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Beethoven vs Mozart | Munk Debates

SEASON TWO - EPISODE #25

Beethoven vs Mozart

Be it resolved, Beethoven, not Mozart, is the world’s greatest composer.

Guests
Andrew Burashko
Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim

About this episode

The Fifth Symphony, Ode to Joy, Don Giovanni, the Requiem. These top hits on the 18th century billboard charts are still beloved by millions of people around the world. They were composed by two musical giants of the 18th century, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig Van Beethoven, prolific artists whose vast repertoire continues to anchor orchestral performances and has become the fodder for everything from ringtones to baby brain development videos. Though contemporaries — Mozart was only 14 years older than Beethoven and lived just hundreds of kilometres away — the two composers couldn’t have been more different in their personalities and their approaches to music making. Two centuries later can we finally say which composer made the greatest contribution to the western musical canon?

Mozart aficionados say that the lively wunderkind from Salzburg took classical music to soaring new heights starting with his very first symphony at the age of eight. He imprinted his musical signature on every genre and almost every musical instrument, composing more than 650 masterworks before he died tragically young at the age of 35. Perhaps there is no more ringing endorsement of Mozart than the one given him by Beethoven, Wagner, and Tchaikovsky, who considered him unparalleled.

Beethoven lovers acknowledge his extraordinary debt to Mozart, whom he idolized. But they argue that the intense and emotionally volatile composer from Bonn, Germany took the keys that Mozart handed him and used them to open musical doors that ended up revolutionizing music. His innovations with the symphonic form and string quartets demonstrated music’s capacity to express the difficult and ugly - and proved that challenging the ear and not just pleasing it can lead to a cathartic experience for performers and their audience. Even when he was deaf, Beethoven’s innovations in musical form didn’t stop flowing, laying the groundwork for the romantic movement and the music of the 20th century.

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Guests

Andrew Burashko

"Beethoven was the ultimate radical and iconoclast, whose dazzling creative arc starts in the classicism of the 18th century and ends in outer space. It took the world 100 years to catch up to where he left off."

Andrew Burashko

"Beethoven was the ultimate radical and iconoclast, whose dazzling creative arc starts in the classicism of the 18th century and ends in outer space. It took the world 100 years to catch up to where he left off."

Before founding Art of Time Ensemble, Andrew Burashko had established himself as one of Canada’s foremost musicians. Known for his passionate performances and eclectic repertoire, Burashko has performed as soloist with most of the Canadian orchestras, collaborating with conductors Sir Andrew Davis, Yannick Nezet Seguin, John Williams and Pinchas Zukerman among many others.

Born in Moscow into a family of musicians, Andrew began his studies with Marina Geringas at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. He went on to study with Lee Kum-Sing in Vancouver, Leon Fleisher and Marek Jablonski in Toronto, and Bella Davidovich in New York. Since making his debut with the Toronto Symphony at the age of 17 he has performed as a soloist and chamber musician extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and Europe. For over twenty years, he was also involved in an important, ongoing collaboration with dancer Peggy Baker.

In 1998, Andrew's musical dexterity and passion for artistic experimentation led him to create the Art of Time Ensemble, a chamber music collective comprised of the best artists on the Canadian scene. Since then, Art of Time Ensemble has been committed to redefining the experience of music performance and exploring the juxtaposition of high art and popular culture. The ensemble has received wide acclaim for its thoughtful and challenging programming, its brilliant performances, and its ability to reach across the borders that often separate artistic genres and audiences. The list of artists and musicians who have collaborated with Art of Time includes the who’s who of the Canadian cultural scene as well internationally renowned artists such as Branford Marsalis and Madeleine Peyroux. And its list of alumni includes some of the top Canadian soloists, chamber musicians and principal players in major orchestras around the world.

Andrew Burashko has recorded for CBC SM5000, Dorian, Naxos, Analekta, Pheromone, and Centerdisc labels, and his recording of Prokofiev's 6th Sonata and Romeo and Juliet suite was released on the Opening Day label.
 

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim

"Mozart, in terms of sheer breadth and ability to bring every genre to its peak and to express every human experience in a music that speaks to every human being on this planet, just leaves everyone in the dust."

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim

"Mozart, in terms of sheer breadth and ability to bring every genre to its peak and to express every human experience in a music that speaks to every human being on this planet, just leaves everyone in the dust."

As a music critic and cultural entrepreneur, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim is dedicated to deepening the art of listening. Since 2012 she has contributed hundreds of reviews, features and essays on classical music to the New York Times. Her writing has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Tablet, Symphony Magazine, the Strad, Art News and the Jerusalem Post. In 2019 she founded Beginner’s Ear, a program of transformative listening experiences centered on meditation and live music, which has reached diverse audiences in corporations, yoga studios, schools, a federal detention center, and in traditional arts venues.
 
Born to German parents in Brussels, she obtained degrees from the University of London, the University of Sussex, and Cambridge University, where she wrote her Ph.D thesis on the Jewish-Venetian poet Sara Copio Sullam.

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