Beethoven Lives Upstairs

On July 7 the Ravinia Festival stage will host the Elgin Youth Symphony in a concert playfully titled Beethoven Lives Upstairs. This title—and the concert program itself—stems from a 1992 HBO original movie about the friendship of a young boy and his parents’ tenant, none other than the infamous Ludwig van, who lives upstairs.

The film’s elaborate storyline is fictional, but its basic notion is not; Beethoven did live upstairs. Save for his occasional trips to the countryside (which he loved), Beethoven resided in apartment buildings, where his neighbors were honored with—or, perhaps more accurately, subjected to—daily performances of the pianoforte. Apparently, once his hearing had begun to fail, Beethoven even used the floor as a soundboard by cutting off his pianoforte’s legs.

Beethoven was a terrible tenant. Once, without even consulting his landlord, Beethoven decided to cut out a window in the east wall of his top floor apartment, to afford a view of the Prater gardens. Like many of his contemporaries, Beethoven was inspired by nature, in which he sought the sublime. He thought he’d improved the apartment.

Good thing is, you don’t need to cut out any windows to be able to see nature as you enjoy Beethoven’s music at Ravinia. Come by the park to listen to the Elgin Youth Symphony on July 7 at 11 a.m. or to any of a number of performances of Beethoven’s music, including the String Quartet Op. 130 with the Grand Fuge finale, which scandalized his contemporaries, performed by the Emerson String Quartet on July 6 at 8 p.m., or a few of his vocal gems on July 16 at 8 p.m., performed by Matthias Goerne, Baritone, and Christoph Eschenbach, Piano. Whichever concerts you choose to attend, you will be sure to find something to be inspired by!