By Jessica Duchen

The mystery of Beethoven's lost love – Immortal Beloved.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Immortal, Handel, Odette und, ach, Wien, mein Wien

Dear friends and supporters,

Welcome to our regular Friday update on IMMORTAL and its progress. If you're new to the IMMORTAL family, I extend to you the warmest welcome and biggest THANK YOU in south-west London! 

First, some numbers. This morning the crowdfunding stands at 90 per cent towards target, with 90 supporters. Some of you I've known all or most of my life, others I "met" on social media, while a goodly number I have never met at all and can only imagine that you like the sound of the book, which is a particularly wonderful thought. Regarding the writing, this week I passed the 100,000 words mark and have about a third of the story left to accomplish. If you think it sounds long, you're right. No doubt I will have to spend almost as long cutting the book as I did writing it. This is par for the course, if that is any comfort.

Several pieces of news. If you're in the area tomorrow, please pop along to the Wells Literary Festival, where I am interviewing the conductor and author Jane Glover about her gorgeous book Handel in London. I was fortunate to review it for The Sunday Times when it came out and revisiting it is a tremendous treat. She brings to life everything from the delicate symbiosis between the composer, his singers, his audience, royalty and the city to the gripping tales of rivalry between prima donnas, catty castrati and operational opera companies. Moreover, even in the 18th century London was arguing about which language it wanted to hear in its opera performances. So in some ways ENO can trace its raison d'etre back to Handel's oratorios. We are on at 12.15 on Saturday 19 October, and you can find details on the website. (Nevertheless, I do urge you to go to the People's Vote march in London instead if you possibly can. I am gutted to miss most of it, but hope to be back in time for the tail end, trains willing.)

Next, on 13 November I'm joining forces with the fabulous Fenella Humphreys, rock-star-classical violinist, and the vonderful Viv McLean, my long-time concert partner, for a performance of ODETTE: A CELEBRATION OF TCHAIKOVSKY at the Barnes Music Society. We'll be at the lovely OSO by Barnes Pond, London SW13. The programme mingles extracts from my most recent novel, Odette - a  contemporary fairy-tale based around Swan Lake - with the story of Tchaikovsky himself and the way his own experiences, influences and tragic loves fed into the original ballet. Fenella and Viv perform music by Saint-Saëns, Liszt, Chopin, Gershwin and, of course, a heap of Tchaikovsky including some of the great violin solos from those pas de deux. More details here.

Last but not least, on Sunday week I'm heading for Vienna for a few days of intensive Beethoven location scouting. Since I first visited Heiligenstadt - 28 years ago - the Beethoven museum has been completely overhauled; there is also the Pasqualati House to visit (he lived on the top floor on and off for some years) and the palace of Prince Lobkowitz, where the Eroica was premiered - this is now the theatre museum; the suburbs of Hietzing, Jedlersee plus Schönbrunn Palace; the Hofburg (I've been past but never in), and the general distances to explore from the Stephansdom to the Schwedenplatz, and so forth. I'm also trying to find the hall that was host to such events as Haydn's last public appearance at a performance of The Creation, and the premieres of Beethoven's symphonies nos 5, 6 and 7. I hope it still exists.

On top of that I'll be visiting our friends at the centre to explore their work on Viennese composers who were forced into exile by the Nazis, and attending a dear friend's book launch at the Musikverein. 

I have six days, but I think I probably need two months.

Here is some music from Jonas Kaufmann's new album, Wien, to help build the mood... Beethoven it's not - but Kaufmann is singing Florestan in Fidelio at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, next year.

Thank you all again, a thousand times, for all your support, both financial and moral. Do please help to spread the word about IMMORTAL if you can - we are nearly there, but naturally there's no such thing as too many supporters.

Love and best wishes,

Jessica x


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