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This podcast presents the third 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 III of the series, titled ‘The Essence of Romanticism’, Ruth and Karl take us through the time when Beethoven is thirty-five, and Napoleon’s army captures and occupies Vienna and its Empire. Along with his anguish in this time of war, he keeps losing chances of love. Through it all, he continues writing works that will live forever, such as the iconic Fifth Symphony, after which this episode gets its title.
In this four-part series, Ruth Padel takes 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 fifteen 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 performs Beethoven’s music for us and gives us his insights into its composition and context.
Ruth and Karl are joined, for the Fifth Symphony, by guest artists from the South Asian Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra’s Founder-Trustee, Ambassador Nirupama Menon Rao. The Orchestra is a peace-building initiative made up of musicians from the countries of South Asia and the South Asian diaspora.
The next episode will include guest artists, soprano Nina Kanter, cellist David Waterman and the Endellion String Quartet, one of the world’s leading quartets.
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. She 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.
Nirupama Menon Rao
Nirupama Menon Rao was Foreign Secretary of India (2009-2011). She was Ambassador of India to China (2006-2009) and Ambassador of India to the United States from 2011 to 2013. Ambassador Rao is a Founder-Trustee with her husband, Sudhakar, of The South Asian Symphony Foundation – a not-for-profit Trust which is dedicated to promoting mutual understanding in South Asia through the creation of a South Asian Symphony Orchestra.
South Asian Symphony Orchestra
The South Asian Symphony Orchestra is a peace-building initiative made up of musicians from the countries of South Asia and the South Asian diaspora. The founder-trustees of the South Asian Symphony Foundation – Ambassador Nirupama Menon Rao and her husband Sudhakar Rao, share a vision of transcending borders and building bridges through music. The inspiration has come from Ambassador Rao’s years in diplomacy and what she saw as a felt need for providing a platform to promote more dialogue, cultural synergy and friendly understanding among the youth of the eight countries in South Asia, including India.
On April 26, 2019, The South Asian Symphony Orchestra gave its debut performance at the NCPA, Mumbai. Viswa Subbaraman, the conductor and Tharanga Goonetilleke, the soprano, with over 70 musicians from more than five countries in South Asia and the South Asian diaspora came together for this concert. On October 5, 2019, the Orchestra performed a concert titled ‘Peace Notes’ in Bangalore, led by conductor Alvin Arumugam. To mark the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the 250th of Beethoven, the concert explored the interesting connections between Gandhi and Beethoven. The repertoire included original music commissioned by the South Asian Symphony Foundation, composed by Antonius Nazareth and inspired by the life of Gandhi, alongside Beethoven’s timeless Symphony No. 5 and Piano Concerto No. 4. The programme features an excerpt of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony from this concert which is available for viewing here.