Belmont Voices Lend Expertise to NPR for Beethoven’s 250th Birthday

Mark Volker standing behind a piano

Nashville Public Radio published an article, “It’s Beethoven’s World. We’re Just Living In It,” on July 9 in honor of the classical composer’s 250th birthday. School of Music faculty members Mark Volker and Tracy Silverman, as well as alumna Melanie Joy Alvey, are quoted extensively in the article.

The article interviews local, modern composers for their thoughts on Ludwig Van Beethoven’s musical legacy and how it has affected their work.

Silverman, a violinist, mentioned that he finds Beethoven to be problematic and takes more joy in listening to his works than playing them. “It was assumed that we all considered Beethoven to be one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time. It had to do not only with his technical innovations and mastery of harmony and form, but of his sense of the musician as creator of art rather than as artisan. In this way, he was a thought leader of the Romantic era,” he explained in the article. “This was the narrative I grew up with and which I struggled with for years: that Beethoven and the art music of Europe that he represents was the most evolved form of music yet created… As I attempted to bridge the gap between the obvious artistic merit of Beethoven’s work and this rather narrow world view, I came down on the side of non-European musicians. The more I discovered the music of other cultures, the more respect I gained for it, and the more the genius of Beethoven became just another wonderful expression of a musical culture, in his case European, like so many other wonderful music cultures around the world and through history.”

Alvey, who now composes and arranges for strings, retains a fondness for Beethoven. “In high school, I learned the Op. 18 and his ‘Spring Sonata.’ This experience gave me my first real taste of the joys of chamber music,” she said. “In certain periods of my life when external factors prevented me from performing and composing, I thought back to Beethoven’s unbelievable perseverance through the most difficult of situations a musician can be in. I feel led to fulfill my own calling through his example.”

Volker acknowledges that Beethoven occupies a unique place in western European art and culture. “The bold innovations of his later music in harmony, musical development and musical form were actual leaps forward in musical thinking, not just evolution,” Volker told NPR. “Unlike most music, I find that the more I hear his, the more it resonates. Also, the more I have learned about him and his music, the more I appreciate it. I think many modern composers still idealize Beethoven because he represents the combination of craft, creativity, and passion for which so many of us strive.”

Read the full article here.