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S49 Ep6

Now Hear This: Beethoven's Ghost

Premiere: 10/29/2021 | 00:00:30 | Closed Captioning Icon

Go inside the mind of a genius as host Scott Yoo and fellow musicians undertake a recording of Beethoven's most personal music at a historic Berkshires manor to explore the composer’s brilliant career—where they are visited by some unexpected guests.



About the Episode

Premieres Friday, October 29 at 9 p.m. on PBS, and the PBS Video app

The Series 2 finale of Great Performances: Now Hear This takes a dramatic approach to interpreting the complex musical mind of composer Ludwig van Beethoven, who wrote nearly 800 works in 45 years. Host and violinist Scott Yoo and his team of fellow musicians, including Anna Polonsky (piano), Bion Tsang (cello), Toby Appel (viola) and Emily Daggett Smith (second violin), visit a historic manor in the Berkshires to better understand Beethoven by performing and recording some of his most personal work, including his famous “Ghost Trio.” Unbeknownst to them, they’ve summoned the ghost of the composer, trailed by the spirit of Sigmund Freud who attempts to analyze him. Interweaving documentary, performance and theatrical storytelling, this haunting special episode explores the mind of the composer through dramatized conversations between the spirits of Beethoven and Freud. Great Performances: Now Hear This “Beethoven’s Ghost” premieres Friday, October 29 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app for Halloween. The episode is part of #PBSForTheArts, a multiplatform campaign that celebrates the arts in America. For more than 50 years, PBS has been the media destination for the arts, presenting dance, theater, opera, visual arts and concerts to Americans in every corner of the country.

Now Hear This Overview:
Premiering in 2019, documentary miniseries Great Performances: Now Hear This merges music, storytelling, travel and culture as host Scott Yoo chases the secret lives and histories of some of the greatest musicians and compositions ever written. Series 1 features baroque era composers Vivaldi, Bach, Scarlatti and Handel. Series 2 features Classical era composers Haydn, Schubert, Mozart and Beethoven. Series 3 is slated to premiere spring 2022 on PBS. Yoo is the Chief Conductor of the Mexico City Philharmonic, Music Director of Festival Mozaic, Conductor of the Colorado College Music Festival, and the Founder of the Medellín Festicámara, a chamber music and social program in Colombia. He has conducted the London Symphony, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Yomiuri Nippon Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony and San Francisco Symphony, among many others. For more information about the series, visit

Series Overview:
Throughout its nearly 50-year history on PBS, Great Performances has provided an unparalleled showcase of the best in all genres of the performing arts, serving as America’s most prestigious and enduring broadcaster of cultural programming. Showcasing a diverse range of artists from around the world, the series has earned 67 Emmy Awards and six Peabody Awards. Peek behind the curtain at the Great Performances website for exclusive videos, interviews, photos, full episodes and more. The series is produced by The WNET Group.

Production Credits:
Now Hear This was created by producer, writer and director Harry Lynch and is a production of Arcos Film + Music. Harry Lynch, Scott Yoo and Richard Lim are executive producers. Great Performances is produced by The WNET Group. Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.

Series funding for Great Performances was made possible by The Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, Rosalind P. Walter, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, Seton J. Melvin, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Jody and John Arnhold, The Starr Foundation, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, the Thea Petschek Iervolino Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, the Estate of Worthington Mayo-Smith and public television viewers.

Websites:,, @GPerfPBS,, #NowHearThisOnPBS #PBSForTheArts


♪♪♪ -Coming up on 'Great Performances'... I'm Scott Yoo.

I wanted to make a recording of some of Beethoven's most personal music.

-It's almost as if he's saying, you know, each note has to have more meaning.


♪♪♪ -For inspiration, we recorded in a historic manor.

-This is the best, right? -Yeah, I think this room sounds fantastic. -Cheers.

-The pieces would step chronologically through Beethoven's career... -He was a force of nature, you know?

Nothing's gonna stop him.

-...centered around his famous 'Ghost Trio.'

-Beethoven wouldn't be Beethoven without the conflict, right?

-It felt almost like Beethoven himself was watching us work.

-Do you want to know why I come to things like this?

To hear the music.

-You guys want to do a sound check on 'The Ghost'? -Tell me about your mother.

-You actually begin there.


-Up next on 'Now Hear This: Beethoven's Ghost.'

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Over his 40-year career, Beethoven struggled with deafness and poor health, with patrons and publishers, with personal relationships.

By reputation, he was abrasive, even offensive.

But I've often felt his music is so thoughtful, so emotional, so beautiful, that there must be more.

♪♪♪ So I gathered some close personal friends in a beautiful, Gilded Age manor to make a recording of some of Beethoven's most personal music.

I hoped it would give us and listeners a deeper understanding of Beethoven's character.

♪♪♪ The first step is to find the right place to record.

♪♪♪ What do you think? -It's a beautiful room, but I think it's just too resonant.

I don't think we'll get enough definition out of you.

-It's also a little cold. -And boomy.

-Yeah. I think we can do better. -Alright.

The whole process requires exacting standards and the flexibility to improvise.

Because no matter how well it's planned, it never goes quite as planned.

-This next space I think is a little bigger.

It might be better.

-Herr Beethoven!

Finally, I've found you.

I am Dr. Sigmund Freud.

I was hoping to talk to you.

-No, thank you.

-Herr Beethoven, I am a psychoanalyst.

-I know.

-Oh, then you're familiar with my work?

-Not really.

-I'd like to offer my services.

-Not interested.

-How about measure 41?

♪♪♪ -Herr Beethoven, I have helped many people.

Many composers like you.

-To do what?

-To resolve their troubles.

-Like who? -I shouldn't say.

-Mozart? -Possibly.

-Bach? -Not yet.

-Schumann? -Oh, yes.

A fascinating case.

-You'd like to add me to your collection.

-To offer my services.

-Not interested.

-May I ask why?

-I don't need any help.

-Most people need a little help.

-I'm not most people. -Yes.

You need a lot of help.

-I'm busy.

♪♪♪ -Why are you doing this?

I heard you've been visiting rehearsals and recordings for many years.

Why is that?

-To hear the music.

-Haven't you heard it before?

-Of course, I wrote it.

-Then what do you hope to learn from hearing it again?

-What do you think? -I mean, it's another beautiful room, but there's a hum in here.

There's like a low rumble that's coming actually from the floor.

You can feel it. -Yeah, it sounds like a refrigerator or something? -Yeah.

It is getting picked up in this microphone.

I think it would just be... I don't think we can use it.

-Okay. Fine.

-Let me show you the next room.


-What is it you want? -For you to leave.

-You must want something.

What is it?

-For me to leave.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -I've played with these musicians for years.

Toby, for more than 20.

And he's played Beethoven's chamber music for more than 50.

Few know it better.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ This is the best, right? -Yeah.

I think this room sounds fantastic.

-It's warm. It's easy to play in.

-Yeah, but it doesn't have too much character, so that we're stuck later on.

-Perfect. -Yeah. That's it.

Let's do it.

-A piano recording requires a special instrument.

For this level of performance, it has to be maintained like a race car.

♪♪♪ Reid, our engineer, specializes in on-location recordings, basically building a studio where yesterday it didn't exist.

[ Playing piano ] ♪♪♪ Every performance needs someone to listen critically and take notes.

My wife, Alice, a great musician herself, would do that.

♪♪♪ -All these tempo changes. -Mm-hmm.


-We each chose music from Beethoven's early, middle, and late periods.

Then, we'd have to merge our different visions to make a cohesive recording.

♪♪♪ Very early Beethoven was influenced by Haydn, and benefits from an effortless technique.

♪♪♪ Anna has this and the power to play his later, more athletic work, as well as any pianists in the world.

-Alright, so here's how I am running this one.

I've got the stereo pair over the piano -- you know, intimacy, definition.

Then the ribbon mic is at the end of the piano.

There's a room pair flown kind of in the outer wings of the room in the back, just to see if we can capture some reality, just glue it all together.

And send a little through reverb.

-So the main pair is pretty close?

-Yeah. I mean, like I said, it's about intimacy.

-You can't put it back in if it's too far away?

-No. -Right.

Alright. Sounds good to me. -Alright.

♪♪♪ -Bion is one of my best friends, and one of the world's best cellists, known for his Beethoven interpretations.

♪♪♪ This team of specialists could hopefully create something truly special.

You guys want to do a soundcheck on 'The Ghost'? -Oh, yeah, sure. -Oh, yeah.

How about the recap, from 157 to the end?


♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Why did you call this trio 'The Ghost'? -I didn't.

Czerny did. My student.

He just thought the second movement sounded ghostly.

He didn't know it would be so appropriate.

-How so? -It was during these rehearsals I realized my performing career was over.

I couldn't hear the piano well enough to control the dynamics, so I kept playing louder and louder.

Then I couldn't hear the other instruments.

Rehearsal was a disaster.

Everyone knew it.

I'd never be a great performer again.

You can't understand what it's like to lose that.

-Well, help me.

-I thought you were going to help me.

-Then let me.

-You want to know why I come to things like this?

So that I can hear my music again, from this close.

As if I'm playing it again.

With real musicians again.

-But there's more.

What is it?

♪♪♪ -I don't know.

-Whatever it is, I can help you find it.

♪♪♪ -Alright.

We can try.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Shall we begin?

Very well.

Tell me about your mother.

-You actually begin there?

-[ Laughs ] Always.

-[ Chuckles ] She was impractical.

Enough to think she could salvage my father, with the weakness to stay when she realized she couldn't.

Of course, he punished her for it.

He was a failure and a drunk.

More of one made him more of the other.

It's a wonder I turned out such a charming personality.

-And tell me about your childhood.

-My father wanted me to be Mozart, parade me around Europe.

But he lacked the skill to teach me, and I would not be his trained monkey.

-But he did teach you? -Without mercy.

Fortunately by the age of 10, I had surpassed him.

But there were some good musicians in Bonn.

I took lessons.

I gave lessons to help pay for them.

As long as I wasn't home, I was fine.

But I couldn't wait to get out.

-And when did you?

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Where were we?

-I asked when you left Bonn.

-The first time, 17, for Vienna.

To study with Mozart, ironically.

But I met him only once.

Then my mother took ill, so I went back home.

-How did you feel about that?


But what could I do?

She had consumption.

I remember sitting by her bed, in a mask.

Her hand was cold.

I looked at her and I felt, 'What a waste.'

♪♪♪ I wanted more for her.

But she died.

I stayed to take care of my brothers, until the Elector sent me back to Vienna for training, so that I would one day return to lead his orchestra.

-But you never did. -No.

My father drank himself to death.

My brothers came to Vienna.

Napoleon invaded Bonn, the Elector fled.

And like that... I was free.

Free to make my career however I could.

However I wanted.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Sounds pretty good.

What do you think Beethoven's favorite key is?

-C minor.

-Actually, it might have been his favorite, but he did not use it the most.

-Yeah, but I think D, G, C, and mostly E flat major, yeah.

-'Emperor Concerto,' the 'Spring String Trio,' 'Eroica Symphony.'

Lots of E flat. -Yeah, out of all of the works, I think most of them are in major key.

-If there are a lot of major key Beethoven pieces, when there is a minor key Beethoven piece like this one, I think Beethoven really wanted it to count.

-So, I guess if he's writing this in C minor, this has got to mean something.

Maybe, it needs to be more dark?

-Well, I think of this piece as kind of baby Beethoven's '5th,' right?

Instead of... [ Playing 'Symphony No. 5' ] It's... [ Playing in minor key ] And I think maybe we can make it a little earthier.

-More grit, more -- yeah.

-Can you slate this?

-This is take 67.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Beethoven wrote this 'C Minor String Trio' at 27, the height of his early period.

It was the birth of a style he would explore throughout his career.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Those early days in Vienna were the happiest in my life.

I had more commissions than I could fill.

I gave lessons to beautiful young countesses.

I fell in love a dozen times.

Few returned it, but...there was always another.


[ Playing 'Violin Sonata No. 9' ] -Ah, the 'Kreutzer.'

I knew they'd do it.

-I read Tolstoy's story about it.

Why do you think it provoked so much strong emotion?

-It was an emotional time.

Maybe that's captured in the music.

-Maybe. It's one of my favorites.

-Kreutzer himself never liked it.

-Then why did you dedicate it to him.

-I didn't.

At first.

-So my big question is, how hard are we gonna hit... [ Playing the violin ] ...those sforzandos.

I mean, you know, obviously, we don't want to be playing in poor taste.

But, like, are these flashes of anger, or are they, you know, designed to shock?

Like, what is their purpose?

-I think we should just keep them strong, but with always a sense of, like, maybe goodwill?

-You don't find these to be angry?

-Oh, no, no, no. I think it's hilarious.

I think it's a mock fugue here.

-Really? -Yeah.

You don't think it's a rollicking good fun movement?

-I mean, I don't know. He's going deaf.

He might not be in the best of moods.

-Maybe you could think he's putting himself in a better mood by writing this?

I don't know.

-So this is like therapy for him?

-He's escaping.

-The hall was full.

Every ticket sold, to see a sonata.

I was still a great performer then.

On violin, I brought in Bridgetower.


He was an unpleasant character, but I dedicated the work to him.

-Why? -I wanted him to come play it.

[ Chuckles ] He was an exceptional violinist.

He sight read the whole second movement.

-Was that part of the show? -No.

I hadn't finished it in time.

-You put him in front of an audience without a rehearsal?

-Art cannot be produced on a deadline, like making a shoe.

-Don't you think that there's some kind of frustration, or anger, or something?

-I think there's more wit here than one performance can show.

-I don't -- -Oh.

-I mean, I -- I mean, like, a -- [ Playing the violin ] That sounds like somebody taking a Sharpie and, you know, just scribbling on a piece of paper.

I mean, it's... -I like that Sharpie analogy.

That's awesome. -It feels like somebody is really, you know, upset, and that's encoded in this piece, that the sforzandos are -- that they're not accents because it's not just wit.

That there's something more than wit.

Obviously, there's a huge amount of sparkle in the music, but there's also... -It's not gracious... -This kind of, you know, 'grrrr!'

-Yeah. -Maybe we have to have many different kinds of sforzandos.

We have to have the funny ones, but then we have to have the really brutal ones for the rage in the middle of the movement.

-I think we owe him that. -Let's try it.

-Let's try it. -Okay.

-Okay, we're ready.

-So, we're starting at take 87 for this one.

-This is take 87.

-And we are rolling.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -How long had you known Bridgetower was coming?

-What does it matter?

-How long did you have to finish the work?

-What does this have to do with my analysis?

-I'm trying to understand your character.

-No one worked harder than I did.

Sometimes the inspiration strikes and sometimes it does not.

And when it does not, you have to force the work into existence.

-I understand. -Do you?

What have you created?

-I've written several books.

-It's hardly the same. -Very much the same.

Some of them were quite new.

-New? Ooh. Everything is new once.

Few things endure.

♪♪♪ -Why did you change the dedication?

-Bridgetower didn't deserve it.


-He insulted a woman.

So I took the work from him. -Ah.

You were interested in her.

-No, I don't recall. -You were jealous.

-He was well-liked by women. -Mmm.


What does that mean, hmm? -I don't know.

I'm trying to form an opinion.

Who was Kreutzer? -Another musician.


-Competitor to Bridgetower?

-Yes. -Oh, oh.

You were trying to get back at him.

-Yes, maybe I was.

-And how did that work out?

-[ Chuckles ] It worked out poorly.

Kreutzer hated it, said it was unplayable, so he never played it, and neither did anyone else.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ But clearly, it is playable.

Today, all the best players do.

-So you won in the end.

Your greatness is recognized again.

-I didn't say it was great.

-No? -It's passable.

-It's quite more than that.

I've listened to it dozens of times.

-Fine then. It's good.

-It's remarkable. -It's just not good enough.

That moment there.

-Yes, it's extraordinary. -It's ordinary.

It's so expected. Can't you see?

-No. -No.

Of course not.

Kreutzer was right. I should have rewritten it.

-You are too self-critical! -How do you know?

I know, me, I know.

It's not good enough! -Sorry, guys.

Did you hear something just now? -Yeah.

I heard somebody say 'noy.'

-While we're stopped, honey, I have a couple of notes for you.


-Measure 92, how did you feel about that?

-Let's just do it again. -Okay.

Great. Let's do another pass at that.

-We're rolling.

-This is take 88.

[ Music playing faintly ] ♪♪♪ -Oh, there you are.

-You know, I've done this before.

-Done what? -Analysis.

For years, I've asked myself the same questions, given the same answers, over and over.

-You always got the same answers?


-Well, then you are not making progress.

You need expert guidance.

-Are you guiding me?

-What do you think?

-I think I'm telling you what you want to hear.

-Well, you may not be making progress, but I am.

-This reminds me of being alive, always knocking heads.

I'm not sure I want to continue.

-You know, I have also done this before.

-Of course, yes.

-No, in life and in death, I have had many patients who are more frustrated, more self-absorbed, and even more difficult than you.

-You flatter me.

-And I have found from that experience that it is possible for you to make a breakthrough -- though it may get worse before it gets better.

-This is encouraging.

-This is where it gets interesting!

♪♪♪ -We'll see.

♪♪♪ -Okay. Anna, we're rolling now.

So why don't you start from beginning.


♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -In his prime, Beethoven was the best and most inventive pianist in Vienna.

Reportedly, he wrote works that were difficult to play to weed out other pianists.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Through his middle period, as he struggled with progressing deafness, Beethoven produced some of his most emotional work, like this sonata.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Ah, whoops. -Don't worry.

It sounds fantastic, Anna.

-Thanks. -Let's go back a few bars maybe to the previous system and we can edit this in.

-Okay. -I am rolling.

♪♪♪ -Toby is also a professional chef.

That night, he and Chef Ethan prepared a special meal for us.

♪♪♪ -[ Speaking indistinctly ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Surprise!

[ Applause ] We thought it would be wonderful if we brought you Beethoven's favorite foods.

We have knackwurst and bratwurst and frankfurters, and two types of mustard with some dill pickles here.

-Some traditional accompaniments for that.

We have some braised cherries, braised red cabbage, creamed spinach, fingerling potatoes, and whole wheat spaetzle.

-Bravo. -Really beautiful.

If you guys would move that.

Truth is, I'd much rather be in the kitchen than behind the viola, but -- [ Laughter ] -So, Toby, how did you know these were Beethoven's favorite foods?

-That's very simple, Anna. It's because Scott told me.

[ Laughter ] -It's the conversation books. -Oh, yeah.

-So, if you ask Beethoven, 'What would you like for dinner?'

You have to write down 'what do you want for dinner' because he couldn't read lips.

So, he wrote down, 'Oh, these are my favorite foods,' or 'This is my grocery list.'

And so all of these things are part of it.

Apparently, he loved Hungarian wine, which I think you're drinking tonight.

So, we can sort of forensically reconstruct what he ate, which is very cool.

-That's amazing. -Amazing.

-Thank you guys for being my friends.

Cheers. -Cheers.

-Cheers. -Cheers.

[ Laughter ] ♪♪♪ -So, I was reading a book and there was a quote from Spohr -- Ludwig Spohr, the violinist -- and he was actually at a rehearsal of Beethoven playing 'The Ghost.'

And he wrote 'Little or nothing remained of his brilliant technique, once so admired.

The poor deaf man hammered at the keys losing all sense of the melody.

I was moved by the tragedy of it all.

Beethoven's almost constant melancholy was no longer a mystery.'

-My God, how horrific.

I think every musician's nightmare is, first of all, just to not be able to play, but then to not hear? -That's worse.

-I mean, isn't that a testament to -- to the incredibleness of the human will?

-Mm. -I mean, right?

He was a force of nature.

You know, when you have someone that's that kind of a talent, nothing's going to stop him, you know?

-That's such good phrasing, force of nature.

His music sounds like a force of nature.

Unapologetic. -Absolutely, yeah.

-It's also amazing that he could put out such, on the surface, jovial music, such as the outer two movements of 'The Ghost Trio.'

Of course, sandwiched between them is some of the most somber and hopeless music.

I wonder if that was his portrait of himself at that time. -Yeah.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Lie down.


♪♪♪ Now, when did you start drinking?

-It was Vienna during the war.

Wine was safer than water.

♪♪♪ -When did you start drinking more than was common?

-I don't know that I did.

-Do you know what killed you?

-Too much life.


-[ Sighs ] Everything.

I'd been in such poor health.

-You know there was an autopsy?

-I was there.

-Cirrhosis of the liver.

-I'm aware.

-I think you became a functional alcoholic.

-It's possible.

-You know, there is new thinking.

It is considered an inherited condition.

-One more thing to hate my father for.

-Which means that he could also have been suffering from the same disease.

-And made us suffer.

-A disease that made you suffer.

That killed you both.

-I am not willing to admit he had no responsibility.

-Without him to blame, who could you be angry with?

-One has some control over their life, even over a disease.

-You did not.

-[ Scoffs ] Maybe I was done.

My hearing had completely gone.

-I think by then, it didn't really bother you.

-How do you know?

-Tell me about the conversation books.

-They were just notebooks.

-When did you start carrying them?

-I don't know.

At 45, maybe.

-Your late period.

-You know I did not call it that, right?

-I think you had accepted your deafness.

You carried a book so that people could communicate with you.

You were no longer embarrassed to be in public.

-That's true.

-How much could you still hear?

-Well, in public, on the streets, at a performance, almost nothing.

At home, when it was quiet... some.

-Did you use deafness as a shield?

-So what if I did?

-Then you could blame your failings on your failing years.

-My failings were many.

Everything I tried besides music was stupid and poorly done.

I accept that.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -So, I have a little bit of a surprise.

-Okay. -What is this?

-Oh! -Look at this.

This is... -Is this the manuscript?

-...manuscript of 'The Ghost Trio.'

-Oh, this is awesome.

Wow, look how messy that is.

You can see all the... -Scratch outs. -...scratch outs.

Things that he didn't want anyone to see.

-That's right. And what's cool about this for me is seeing his compositional process.

-Yeah. -You look at a Mozart manuscript and it's perfect as if it's been dictated.


-But he's adding manuscript lines, staff lines.

I mean, what does this tell you about what kind of a man he was, what was going on in his head?

His personality? -Right.

You know, it's amazing because everything he wrote was so perfect.

And you wonder, how many times did he have to go through to figure out, 'No, this.'

-I mean, this sounds like it was immaculately conceived, right?

But you can see that there's sweat and struggle in this -- in these pages.

So, here's what I thought we would do.

I thought that we would decipher what he scratched out.

-Oh, what's underneath?

-Right. -That's no easy task.

-I have a specific page in mind, this page 14.

-Okay. -Because it's not hard to read.

-That's good. -Let's give it a try.

-Like back to music school years.


-[ Humming ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -For me, to write at this level and then still ripping himself to shreds, obviously, with all these scratch outs -- is the greatness because he's so self-critical?

Does the greatness come from being self-critical to this point?

-You know how Michelangelo would say that the sculpture is in the stone and it's only a matter of chiseling away the extra rock?

Perhaps it's the same here.

There's a perfect piece of music underneath all the attempts, and he's only trying to figure out what it is.

-That's a nice way of looking at it.


-Now let's play it. -Alright.

-Okay. -See what it sounds like.

-Alright. -Alright.

-Let's try this!

[ Playing the piano ] Oh, that's like the violin line.

-What are they doing? -Well, they're playing.

-But no one is supposed to hear this.

-Why not?

-It's not what I intended. -Should we try this?


-No, no one can hear this.

♪♪♪ Stop it.

Stop it now!

-Ludwig, Ludwig, they can't hear you.

-But no one must hear this!


They must stop! -[ Laughs ] -Well, that could have been the end of the piece, not the middle.

-The creative process at work.

-What's cool is that, I mean, nobody's ever seen this.

-Of course no one's ever seen it.

It's because I meant no one to see it!

-But, you know, it's as if he should have done less, right?

Less would have been more.

-Well, that's what he did, right?

-Yeah. -There's more tension.

-Absolutely. -I don't know, I like it.

-It's horrible. -You know what we should do?

Let's record it.

No, it could be like a bonus track on the CD... -Absolutely not! You will not record this!

-Awesome. -Let's do it.

-No! No one must hear this!

No! No one must hear this!

-Whoa, did we just lose power?


♪♪♪ [ Indistinct conversation ] ♪♪♪ -[ Vocalizing ] ♪♪♪ That kind of time?

[ Vocalizing ] -The reaches to the heavens. -Yes.

-They're really important in Beethoven.


♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -I think this piece maybe represents the beginning of his late period.

He must have been thinking about, 'This is the end.'

It's almost as if he's saying, you know, 'Each note has to have more meaning.'

-Yeah. -You know, think he's just, like, saying, 'Okay, come into my living room and, you know, I'm gonna write this little intimate piece.'


-Because even though it's so small, there's a whole world of emotions, right? -Yeah.

-I mean, all these sudden changes, it's like, 'That's what's going through his mind at that point in his life.' -Yeah.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -As we finish recording, we begin editing.

Like making a film, it's often about choosing and combining the best parts of each take.

-Alright. So this is -- -Yeah, can we put -- -A little sharp, though, right?

And this one, this is door number two.

♪♪♪ -Yeah. I like how that one reaches up to that high note better.

-You like that one better? -Yeah.

-Both are very good.

-Let's put that in and then let's hear the whole thing.

-No problem. Hold on.

It's gonna sound something like this.

♪♪♪ -That's it.



♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -You know, this is music I don't know of Beethoven's, but it's fantastic.


It seems like it's not music for performing.

It's just music to play for oneself in the privacy of one's room.

-You're lucky that as a pianist you can actually do that.

-Yeah. -We don't really have music like that.

Just a few pieces. -Yes.

I think Beethoven especially should be credited for giving us this wealth.

-Well, he was probably listening to this piece in his own head and enjoying it.

-I think that's part of its poignancy, is that it is only in his head.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -I thought you had gone.


-Would you like to hear my diagnosis?

-I'm here.

-Well, please, sit.

♪♪♪ You have anger issues.

-That's your diagnosis? -Which you inherited.

It's time for you to admit that you are your father's son.

You see the things you hated in him in yourself.

It comes out in anger, but all the best parts of you come from him, too.

-I don't accept that.

-The fury, the intensity, the rawness.

What would you have been without those?

Forgive him.

He was an alcoholic.

He used alcohol to block out the parts of himself that he hated.

I think you did that, too.

-Possible, I guess. -Yes.

And I think you must forgive him for the death of your mother.

-That's ridiculous. He didn't kill her.

-But you blame him for it.

And you blame her for leaving.

-No, I don't.

-Death is rejection.

Your subconscious strives to protect you from further rejection and so you block out other relationships.

-So that's it.

Forgive my parents?

-Oh, there's more.

You have unrealistic ideals.

-I would call that high standards.

-You have an unrealistic concept of honor, of what other people should be, of love, of your work, of your music.

It makes you rigid.

-High standards are what elevated my music.

Higher than any other composers.

-They also made you miserable.

-I came so close.

-To what?

-Just one piece of truly perfect music.

I had the gift.

I suffered the trials of Job.

I gave music.

If anyone could... it should have been me.

-What is perfection?

-Perfect structure, perfect innovation, perfectly developed, that expands the spirit on the first impression, that yields more on each repeat experience.

Music that transcends reality.

That transforms the soul.


-You created that. -Mm.

-More than once.

-I almost did.

♪♪♪ But I never did.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Click ] [ Rewinding ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -It's amazing. This is astonishing music.

It could have been written yesterday.

No matter how many times I hear it, how many times I play it, there's always something new.

-It's incredible. I think this is good.

Let's move on to another section.

Alright, here we go.

It has a lot more edits on it.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ You know, it sounds good, but it almost sounds like an over-airbrushed picture.

-It sounds good. It sounds vertical and precise, and that's not where we need to be.

-The edits have kind of sucked the humanity out of it.

-Yeah. I think we're losing Beethoven.

We're losing the beauty and the excitement of the music getting it to be so technically perfect.

-I think unfortunately, we're going to have to re-record this.

-Yeah, go for the longer line. -Yeah. It's okay.

It won't take too long.

-I want to clarify -- I think your life was exactly as it should have been.

Your abusive father.

Your dying mother.

Your failed love life.

Deafness that humbled you.

Acceptance, and even your gradual isolation.

♪♪♪ -That does not sound as it should have been.

-Your many imperfections brought to your music all the emotion that a human life can hold.

In that way, you were the perfect composer.

But that was then.

Now, you must stop fighting.

Do as I suggest, and you will find peace.

When you decide you want it.

-[ Chuckles ] ♪♪♪ -Okay.

-Sorry, where were we? -Same place.


-In the end, a recording is a collection of different talents and ideas, of snapshots in time.

-This is take 155.

♪♪♪ -We refine these into a portrait of the music.

And within it, if you look hard enough, you'll find the image of its creator.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -This is one of the last things I wrote.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ I'll let you in on a secret -- I grew to like being deaf.

I could still hear my music in my mind, played more perfectly than any musician ever could.

I could pursue my ideas, with no distractions.

I never had to listen to the critics, who could not understand what I was doing.

I was free from all the limitations a composer faces.

♪♪♪ I could feel it then, with works like this one -- I was sailing alone into the future.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ I think I'm finished here.

-Yes, me too.

-Thank you, Doctor.

-Thank you for allowing me.

-I'll come find you when I need a tune-up.

[ Both laugh ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -To order 'Now Hear This: Beethoven's Ghost' on DVD with soundtrack CD, visit ShopPBS or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.

This program is also available on Amazon Prime Video.

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