THE search for Ludwig van Beethoven could well begin with an investigation into his actual birth date.
Baptised on December 17, 1770, his birthday is often assumed to be December 16; the composer himself erroneously believed he was born two years later.
This might be the stuff of relatively trivial historical argument, except when you’re attempting to honour milestones such as next year’s 250th birthday of this musical giant.
In Search of Beethoven therefore kicks off a year of re-released musical documentaries from the In Search Of series, with a worldwide special event cinema screening to mark each of the respective birthdays of Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin and Haydn.
This leads up to a special event for Beethoven’s 250th birthday in December 2020: a screening of Concerto – A Beethoven Journey.
From the producers of the sumptuous art documentaries Exhibition on Screen and narrated by renowned actress Juliet Stevenson, In Search of Beethoven is a 145-minute grand opus that does absolute justice to this towering artistic figure.
Considered the very archetype of the Romantic artist, he was born in Germany before the French Revolution which formed the tumultuous backdrop and foreground to his relatively short but remarkable adulthood.
With a seemingly wild temperament and wilder hair, with endless infatuations for aristocratic women (being a ‘van’ rather than a ‘von’ meant he was never accepted into their social circles) and gradually descending into deafness, his life can take on the broad strokes of caricature.
However, director Phil Grabsky assembles a formidable list of musicians, conductors and musical historians to piece together the seeds of his genius.
What binds their analysis and observations is a palpable fervour for his brilliance and awe for his achievement.
Expert editing binds the work through his endless musical treasures, including all those epic concertos, sonatas and, of course, the sublime symphonies.
The film has been called the best film ever made on Beethoven, and is the choice of the Beethoven Haus (Beethoven’s birthplace) as the ‘go-to’ film on Beethoven.
All that’s left is to go to see and hear it, and immerse yourself in the life and times, and of course, the glorious music of the composer.
In Search of Beethoven (E)
Directed by: Phil Grabsky
Reviewed by: Martin Turner
In cinemas: December 21, 22