Inscrutable Beethoven - COURSE FULL

Four Thursdays, October 2, 16, and 30, and November 13, 6:30–8:00 P.M.; One Sunday, November 23, 4:00 P.M. | Private residences for the first four sessions; addresses will be provided to subscribers. Fifth session at Duncan Recital Hall, Shepherd School of Music, Rice University.

Since Ludwig van Beethoven’s death in 1827, scholars continue to explore the historical and biographical dimensions of Beethoven’s works.  Musicologists deconstruct his works piece by piece, and conductors and performers strive to find new and valid interpretations. 

October 2 - Beethoven and His Pianos
During his tumultuous lifetime, Beethoven played a variety of keyboard instruments: the clavichord, harpsichord, organ, various fortepianos, and pianos.  Playing a magnificent Viennese piano from Beethoven’s time, Brian Connelly will introduce our series with a discussion of current knowledge about the composer’s instruments, playing style, and preferences.  He will perform selections from Beethoven’s early-and middle-period works.

October 16 – Beethoven and Our Pianos
Some of the most widely admired piano repertoire was composed for instruments quite different from the modern ones on which Beethoven’s music is performed today.  Is it plausible that Beethoven was composing for a theoretical audience—writing music for the future?  Brian Connelly will explore the reception and changing styles of performance of Beethoven’s works during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and will perform selections from the composer’s later works on a modern grand piano

October 30 – A Conductor’s Perspective
It has been said that Beethoven’s symphonies pose one of the great interpretive challenges for a conductor, perhaps because of their range of mood and style.    Maestro Larry Rachleff will share his unique insights into the particular challenges and responsibilities of studying, preparing, rehearsing, shaping, and performing Beethoven’s orchestral music.  Though not part of this series, please note that Mr. Rachleff will conduct the Shepherd School Chamber Orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 on Saturday, September 27, in Stude Concert Hall.
November 13 - Eroica:  The True Story of Beethoven and Napoleon
Beethoven wrote the majestic Eroica to convey his respect for Napolean Bonaparte and intended its sheer size and qualities as a tribute to his leadership.  When Beethoven’s idolized hero declared himself Emperor, the composer, feeling betrayed, tore his name off the title page.  What was the relationship between Beethoven and Napoleon?  David Ferris will reveal the true story of these pivotal events in the composer’s life through letters, memoirs, and the symphony itself.

November 23 – Beethoven’s Archduke in Concert
Dedicated to his friend and pupil Archduke Rudolf of Austria, Beethoven’s expansive Archduke Trio (Piano Trio in B-flat Major, 1811) is his greatest work in the genre, though increasing deafness meant it also signaled his last appearance as a performer. Brian Connelly and the renowned musicians of Context will present a concert of Beethoven’s chamber music, including the majestic Archduke, revealed anew on the ensemble’s period instruments.

Brian Connelly teaches piano performance and chamber music in the Shepherd School of Music at Rice and is the artistic director of the renowned chamber ensemble, Context, now in its nineteenth season.  His career embraces an unusually broad range of historical and modern repertoires and styles.  Mr. Connelly has premiered works by a host of contemporary composers, and is widely known for his performances of the music of modern master Olivier Messiaen.  He is respected as a scholar and performer of period instruments, appearing throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Larry Rachleff is the Walter Kris Hubert professor of music and music director of the Shepherd School Chamber Orchestras at Rice and music director of the Rhode Island Philharmonic.   “A take-charge maestro who invests everything he conducts with deep musical understanding” (Chicago Tribune), Mr. Rachleff is in demand as a guest conductor.  Recent and upcoming engagements include the Utah Symphony, Houston Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, and Phoenix Symphony; and summer festival engagements including Tanglewood, Aspen, Interlochen, and Lucca, Italy. 

David Ferris is an associate professor of musicology in the Shepherd School of Music at Rice.  He teaches seminars on the classical style, Mozart, Romantic song, Mendelssohn, Schumann, text and music, history of music theory and criticism, as well as a first-year writing intensive seminar on musical biography.  His research interests include early 19th-century German Romantic song, musical biography, and the life and works of C. P. E. Bach.   His works have appeared in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, the Journal of Musicology, Music Theory Spectrum, and Music and Letters.

Course is now FULL.   Please contact us at to be added to our wait list.




Registration for fall 2018 is ongoing. You may register online, by mail, or by phone with a credit card. 


If you are interested in traveling to Virginia in the spring of 2019, please call the registrar at 713.666.9000 to place your name on a list. Please see Terms and Conditions for "travel list" policy. 


Please note a date in the Mid-term Elections course has changed from that published in the brochure. The course will meet the first two Mondays, October 29 and November 5 as planned, but will meet Tuesday, November 13 instead of Monday, November 12. 


Also note Art Underground: Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern on Wednesday, November 14 is FULLY SUBSCRIBED. A second session has been added and will meet Monday, November 12 from 2:00-3:30 P.M. Registrations are being accepted for November 12. You may register online, or by phone.


Who Gets to Vote: Challenges for the 2020 Elections?
Speaker: Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Voter Rights Project
Monday, November 19, 6:30-8:00 P.M.
Location to be announced


Register today!


For additional information about any of our courses, to register offline, or to add your name to our mailing and/or email lists, please contact our adminstrator at  or phone 713.666.9000.