Exploring claims to Beethoven’s legacy

Humanities researcher Dr Aakanksha Virkar Yates appears on a BBC Radio 3 documentary this Friday 25 September (midday) to discuss Beethoven’s artistic and philosophical legacy and his influence on politics in the early 20th century.

The ‘Beethoven: Belief and Legacy’ programme on Friday, part of a week-long series called Beethoven Unleashed: Spirit of the Age presented by Donald Macleod, focuses on the classical German composer’s influence beyond his own lifetime.

Dr Virkar Yates, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities, primarily concentrates on 19th and 20th century literature with a particular interest in interdisciplinary methods and the intersections between literature and the arts. The BBC Radio 3 project was formed out of a planned guest appearance during the BBC Proms as part of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, a plan which changed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

During the programme, Dr Virkar Yates discusses how Beethoven’s music and legacy found various political uses in the 19th and 20th centuries. She said: “There were competing claims to the big composers. On the one hand, in 1930s Germany, Beethoven’s music was used for Nazi propaganda, while on the other hand Beethoven’s work was historically linked with the French Revolution and its association with freedom, equality and fraternity.

“I have a particular interest in T. S. Eliot’s work and it’s fascinating how major texts like Four Quartets have hidden dimensions in how they engage with musical and political history.”

Eliot’s work on Four Quartets is inspired by the music of Beethoven. Dr Virkar Yates said: “Some of his poems written during the Second World War were quite abstract and philosophical. Modernist writers like Eliot are trying to re-claim German musical and artistic tradition as a way of resisting the rise of fascism in the 1930s.”

The hour-long BBC Radio 3 programme features musical works by Beethoven, with the interview running throughout.

Listen on Friday at midday and on demand after that on BBC Sounds.



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