomas Whitman, Swarthmore ’82, earned a Ph.D. in Composition and Theory at UPenn, where his teachers included George Crumb. As a Luce Scholar in 1986-87, he studied traditional music and culture in Indonesia. His works include chamber music, songs, film scores, operas, and collaborations with dancer/choreographers. He has taught at Swarthmore since 1990.