THE SOURCE: “Why Beethoven?” by Leon Botstein, in The Musical Quarterly, Fall–Winter 2010.
The enduring appeal of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) is something of a mystery. Unlike Mozart and Wagner, Beethoven didn’t produce much music for the stage, which offers narrative and direction that keep music scholars busy and provide enjoyable distractions for unpracticed audiences. He wrote only one opera, while Wagner composed 13. In fact, much of Beethoven’s canon is labeled as “absolute” music, possessing no narrative or extramusical intent.
To Leon Botstein, a music historian and the president of Bard College, this characterization of Beethoven’s oeuvre is not entirely...