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This podcast presents the first segment of our four-part series ‘Beethoven Variations: A Poet’s Journey through the Music and Life of Beethoven’ with renowned British poet Ruth Padel and eminent pianist Karl Lutchmayer. This series has been put together by Prateeti Punja Ballal.
In Part I of the series, Ruth and Karl take us through Beethoven’s early years, his childhood in Bonn, his arrival in Vienna first as a virtuoso pianist and then as a promising composer, and his early worries, at age 28, about deafness.
In the series, Ruth will take us on an intimate journey through Beethoven’s life and music, illustrated by her poetry from her recent book. Professor of Poetry at King’s College London, she has written many collections of poetry, and books of non-fiction and fiction. Her earlier book Darwin: A Life in Poems, released on Darwin’s centenary, captured her great great grandfather memorably.
Concert pianist and lecturer, Karl Lutchmayer held an academic lectureship at the Trinity College of Music in London, now Trinity Laban, for 15 years. He has played at all the major London concert halls and across the world, and his London lecture-recital series, Conversational Concerts, garnered critical and public acclaim. Karl will perform Beethoven’s music for us and give us his insights into its composition and context.
In future episodes, they will be joined by guest artists, soprano Nina Kanter, cellist David Waterman and the Endellion String Quartet, one of the world’s leading quartets, and the South Asian Symphony Orchestra with musicians from the countries of South Asia and the diaspora.
Ruth is an award-winning British poet with close links to Greece, science, classical music and wildlife conservation, especially in India. She has published eleven poetry collections shortlisted for all major UK prizes, a novel featuring wildlife conservation, and eight books of non-fiction: on wild tiger conservation, shortlisted for the Kiriwama Prize; studies of mind and madness in Greek tragedy, and the influence of Greek myth on rock music; and books on reading poetry drawn from her four-year newspaper column, The Sunday Poem. She is Professor of Poetry at King’s College London, was Chair of Judges for the 2016 T. S. Eliot Prize, Judge for the 2016 International Man Booker Prize, and is Fellow of both the Zoological Society of London and Royal Society of Literature.
Ruth is a frequent speaker at the Jaipur Literature Festival, and her poems have appeared in, among others, The New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, Harvard Review, Indian Quarterly, The White Review, Times Literary Supplement, London Review of Books, Poetry Review, and The Guardian. Awards include First Prize in the National Poetry Competition, a British Council Darwin Now Award, and a Cholmondley Prize. Her latest book is Beethoven Variations. Darwin: A Life in Poems released a decade ago on Darwin’s centenary captured her great great grandfather memorably.
Karl Lutchmayer is equally renowned as a concert pianist and a lecturer. A Steinway Artist, Karl performs across the globe, has worked with conductors including Lorin Maazel and Sir Andrew Davis, and has played at all the major London concert halls. He has broadcast on BBC Television and Radio, All India Radio and Classic FM, and is a regular chamber performer. A passionate advocate of contemporary music, Karl has also given over 90 world premieres and had many works written especially for him.
Karl’s London lecture-recital series, Conversational Concerts, has garnered critical and public acclaim, and following his landmark recitals celebrating the Liszt and Alkan Bicentenaries, he received invitations from four continents to give lecture-recitals. Karl also held an academic lectureship at Trinity Laban (formerly Trinity College of Music) for 15 years, and is a regular guest lecturer at conservatoires around the world, including the Juilliard and Manhattan Schools in New York.
An OCI of Goan parents, in recent years Karl has focussed much of his time and attention on nurturing the burgeoning Western classical music scene in India, his family home. While helping young musicians and music teachers to fulfil their potential, he has also been involved in audience creation projects in many of the major cities. It was for this work that he was awarded the Bharat Gaurav (Pride of India) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.
Karl studied at the Junior Department of Trinity College of Music, then at the Royal College of Music and undertook further studies with Lev Naumov at the Moscow Conservatoire. His research interests include the music of Liszt, Alkan, Busoni and Enescu; The Creative Transcription Network; reception theory; and the history of piano recital programming.
For the last two years, Karl has been undertaking research at New College, Oxford, but he usually resides in London, where he is sometimes spotted in his alternative incarnation as keyboard, percussion and theremin player in the prog rock band The Connoisseur.
Prateeti Punja Ballal
Prateeti Punja Ballal grew up in Bangalore and did her postgraduate work in the US. She taught Literature at various universities there, most recently at Hunter College, City University of New York. She earlier worked in the software industry for fifteen years. A musician and dancer, she has a sustaining interest in the arts.