What Beethoven Can Still Teach Us

The 250th anniversary year of Beethoven’s birth hasn’t been kind to the composer. The pandemic has consigned performances and celebrations to silence or postponement. Protests and riots have pushed musical commemorations out of public consciousness. But Beethoven has been facing even more difficult circumstances for decades, as the Western art music tradition in which he plays such a central role has become a diminished force.

When Beethoven’s 200th anniversary was celebrated in 1970, performances of the cycles of symphonies,…

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