Revolution and Romance: Musical Masters of the 19th Century

We Can Be Heroes

Series 1 - Episode 1 We Can Be Heroes

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Review

In 2014, Suzy Klein swept across 18th-century music in her series Rule Britannia! Now she segues into the 19th century, a time when “music exploded into life and life exploded into music” as revolution ceded to romanticism as the spirit of the age. For the first time composers could become international superstars. Klein authors this three-parter but keeps her erudition and enthusiasm in check, even when delighted to be in the old haunts of the greats she admires.

She begins in Vienna where, in 1803, Beethoven dedicated his Eroica Symphony to Napoleon (a decision he soon regretted). We hear of Rossini’s gluttony, Berlioz doggedly stalking an actress, and Liszt the showman breaking pianos on stage.

Beyond the bigger picture, it’s the small details that enchant, such as the sight of Schubert’s fragile spectacles in a display case. Klein invites violin virtuoso Jack Liebeck to have a stab at re-creating Paganini’s demonic style, and even hosts a Schubertiade song soirée, in which she accompanies tenor Ian Bostridge on piano. Bliss.

Summary

Suzy Klein explores the transformation of music in the era of Beethoven and Wagner, and in the first episode tells the story of an unrivalled creative outpouring. The presenter reveals how it was possible for composers and performers to become the superstars of their age, no longer the servants of kings and princes.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Suzy Klein
Executive Producer Denys Blakeway
Series Director Nick Gillam-Smith
Series Producer Nick Gillam-Smith
Documentary Music History