I have a reasonable familiarity with his output. I have been an addict from an early age: I spent many hours as a kid immersed in a book on his life that was given to me by my father; I have been steeped in the man, his life, his circumstances and the unique character that ploughed through the vicissitudes and challenges that fate threw at him. His dogged, bloody-minded craftsmanship has impressed me through the last 50 years every bit as much as his genius.
And never in my concert-going life has there been a shortage of Beethoven. His music, in all its forms and genres, is in the repertoire of every orchestra, chamber ensemble and soloist. Every single season somebody is programming and playing Beethoven's music. There are days, nights, entire weekends and whole festivals devoted to Beethoven, along with all the trappings, from talks, debates and interviews to the demonstrations and masterclasses that accrue around such occasions. Within the last two weeks I was informed that pianist Martin Roscoe had played all five of Beethoven's Piano Concertos in one day. Good grief.
All that said, within the last month I have been startled at the sheer volume of performances of Beethoven's compositions on the Scottish playlists, either recently done, coming up, or just around the corner. The volume of activity is actually awesome. Glasgow's Concert Halls recently launched a three-year Beethoven project that will feature performances of all of his Piano Sonatas and String Quartets, played, respectively, by the Welsh wizard Llyr Williams and the young Elias String Quartet. And that, for anyone who doesn't know, totals 32 Piano Sonatas and 16 String Quartets.
Meanwhile, three weeks ago pianist Steven Osborne, one of the world's master Beethovenians, gave an all-Beethoven recital in Perth, featuring two sets of the composer's bagatelles, which he played with supreme sophistication, and two of the great sonatas, the Waldstein and the blistering and transcendent final sonata, opus 111. Two days later, out of the blue, I received a communication from Osborne, inviting me to a private performance for students in the Royal Conservatoire of the Olympian Hammerklavier Sonata, which he had recently learned and was "running in" before its official unveiling in Auckland next month on a tour of New Zealand that Osborne is undertaking. It was mind-blowing: Osborne with the gloves off and taking no prisoners. His accompanying observations to the students on the critical function of structure in music were mind food, which suggested to me that one day soon I should devote this space to the fundamental issues of structure in music: what is it, how do we recognise it, and what's it for? Now there's a challenge. Are you up for it? Am I?
In the meantime, let's just observe a few from the continuing wave of Beethoven performances in Scotland which fuel all of this. In the coming months Peter Oundjian and the RSNO will be playing the Seventh Symphony, Thomas Sondergard and the same orchestra will play the Fourth Piano Concerto, the SCO will play the Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, the amazing Mahler Chamber Orchestra with the great Leif Ove Andsnes will play the Second and Third Piano Concertos in Edinburgh as part of an ongoing project, while the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields with Joshua Bell will play the First Symphony, and the Vienna Tonkunstler Orchestra will visit Scotland to play the Pastoral Symphony.
These are just a handful of many events coming up which underline the ubiquity of possibly the greatest composer that ever lived. And they are only a sampling from concert lists. Where would we go if we were to broaden the Beethoven palette and take in recordings? Well; the great Hungarian pianist Andras Schiff for starters, who has just done something very interesting with Beethoven. But that's for another day. Soon.