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A world without Beethoven?

“What would the world be like without Beethoven?” That’s the provocative question posed by this music documentary from Deutsche Welle. To answer it, the film explores how Ludwig van Beethoven’s innovations continue to have an impact far beyond the boundaries of classical music, 250 years after his birth.

What would be missing from jazz or from film music, for example, if Beethoven had never created his many innovations? Would the concert business exist as we know it today? And how has it changed the role of the artist?

Sarah Willis, horn player with the Berlin Philharmonic, sets out on an entertaining and informative journey in search of answers. She meets people from around the world – musicians, managers and even politicians – to follow the traces of Beethoven’s influence.

Sarah’s journey begins with the most famous four notes of classical music and their immense influence on pop music. “It all started with Beethoven,” says Scorpions guitarist Rudolf Schenker about the preeminent role the composer’s influence has played in the development of the rock riff. Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) speculates: “Maybe he just spilled his coffee and it happened to become ‘Da-da-da-dum.'” Jazz trumpeter and Grammy winner Wynton Marsalis explains what Beethoven’s last string quartet (No. 16, Op. 135) has to do with the rhythm of jazz. “Star Wars” film composer and multiple Oscar winner John Williams praises Beethoven as the master of sounds that create images. And pianist and composer Gabriela Montero adds, “His music is valid at all times.”

At the 2022 International Classical Music Awards, “A World Without Beethoven?” won the At the 2022 International Classical Music Awards, “A World Without Beethoven?” won the prize in the Video Documentaries category. The jury stated: “A world without Beethoven? It’s simply unimaginable. In Martin Roddewig’s film, the famous horn player Sarah Willis of the Berliner Philharmoniker travels through the realms of rock and classical music, jazz and film scores. In interviews with musicians and managers, the documentary shows how profoundly Beethoven’s innovations have shaped the music of centuries to come. This film is witty and highly entertaining.”

Documentary thanks to DW Classical Music

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