Viv McLean photo 2010 (1)
Viv McLean photo 2010 (1)


Wednesday 26 May 2021
at 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm
at St Mary's Church
As part of Barnes Music Festival 2021
Jessica Duchen  author/narrator
Viv McLean    piano


Programme (all works by Beethoven)


- Bagatelle, Op.126 No.3

- Sonata in E flat, Op.81a, (Les Adieux) - first movement (Adagio - Allegro)

Andante in F, WoO.57 (Andante favori) - extract

- Sonata in F minor, Op.57 (Appassionata) - first movement (Allegro assai)

- Sonata in F sharp, Op.78 (à Thérèse) - first movement (Adagio cantabile - Allegro ma non troppo)

- Nimm sie hinn denn, diese Lieder from An die Ferne Geliebte, Op.98 No.6 transc. Liszt

- Sonata in A flat, Op.110, third movement (Adagio ma non troppo - Allegro ma non troppo)

Immortal brings to life in a fresh, startling way a story that has intrigued generation after generation of music lovers. Following wide acclaim for Jessica Duchen’s musical historical novel Ghost Variations, Immortal is in a similar vein – and tackles one of music’s most famous mysteries.

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’. The mysterious woman’s identity has never been definitively established. Perhaps only one person knew the whole truth.

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 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?

Set in Vienna and Hungary against the turbulent background of the Napoleonic wars, in an era when ideals of equality and liberty were being asserted over entrenched aristocratic privilege, this novel is an emotional roller-coaster inspired by detailed research into a true story.

It is radically different from any Beethoven novel yet created and aims to combine the qualities of a `page-turner' with musicological accuracy and musical considerations, offering fresh light on Beethoven’s works. It casts perspective, too, on the position of women and the destructive divisions placed on relationships according to class.

Author and presenter Jessica Duchen reimagines 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.

Jessica Duchen writes words for, with and about music. She was a correspondent and critic for The Independent from 2004 to 2016, and her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Sunday Times and BBC Music Magazine, among others. Her output to date includes six novels and two biographies (Fauré and Korngold) and a quantity of stage works and librettos for musical setting.

Among her recent novels is Ghost Variations (Unbound, 2016), based on the true story of the Schumann Violin Concerto’s rediscovery in the 1930s. It was chosen by John Suchet as his Best Read of 2016 for the Daily Mail’s Christmas Books selection and was Book of the Month in BBC Music Magazine.

Her librettos include the People’s Opera Silver Birch for composer Roxanna Panufnik, commissioned by Garsington and shortlisted for a 2018 International Opera Award. Current projects include a large-scale choral piece with Panufnik, Ever Us, for the Rundfunkchor Berlin and nine visiting international youth choirs, based on the words of Beethoven and the writers he admired, for premiere at the Berlin Philharmonie in 2020.

Jessica often narrates concert versions of her novels, which have been heard at the Wigmore Hall, The Sage Gateshead, Kings Place and numerous music societies and festivals. In April 2019 her concert play Being Mrs Bach had its UK premiere at Kings Place, following its commission in 2018 for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music. (“…a beautifully crafted retelling of the ‘Bach’ story with a lot of heart” - Limelight Magazine.)


Jessica was born within the sound of Bow Bells, studied music at Cambridge and lives in East Sheen with her husband and two cats.

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 Hallé 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. Engagements in the coming months include a tour with the London Concert Orchestra playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in venues including the Royal Festival Hall, Symphony Hall Birmingham, Bridgewater Hall, Usher Hall in Edinburgh and the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow.Viv will also be doing a series of words & music concerts with the acclaimed writer, Jessica Duchen, featuring works by Beethoven and based on her new novel “Immortal”. 


Viv plays regularly with the Adderbury Ensemble and the Le Page Trio and has also performed with other leading chamber groups such as the Ysaye String Quartet, the Sacconi String Quartet, members of the Elias, Allegri and Tippett String Quartets, Ensemble 360, the Galliard Wind Ensemble, the Bristol Ensemble, the Berkeley Ensemble and the Leopold String Trio. He has collaborated with musicians such as Natalie Clein, Marianne Thorsen, Daniel Hope, Lawrence Power, Mary Bevan, David Le Page, Clare O’Connell, Mia Cooper, Matthew Sharp, Fenella Humphreys, Kate Gould, Guy Johnston, Alice Neary, Alena & Niklas Walentin, Ruth Rogers, Sarah Gabriel, Tim Horton, Alasdair Beatson, Jack McNeill and many others.


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 and Maria Curcio. 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 winner of the piano competition at the Royal Overseas-League Music Competition and was selected as one of the winners of the National Federation of Music Societies' Young Artists Competition. 


Viv made his BBC Radio 3 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, ICSM Records, Harmony & Imagination Records and, most recently, a Chopin recital for Stone Records.