Thursday 12 November 2020 at 7:30 pm
at St Mary's Church
Jessica Duchen  author/narrator
Viv McLean    piano

Programme (all works by Beethoven)


- Piano Sonata Op.31 No.3, first & second movement, probably written for Josephine

- 'Andante favori' written for Josephine

- Piano Sonata Op.78 dedicated to Therese

- Piano Sonata Op.57, 'Appassionata', first movement, dedicated to Franz

- Bagatelle Op.126 No.6

- An die Ferne Geliebte transcribed for piano solo by Franz Liszt

- Piano Sonata Op.110 complete

This concert explores the story of Beethoven's Immortal Beloved from the point of view of her sister (an extraordinary character in her own right).  All the music is by Beethoven, from his sonatas, bagatelles and variations.  For more information, click on this link.



1827.  Ludwig van Beethoven is dead.  In his apartment, his secretary has discovered a portrait of an unknown woman, and a passionate love letter - returned or unsent - to an individual addressed only as 'Immortal Beloved'.  

Therese von Brunsvik, a Hungarian countess and pioneer of Kindergarten education, faces a dilemma.  Everyone wants to know the identity of Beethoven's mysterious love.  Therese and and her sisters Josephine and Charlotte were piano pupils of the composer from 1799 and became close to him, along with their brother, Franz.  Therese, who never married, has told a young writer that she herself is Beethoven's lost love.  But is she protecting somebody, concealing a terrible and tragic secret?  Who, really, is her 'niece'?  And how can she be certain that her suspicions are correct? 

Author and presenter Jessica Duchan re-imagines the story through Therese's eyes, exploring a mystery that fascinates lovers of Beethoven's music the world over.  Award-winning pianist Viv McLean performs extracts from Beethoven's piano works connected with the Brunsvik family.  Music and words are closely integrated, building the story together.

The concert celebrates the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth in 2020.  Jessica's novel of he same title is scheduled for publication to coincide with the anniversary in November/December 2020.

Jessica Duchen was classical music correspondent for The Independent from 2004 to 2016, and has also written for The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, BBC Music Magazine, Opera News and others.

 Her librettos for opera and choral works include Silver Birch for composer Roxanna Panufnik, commissioned by Garsington Opera and shortlisted for an International Opera Award in 2018. Current projects include a youth opera, again for Garsington, with composer Paul Fincham, and a choral piece with Roxanna for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Marin Alsop - both to be premiered in 2019.

Her novel, Ghost Variations (2016) is based on the true story of the Schumann Violin Concerto's rediscovery in the 1930s - involving 'spirit messages', Nazis and some of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. Her earlier novels focused on tensions and cross-currents between family generations. The next, Odette (December 2018), is a magical-realist fairy tale for the 21st century.

She often narrates concert versions of her novels. Ghost Variations ('highly moving' - Birmingham Post) launched in 2017-18, setting the story of the Schumann Concerto amid music associated with the novel's heroine, the Hungarian violinist Jelly d'Aranyi.

With violinist David Le Page and pianist Viv McLean, she has taken it to the Leicester International Music Festival, Kensington & Chelsea Music Society, Barnes Music Society, Burgh House Hampstead, Artrex Bromsgrove, St Mary's Perivale and Live at Zedel. It featured on London Live TV and BBC Radio 3's In Tune. Two other novel-concerts Hungarian Dances and Alicia's Gift (about a child prodigy pianist) have been presented at such venues as the Wigmore Hall, the Buxton Festival, the Kensington & Chelsea Music Society and the Chopin Society, London, among others.

Her first books were biographies of the composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gabriel Faure. Her play, A Walk Through the End of Time, introducing Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, was commissioned by violinist Philippe Graffin for the Consonances Festival, Saint-Nazaire, in 2007 and won Medal of the Town of Saint-Nazaire. With the great tenor Robert Tear, she gave the UK premiere in 2008. Further performances included the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, the International Wimbledon Music Festival and the Ryedale Festival, with actors including Dame Harriet Walter, Janet Suzman, Michael Pennington, Guy Paul and Henry Goodman. Sins of the Fathers, about Wagner, Liszt and Cosima, was commissioned by the International Wimbledon Music Festival in 2013, and presented at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, starring John Sessions, Jeremy Child and Sarah Gabriel. Both plays also went to the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville, Queensland.

Speaking of the AFCM, in 2018 its artistic director, Kathryn Stott, commissioned Jessica to write and narrate a words&music show about Anna Magdalena Bach. It featured festival musicians including Roderick Williams, Siobhan Stagg, Guy Johnston and the Goldner String Quartet. 'Being Mrs Bach was a beautifully crafted retelling of the 'Bach' story with a lot of heart'.

Over the years Jessica has given pre-concert talks at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, the Wigmore and the Royal Festival Hall. She writes a lot of programme notes. She has served on the juries of the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards, BBC Music Magazine Awards and Classical:NEXT's Innovation Award. And she is honoured to be on the Ambache Charitable Trust's board, giving grants to organisations promoting the music of female composers.



Winner of the First Prize at the Maria Canals Piano Competition in Barcelona, Viv McLean has performed in all the major venues in the UK as well as throughout Europe, Japan, Australia and the USA. Viv's concerto work includes appearances with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Sinfonia Viva, Orchestra of the Swan, Orchestra of St John's, Northern Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Concert Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of such conductors as Daniel Harding, Wayne Marshall, John Lubbock, Christopher Warren-Green, Owain Arwell Hughes, Philip Hesketh, David Charles Abell, Stephen Bell, Carl Davis, Christopher George and Marvin Hamlisch. Recent concerto highlights include Mozart K467 with the ECO at the Royal Festival Hall, Grieg with the LPO at the Barbican, Rachmaninov's 3rd Concerto with the RPO in Cambridge, Gershwin, Bernstein, de Falla and Ravel with the Halle at the Bridgewater Hall, The Sage Gateshead and other venues in the North of England, and Beethoven's 5th Concerto with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall. Viv has recently been on tour with the London Concert Orchestra where he played Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in venues including the Royal Festival Hall, Symphony Hall, Bridgewater Hall, St David's Hall Cardiff, Philharmonic Hall Liverpool and Leicester's De Montfort Hall.

 He has performed at numerous festivals including the Cheltenham International Festival, Buxton Festival, Music in the Round Festival and Harrogate International Festival in the UK, the International Beethoven Festival, the Mecklenburg Festival and the Kultur Kreis Festival in Germany, the Festival International de Musique Classique d'Aigues-Mortes, the Melle Festival and Festival de Saintes in France, the Vinterfestspill i Bergstaden in Norway and the Musik vid Kattegatt Festival in Sweden.

Viv studied from an early age with Ruth Nye and, after attending Chetham's School of Music, he went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music with Hamish Milne. At the Academy he held the Hodgson Fellowship and was made an Associate of the Royal Academy in 2005. He made his Wigmore Hall recital debut through winning the Friends of the Royal Academy Wigmore Award. Whilst studying at the Academy, he was the piano winner at the Royal Overseas-League Music Competition and was selected as one of three winners of the National Federation of Music Societies' Young Artists Competition, leading to various recitals and concerto appearances throughout Great Britain.

Viv has recorded regularly for BBC Radio 3 since making his recital debut through the BBC Radio 3 Young Artists Forum scheme and has also recorded for Classic FM, WDR Radio in Germany, Radio France, ABC Radio in Australia, NRK Radio in Norway and for the Sky Arts television channel. His commercial releases include recordings for such labels as Sony Classical Japan, Naxos, Nimbus, RPO Records and, most recently, a Gershwin album for ICSM Records and an album of pieces by regular chamber music partner David Le Page for Harmony & Imagination Records.